Rethinking the actor in service research: toward a processual view of identity dynamics

Kaisa Koskela-Huotari*, Jaakko Siltaloppi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Only a few concepts in the service literature are as pervasive yet as undertheorized as is the concept of the actor. With a growing interest toward value creation as a systemic and institutionally guided phenomenon, there is a particular need for a more robust conceptualization of humans as actors that adopts a processual, as opposed to a static, view. The purpose of this paper is to build such processual conceptualization to advance service-dominant (S-D) logic, in particular, and service research, in general.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper is conceptual and extends S-D logic's institutionally constituted account of the actor by drawing from identity theory and social constructionism.

Findings: The paper develops a processual conceptualization of the human actor that explicates four social processes explaining the dynamics between two identity concepts—social and personal identity—and institutional arrangements. The resulting framework reveals how humans are simultaneously constituted by institutions and able to perform their roles in varying, even institution-changing, ways.

Research limitations/implications: By introducing new insights from identity theory and social constructionism, this paper reconciles the dualism in S-D logic's current description of actors, as well as posits the understanding of identity dynamics and the processual nature of actors as central in many service-related phenomena.

Originality/value: This paper is among the few that explicitly theorize about the nature of human actors in S-D logic and the service literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-457
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Service Theory and Practice
Issue number4-5
Early online date1 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Actor
  • Identity dynamics
  • Institutional arrangements
  • Personal identity
  • Processual view
  • Roles
  • Service-dominant logic
  • Social identity


Dive into the research topics of 'Rethinking the actor in service research: toward a processual view of identity dynamics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this