We integrate insights from the literature on social movements and institutional entrepreneurship into the strategic niche management (SNM) and multilevel perspective (MLP) frameworks to understand the emergence of Linux, a free/open-source operating system, in a regime dominated by proprietary operating systems such as Unix and Windows NT. Employing a “microhistories” methodology, we document how actors in the free/open-source movement took steps that enabled an alternate technological niche to form, gain momentum and eventually infiltrate the extant regime. Our account delineates the key role that actors play in shaping the identity of a niche, amplifying its presence, and finally mainstreaming it. We observe a heterogenous response by incumbents to the emergent niche and highlight the sustained coexistence of a niche and regime as a distinct form of technological transition. Finally, we demonstrate the significant impact that a niche can have, spanning beyond the targeted regime, and becoming part of the landscape. Our insights highlight how tracing the processes involved in the emergence and development of a niche can provide a prospective and generative understanding of technological transition, thereby contributing to and complementing the extant SNM and MLP literatures.
© 2022 The Authors.
This is an open access article under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives4 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license.
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Original Publication Citation
Jain, S., Islam, H. A., Goossen, M. C., & Nair, A. (2023). Social movements and institutional entrepreneurship as facilitators of technology transition: The case of free/open-source software. Research Policy, 52(2), 1-17, Article 104672. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2022.104672
Jain, Sanjay; Islam, Habib A.; Goossen, Martin C.; and Nair, Anil, "Social Movements and Institutional Entrepreneurship as Facilitators of Technology Transition: The Case of Free/Open-Source Software" (2023). Management Faculty Publications. 60.