A Gentle Reminder: EGOS Preconference Workshop on CCO Methodology

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!

Karl E. Weick applies communication-centered lens in forthcoming AMR piece

Karl E. Weick

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!

Does communication require authorization?

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