How flat organizations filter: organizational gatekeeping in a networked environment

Tamar Ashuri, Yaniv Bar-Ilan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The development of affordable Internet-based tools and platforms has led to major transformations in organizational dynamics. One key change is the shift of agency from center to ends and the consequent emergence of decentralized (networked) organizations. Focusing on the realm of collective action, we suggest that organizational configurations constructed around participants with greater agency induce organizations to promote new filtering tactics to sort out members who are valuable to the group. Drawing on Signaling Theory, we analyze the filtering behavior that organizations develop in their attempt to cope effectively with a type of tension characteristic of the digital era: The impetus to uphold egalitarian ideals on the one hand and the need to sort out desired participants on the other. Previous studies have explained how boundary work actually works in bureaucratic settings with fairly clear boundaries. This study focused instead on how new patterns of collective participation emerge, and how novel practices related to filtering are distributed in decentralized organizations. The study makes two points with theoretical implications. First, it explains an organization's decision to conduct filtering measures – a decision that on the face of it is counterintuitive since organizations operating in a digital environment can tolerate the enclosure of ‘free riders’. The second point relates to filtering practices. It shows that the emergence of new forms of participation, practices and norm, due to the development of networked media, encourages creativity in the development of specific filtering tactics, with activists considering new tactics for achieving their goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1411-1426
Number of pages16
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Signaling theory
  • collective action
  • filtering
  • recruitment
  • social network sites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Library and Information Sciences


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