Business Markets, Relationships and Networks

by Charles Hofacker


Their Parallax Nature, Special issue of Industrial Marketing Management; Deadline 30 Mar 2021

Author: Andreas Effert

Industrial Marketing Management

Call for Papers

The parallax nature of studying business markets, relationships and networks

Deadline for submission: March 30th, 2021

Overview and Purpose

Business markets, relationships and networks have been researched for over 40 years, along an alleged dimension from realist to relativist. But researchers have quite rarely questioned the historical epistemological and ontological assumptions brought into studies, while others have slipped into and out of diverse perspectives (Andersen et al. 2020b; Möller 2013; Ojansivu et al. 2020). Yet others have held sharp and been true to their espoused perspective. To tackle these issues we introduce the metaphor of parallax, with the intention of creating an academic dialogue in which researchers are attuned to different research perspectives. Parallax is defined simply as “when an object or phenomenon is perceived differently.” Parallax occurs according to alternative perspectives achieved of a phenomenon by looking from different places and viewpoints with reference also to separate or diverse backgrounds (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallax).

As a metaphor the parallax releases intriguing alternatives for research. There are: (i) different temporal, spatial and cultural points from which one views a problem, (ii) differences in background assumptions and pre-suppositions (ontological positions), and (iii) different methods for perceiving and understanding (epistemologies and associated methods along and within a research process). The parallax metaphor focuses our thinking on how pre-suppositions from the place and direction of viewing are taken, often unconsciously, into research and even into the ontological and epistemological assumptions of the study. Thus, the parallax metaphor opens new research perspectives, particularly if the supposition of a conceptual dimension from realist to relativist perspectives is discarded. In discarding a dimensionality of research perspectives one might consider our rendition of parallax is problematic, but that is not the point. The purpose of a metaphor is to open new research directions and allow researchers to “find the door/s” out of the current institutional and cultural logic within which we live.

But the parallax metaphor also opens the issues of whether and how one might translate between perspectives. Does incommensurability hold with research perspectives (Bernstein 1991; Czarniawska 1998), or: (i) is it possible to translate/comprehend various research streams from within another (Donaldson 1998), (ii) if translation is possible (Bernstein 1991) how does one undertake research from a specific epistemological standpoint that gives meaning and relevance to that from another perspective (Bernstein 1991), and (iii) how does one stay true to a research perspective when we all carry hidden theoretical baggage and pre-suppositions (Andersen et al. 2020b)?

These issues directly question the quality and usefulness of business research. Further, for each researcher perspective, within a parallax view, different considerations come to the fore and others recede to the background. Thus, confusion arises between pre-suppositions held within a point of view and ontological or epistemological matters. For example, approaching multi-paradigm research from a positivist epistemological perspective leads to theorization according to how theories are set within each other (Gioia and Pitre 1990) and further which theory takes foreground precedence and why. These problems are rarely considered when different theoretical perspectives are considered to inter-penetrate (Midgley et al. 2017). Alternatively, considering these issues within interpretivist/constructivist research, there are actually a range of research perspectives (positivist-interpretivist, social, radical, relativist, feminist, etc.) each giving different positions on the role of theory in research (Andersen and Kragh 2010; Welch et al. 2011). In addition, the raised issues also lead to different methodological considerations according to the perspective that has been taken. For example, contrast a researcher approaching: (i) a positivist study using a survey method who ignores most of the informant’s world, with (ii) a positivist-interpretivist study using a case study method who at some point disregards some particularities to arrive at a theoretical position, or (iii) a social constructivist study in which particularities are a key, and so the researcher must accept the informants’ perspectives and recontextualize for the academic community (Andersen et al. 2020b). Thus, both the axiological and epistemological underpinnings of researchers, as well as the underlying and dominant research philosophy including methods prevailing, exert a strong influence on business market, relationships and network research. These issues and theoretical problems are not trivial and deserve considerable attention, not least because new researchers must negotiate a poorly signposted literature.

Our call for papers is directed specifically towards researchers willing to question their own pre-suppositions and for papers that apply and question the concepts of business markets, relationships and networks. Thus, the submissions must be nuanced to the underlined ontological and epistemological matters and the temporal and spatial loadedness of language (Andersen et al. 2020a). We hope that such a dialogue, an open way of considering other perspectives (Bernstein 1991), might move research into new areas. We seek submissions dealing with business markets, relationships and networks which:

(i) are clear in presenting and stay true to their underlying assumptions, and ramifications regarding how the empirical study is undertaken and how they influence analysis and limitations, and/or

(ii) open new insights into how to combine and translate research perspectives and which present exemplar case studies or methods that support the author/s argumentation, and/or

(iii) combine research perspectives in their theory and method, while being clear about their different ontological and epistemological underpinnings and how they are related, and/or

(iv) seek to provide construct clarity and elucidate taken-for-granted concepts according to a specific ontology so as to provoke new research directions.

