Can CCO be separated from power? What I mean by this is for communication to be constitutive must it always be power-infused? Can CCO be accomplished without any power have been exercised?
I suppose it depends on how power is conceptualised. Broadly speaking, power can be understood in one of two ways. As ‘power over’ and as ‘power to’. ’Power over’ refers to power as commodity, as possession and manifests in descriptions that locate power as ‘belonging’ to certain roles and individuals – CEOs are commonly seen as having power. ’Power over’ power is often associated with acts that get people to do what they otherwise would not want to do – so it tends to have negative connotations. This is by far the most common conceptualization of power, but it is one that has been challenged.
‘Power to,’ by contrast, frames power as generative, as productive, it posits power as relational rather than as a commodity suggesting that power is something that is exercised in unfolding practice. ’Power to’ acts can be traced in all organizing acts, it is claimed, and can be exercised by anyone in an organization. This framing of power constructs it as something inherent in CCO. Indeed, it suggests CCO would not be possible without power being exercised. This implies it would fruitful for CCO researchers to investigate how power is exercised in CCO contexts, and yet, apart from the work of Timothy Kuhn, I’m not aware that CCO scholars have significantly engaged with power. Why is this, I wonder? Is it because CCO scholars have a ‘power over’ understanding of power? Or, simply that it’s not deemed to be important to how CCO emerges?
Your comments and views on this are welcomed.
Fellow CCO/OaC scholars, I need your answers on a question: What is a press release? Two thoughts that you may or may not agree with.
First, a company issues a press release to inform its stakeholders or the more general public about some state of affairs (e.g., a change to the board of directors, a recently granted patent, or an acquisition of another company). Arguing from a CCO standpoint, the press release is an initial text that invites others to join the conversation about the company. In yet other words, it is the initial point of the communicative construction of the organization at the very boundary of the company and its stakeholders, the public, etc.
Second, the press release is an (authoritative?) text that originated long before it’s made public as a consequence of the very communicative construction of organization. As such it already reflects the company’s identity—no need to involve others.
I have the feeling that the difference between the first and second thought is the organizational boundary, and a matter of observation or an observer (i.e., us). I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below!
In its May 2013 issue, Management Communication Quarterly (MCQ) has published a Special Topic Forum on “Organizational Communication in the German-Speaking Countries” (i.e. Germany, Austria & Switzerland). While in these countries OrgCom lacks a tradition as a field in its own right, the authors give light to specific research traditions as well as recent developments that can fruitfully contribute to international debates in OrgCom. The special topic forum is co-edited by Dennis Schoeneborn (U of Zurich/Copenhagen Business School) and Stefan Wehmeier (U of Greifswald) and has emerged out of the activities of the “Organization as Communication” (OaC) network. Please find the special topic forum here.
The acceptance (and rejection) letters for EGOS are out. If you made the cut, congratulations! The overall line-up is incredible, and the CCO-subtheme is no different.
But there is more. Remember that we’ll have a preconference workshop on methodology with a deadline for abstract submissions on February 28. We’ve already received the first couple of abstracts, and they look very promising. Besides feedback on your work, we secured some academic heavyweights for your listening pleasures: Francois Cooren is going to have the keynote, we’ll have special-guest talk by Anita Pomerantz, and some renowned surprise guests.
All the more reason to submit your abstracts!
In his recent review of Kirsten Grind’s book “The Lost Bank” (forthcoming in the Academy of Management Review), organization theory mastermind Karl E. Weick draws on Taylor and Van Every’s (2000) notion of conversations and texts as being constitutive of organization (i.e. forming an organization’s “site” and “surface”). Without using the “communication as constitutive of organizations” (CCO) label explicitly, Weick provides an exciting example of how a communication-centered lens can be used to interpret cases of organizational failure and crises (in this case, the decline of th e Washington Mutual bank). A thoughtful and thrilling piece – enjoy reading it!
An area that I think remains to be explored in CCO research is the role of constitutive communication and authorization. All communication has an author, even nonhuman communication must have had at some point a creator or an instigator (not necessarily a human one, though). Some forms of communication have multiple authors, and in organizational worlds, communication can have corporate authorship.
Sometimes the author disappears and the signifying author is no longer felt to be necessary for the communication to be perceived as legitimate. Foucault identifies commercial contract documents as communicative texts that no longer have or need a specific author for their communication to be accepted as authoritative.
Does authorization matter? I think it does. I think an area of fruitful research could be how authorization claims are made by the originating authors, and how the audience for communicative moves assigns authority. Further, in research I’m currently working on I’ve found instances when authors deny their authorship.
I think authorization is significant for CCO research because it helps us understand how particular communication becomes accepted as legitimate and verisimilitudinous. There are blurred boundaries between authorization and power, but though related they are different – in my next post I will discuss how power is exercised through constitutive communication.
We make authorization claims in many ways; as academics, we often attach our qualifications and our institutional affiliations to the communications we create when we think such additions increase the authority of what we say. Managers too, author their communications and claim authorization through a variety of means; through the specific language used; the medium chosen to communicate; and, the style of communicative acts. While we may all recognize authority claims in forceful verbal communication, equally possible is that strong words softly spoken can also constitute a claim to authority.
While authority is almost always claimed, it can also be assigned. This occurs when audiences accept the symbolic authorization claims attached to communication and thereby actively engage in constituting communication as authoritative. Assigning authorization acknowledges the role of the audience in authorizing. Claims become accepted and authorization is assigned when audiences are convinced of the legitimacy of authorized communication.
Communication that is accepted as authoritative is more likely to be constitutive than that where authority is rejected. Foucault’s message that some texts do not need an author is no doubt right, but what he doesn’t acknowledge is that those same texts, commercial contract documents in his example, must still claim and have assigned authorization and do so through their conformance to genre expectations. A contract must look like a contract for it to be taken seriously. If a contract text is presented as a blog, for example, it would not be worth the (figurative) paper it is written on. CCO research needs to take issues around authorship, authority and authorization seriously, as through this we can deepen our understanding over why some communication is constitutive while some isn’t.
Dr. Alex Wright
I can highly recommend to you an ICA 2013 Preconference on “Corporate Social Responsibility and Communication: Extending the Agenda” that will take place June 17, 2013, at Cass Business School in London, UK. Extended abstracts (500-1000 words) can be submitted until February 1, 2013. The workshop features a great lineup of organizational communication/organization studies scholars (more info: http://csrandcommunication.com). And (being one of the co-organizers of the workshop myself) I am certain that there will be a lot of openness for papers that will be reconsider CSR communication from an OaC/CCO view….