Communication Events

Lately I have been spending time researching the communication dynamics between actors who have a “stake” in the climate change debate in the Netherlands.  Across several studies, I have noticed two or three highly visible “events” that are meaningful to all actors, from all sides of the debate on climate change. One most notable event was the 2009 so-called “Climategate” affair, in which prominent climate scientist’s emails were hacked and posted publically online. This event received a great deal of attention, both in mainstream and social media outlets. In the Netherlands, this event has led one of the leading climate research institutes to engage in more open organization-stakeholder relationships with so-called “antagonists” of anthropogenic global warming.

So far I have thought of this event mainly as the “background context” of my research on organization-stakeholder communication dynamics. However, this event has come up repeatedly in the conversations I have observed and shared with my research participants. It seems that Climategate was an important “turning point” in the debate, which has meaning to a broad array of organizational actors. I cannot help but wonder, is there something more significant about these kinds of highly visible events? Do they play a role in the communicative constitution of organization? How do these kinds of events compare (if at all) to the kinds of “communication events” that CCO scholars investigate?

I do not have many answers to these questions so far. My inclination is that visible public events may be important to explaining the constitution of organization-stakeholder relationships over time. In other words, maybe the meanings of these events constitute an organizational trajectory. I am open to hearing from other CCO folks. How has your own research approached these kinds of events? What is your opinion of the relationship between highly visible public events and the communicative constitution of organization?


3 Comments on “Communication Events”

  1. Steffen says:

    Dear Amanda,

    first, do events “outside” the organizational boundary constitute the “inside” of an organization? Yes, they do. Just imagine people in a bar getting together after work to talk about their day. Their conversation constitutes the organization they work for, even though they are not actually working that very moment, and even though they are not legitimate spokespersons (eg, none of them is a public relations manager). Their conversations may even constitute other organizations they’re not members of. A bar may well be a place as good as any other where organizational image is discussed.

    However, there may be more to highly visible events such as the Climategate you’re referring to. Have a look at some of following articles on field-configuring events (most of them are from a recent special issue of the Journal of Management Studies):

    * Hardy, C., & Maguire, S. (2010). Discourse, field-configuring events, and change in organizations and institutional fields: Narratives of DDT and the Stockholm Convention. Academy of Management Journal, 53(6), 1365-1392.
    * Lampel, J., & Meyer, A. D. (2008). Guest Editors Introduction: Field-Configuring Events as Structuring Mechanisms: How Conferences, Ceremonies, and Trade Shows Constitute New Technologies, Industries, and Markets. Journal of management studies, 45(6), 1025-1035.
    * McInerney, P. B. (2008). Showdown at Kykuit: Field‐Configuring Events as Loci for Conventionalizing Accounts. Journal of Management Studies, 45(6), 1089-1116.
    * Oliver, A. L., & Montgomery, K. (2008). Using Field-Configuring Events for Sense-Making: A Cognitive Network Approach. Journal of Management Studies, 45(6), 1147–1167.

    Best,

    Steffen

    • Thanks Steffen! I will take a closer look at these. I think this notion of field-configuring events may begin to explain Climategate within the climate change debate. It seems that the author’s of these articles have very different approaches to thinking about these events, from “structuring mechanisms” to “sensemaking” devices. I wonder how differently such an event is theorized, depending on one’s approach to communication? Also, does it matter if an event is an occasion for consensus (like perhaps a ceremony) or, as in the case of Climategate, an occasion for extreme dissensus? Well, ideas to consider as I dig deeper into these articles…

  2. I Amanda, I have just come across this post – following in Steffen’s footsteps, I am organizing a Scientific Network (like the CCO one) on field-configuring events (http://wikis.fu-berlin.de/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=410157127) so I am interested in how the CCO network is maintaining its virtual existence. I have done research on field-configuring events and climate change (http://amj.aom.org/content/early/2013/03/14/amj.2011.0812.abstract) and the role of “unexpected” events like Climategate was definitely very important in shaping field dynamics. I am calling these events “unexpected” to differentiate them from organized, field-configuring events (Gordon Müller-Seitz and I have compared these two strands of literatures here: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-658-02998-2_6) and I think it would be quite interesting to compare these different “types” of events with regard to their communicative effects from a CCO perspective.
    Maybe these references are useful for elaborating your thoughts on this issue – I think it would be a fascinating topic to elaborate upon!
    Best, Elke


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