We understand there are challenges for authors asked to step outside of present understandings of ontological and epistemological matters, but we are reminded that as in the allegory of Plato’s Cave, small and well taken steps are the way forward starting with the shadows we know.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to the following:

  • Comparing and contrasting different research perspectives and how they differ or diverge, along with implications for applying them together
  • Consider any key constructs for business markets, relationships networks according to alternative research perspectives
  • Applying different theoretical perspectives over time as an empirical phenomenon unfolds
  • Applying different ontologies and theoretical perspectives, within one study, according to temporalities
  • Use juxtaposed theoretical assumptions and expectations about generative mechanisms to explore a phenomenon
  • Change empirical perspective and corresponding theoretical vantage points (for instance from the individual, to the group, to the organizational and inter-organizational) to explore the theoretical shaping of phenomena
  • Use the parallax metaphor to address different aspects of competition and collaboration in buyer-supplier relationships
  • Probe the value of the parallax metaphor to understand the co-existing and sometimes conflicting viewpoints that various stakeholders (managers, consultants, academics, publics etc.) might have towards a business market
  • Method articles that apply the parallax metaphor to elaborate the richness of various versions of the event/s, while at the same time providing an account that is accessible from a reflecting observer/participant
  • Provide ontological consciousness and construct clarity to widely adopted but inadequately defined concepts about business markets, relationships and networks
  • Elaborate and critique how can the parallax metaphor can aid knowledge domains, skills, and abilities for B2B analytics professionals
  • Elaborate how business marketing consultants can use the parallax metaphor as an irritant to the self-enforcing and reproducing communication and interpretation system in the client organization.

Manuscript Preparation and Submission

Manuscripts should comply with the scope, standards, format and editorial policy of the Industrial Marketing Management. All papers must be submitted through the official IMM submission system. When you get to the step in the process that asks you for the type of paper, select SI: Parallax special issue. All papers will be reviewed through a double-blind peer review process. In preparation of their manuscripts, authors are asked to follow the Author Guidelines closely. A guide for authors, sample articles and other relevant information for submitting papers are available at: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/indmarman

All queries about the special issue should be sent to the Guest Editors (see below).

Guest Editors

Professor Poul Houman Andersen, Aalborg University Denmark and NTNU Norway (poa@business.aau.dk)

Associate Professor, Woonho Kim, Nihon University, Japan (kimu.unho@nihon-u.ac.jp)

Associate Professor, Christopher J. Medlin, Adelaide Business School, University of Adelaide, Australia (chris.medlin@adelaide.edu.au)

Dr Ilkka Ojansivu, University of Melbourne, Australia (ilkka.ojansivu@unimelb.edu.au)


Andersen, P.H. and H. Kragh (2010), “Sense and sensibility: Two approaches for using existing theory in theory-building qualitative research,” Industrial Marketing Management, 39 (1), 49-55.

Andersen, Poul Houman, Christopher J. Medlin, and Jan-Åke Törnroos (2020a), “Introduction to the special issue on “Process thinking in dynamic business networks”,” Industrial Marketing Management, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indmarman.2019.12.010.

Andersen, Poul Houman, Christopher J. Medlin, and Jan-Åke Törnroos (2020b), “Re-appraising interaction and process for industrial network research: The future plunging mirror hall metaphor,” Industrial Marketing Management, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indmarman.2019.06.011.

Bernstein, Richard J (1991), The new constellation: The ethical-political horizons of modernity/postmodernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Czarniawska, Barbara (1998), “Who is Afraid of Incommensurability?,” Organization, 5 (2), 273-75.

Donaldson, Lex (1998), “The Myth of Paradigm Incommensurability in Management Studies: Comments by an Integrationist,” Organization, 5 (2), 267-72.

Gioia, Dennis A and Evelyn Pitre (1990), “Multiparadigm perspectives on theory building,” Academy of management Review, 15 (4), 584-602.

Midgley, Gerald, John D. Nicholson, and Ross Brennan (2017), “Dealing with challenges to methodological pluralism: The paradigm problem, psychological resistance and cultural barriers,” Industrial Marketing Management, 62 (Supplement C), 150-59.

Möller, Kristian (2013), “Theory map of business marketing: Relationships and networks perspectives,” Industrial Marketing Management, 42 (3), 324-35.

Ojansivu, Ilkka, Jan Hermes, and Sari Laari-Salmela (2020), “Business relationships in the industrial network literature: Three approaches and their underlying assumptions,” Industrial Marketing Management, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indmarman.2019.11.016.

Welch, Catherine, Rebecca Piekkari, Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki, and Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki (2011), “Theorising from case studies: Towards a pluralist future for international business research,” Journal of international business studies, 42 (5), 740-62.