EGOS Preconference on “CCO In Practice”

cco4(1) On July 2nd a group of CCO friendly scholars and organizational practitioners met at the halls of the Rotterdam City Council for a reflective and stimulating discussion on “CCO in practice.” Following on many of the themes of last year’s EGOS preconference, this pre-EGOS gathering was organized around two main goals:

• Helping organizational practitioners understand and respond to problems they face in practice using a CCO perspective on organization.
• Helping CCO scholars put their theoretical concepts to the test in ways that provide sharper and more meaningful answers to the   “So What?” question.

photo(86)The day’s program allowed for in-depth discussions to explore answers to these questions. A series of break-out groups focused on three diverse organizational cases: the revitalization of a large network organization, the restructuring of a government organization hit by economic recession, and the use of death or decline of organization as a practical solution for organizational problems. The day convened with an insightful plenary session that further elaborated on the three cases and served as a basis for co-constitution of the meaning of “CCO in practice” amongst the diverse participants.

What did we learn about “CCO in practice?” We were pleasantly surprised with the ease we experienced in applying CCO perspectives to the variety of organizational problems we discussed. We learned that organizational practitioners both understand and are excited about the communicative constitution of organization. And despite the differences within the three pillars of CCO theory, there is a strong “CCO perspective” that cuts across these differences when applied in practice. Finally, in the realm of ongoing organizational practice, we learned that there is no “one way” to translate a CCO concept.

We hope this preconference is just a beginning for further discussions of “CCO in practice.” We invite you to comment on this post. For those who attended the event, what reflections on the day would you add? For everyone, what are your thoughts or reactions to “CCO in practice?”



Accepting Submissions for EGOS Preconference “CCO in Practice” July 1-2, 2014 (i.e. right before EGOS 2014 in Rotterdam)

Imagine what could happen when practitioners share issues they face with a group of CCO-friendly scholars. What new angles of perceiving their issues would professionals get? Which new areas of research would scholars discover? How can our scholarship inform organizational practice? This preconference will try to achieve answers to these questions.

“CCO in Practice” provides an opportunity for CCO scholars- and CCO friendly scholars- to discuss and reflect on organizational communication challenges with practitioners. We plan to include a methodology workshop, focusing on video analysis on the first day. The second day of this preconference will be dedicated to bring together scholars and practitioners interested in a communication-centered perspective. Together, we can explore the translation between CCO theories and practical issues.

To prepare our discussion, we have asked a CCO-friendly practitioner, Peter Knoers, to provide us with three “cases” describing organizational challenges that the community currently struggles to understand (CCO in Practice CFP-2). Practitioners are asking for new ways to analyze and intervene to address these challenges. Please choose one of these scenarios to react to from a CCO perspective. What could a CCO lens say about this problem? What kinds of insights could be gained? To what extent could CCO thinking be applied to formulate potential “solutions?”

Please submit your reaction to one of the scenarios below in a short essay of 800 words by March 14th. Email your essay to David Novak at  We will respond to your submission by March 31st.

The specific location for the pre-conference, in Rotterdam, will be announced in the coming weeks.

Questions may be directed to coordinators Mark van Vuuren (University Twente,, Amanda Porter (VU-Amsterdam, or David R. Novak (Erasmus University Rotterdam,

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?

The Role of Objects in CCO: Rennstam on “Object-control”

Materiality is nocell-phone-1t an unfamiliar concept to CCO scholars. In fact, understanding the role of objects, bodies, and spaces is one of the most interesting challenges for CCO theorizing. In his recent article,  Object-Control: A Study of Technologically Dense Knowledge Work published in Organization Studies, Rennstam (2012) advances a theoretical framework to investigate the role of organizational objects in processes of control in knowledge work. His framework articulates the concept of object-control, or how objects participate in organizational processes of control by interpellating organizational members. More specifically, object-control shows how objects 1) establish knowledge relationships, 2) stabilize the formal organization, and 3) rearrange those relationships, enabling elicitation of organizational knowledge. Rennstam documents object- control through an analysis of a technology redesign process, from its inception to its eventual dissolution. The analysis shows how the technology was a site of struggle between different actors who were interpellated by the technology in different ways, how the technology was a stabilizer of formal organizational relationships through reminders of the past (as previous bodies of knowledge were materialized or made present by the technology), and how the technology “acts back” through a material limitation in its design, ultimately prompting the (non-hierarchical) decision to abandon the technology redesign all together.

The concept of object-control makes several contributions to CCO scholarship. First, object-control is a practice-based alternative to normative control; an explanation amenable to organization as an ongoing accomplishment. This alternative shows how objects give rise to temporary knowledge communities, and thus can play a role in the governance of knowledge directly, operating inside the labor process rather than through norms and values shaped by managers at a distance. Second, object-control extends theory about objects in CCO by theorizing knowledge objects as participants in knowing.

To stimulate thought about materiality in CCO, I leave you with a few questions posed by Rennstam: “On behalf of which objects do people speak?” “How do objects of knowledge interpellate various actors to speak on their behalf?” (p. 1086).