EGOS 2016 – SWG ‘Organization as Communication’

From the 7th to the 9th of July, around 40 scholars coming from diverse countries and disciplines gathered at the EGOS 2016 colloquium in the sub-theme #16 “Organization as communication” to discuss issues, theories and practical implications related to the constitutive force of communication and materiality in processes of (dis)organization. Many different approaches to materiality where discussed (STS, CCO, sociomateriality, to name a few), many were the materials studied through these approaches (objects, bodies, technologies, social media, discourses, talk, text, workspace, etc.), as well as the topics (identity, sensemaking, paradoxes and tensions, decision making, CSR, etc.) that were addressed during these three days. Questions related to agency (whose agency? for what?) were raised but not completely resolved, as well as methodological interrogations concerning the study of (im)materiality (e.g. how to interview an object? how to make a workspace talk?). Some of the traces of these discussions were posted on a wall (see picture bellow).

In this diversity, some common trends emerged in our final session, which was animated by Tim Kuhn, with the collaboration of three special guests: Viviane Sergi, Dennis Schoeneborn and Peter Monge. Some of these trends included the focus on (a) mundane and daily work interactions, (b) the disruptive, disorganizing, transforming and even destructive role of organizational communication, (c) the embodiment, materialization, in-formation (e.g. taking form) of discourse in many different ways. Special attention was given to bridging the CCO community with other scholarly communities in both organization communication and organization studies, as well as developing the social relevance of our scholarly work to political and practical issues.

In parallel to the sub-theme the SWG also was part of other activities: the PDW workshop on CSR and Communication and the ‘off EGOS’ workshop on Space, creativity and organizing.

Thanks to all that made this great reunion possible! Looking forward to see you next year in Copenhagen. More to come about the colloquium on the EGOS website. For now you can take a look at the  video announcing the venue (you will recognize some of the scholars ‘starring’ in it!)


SWG on OaC at EGOS 2016

Let me unpack the somewhat cryptical headline for you: Standing Working Group (SWG) on Organization as Communication at the 2016 Annual Colloquium of the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS). In true EGOS fashion, we’re spending three days together in altogether seven sessions works related to this year’s theme of (Dis)organizing through Texts, Artifacts, and Other Materialities. We’ll be posting pictures and videos from plenary sessions and panel discussions, maybe even more goodies and background noise, so stay tuned. You can follow us on Twitter #CCO #EGOS2016. And if you are at EGOS, then don’t be a stranger, come say ‘Hi.’

New Book on Organizational Memory as a Function

My former colleague Felix Langenmayr (University of Zurich) just published an insightful book at Springer VS: Organisational Memory as a Function: The Construction of Past, Present and Future in Organisations. In his study, he applies a “communication constitutes organizations” (CCO) perspective (grounded in Luhmann’s theory of social systems) to examine how organizations construct their past, present and future. However, if we assume that organizations are constituted in and through communication, how do they ensure their constant reproduction? This ‘problem of connectivity’ is addressed by the functions of memory and oscillation, i.e. by how an organization selectively draws on past and future horizons as resources to construct a constant social reality in which communication is able to overcome its own improbability. Felix Langenmayr elaborates on memory as a functional solution to the problem of sustaining organizations as an interrelated network of communications. In that regard, as he writes, “the function of organizational memory is an answer to the problem that communication is not necessarily an ongoing process, but rather unpredictable and fragile” (p. 175). Felix Langenmayr grounds these theoretical considerations in an empirical study at a European online gaming and gambling company, demonstrating how organizations, given that they are not able to access their past or future, actively and selectively construct these time dimensions in the present. I can recommend the book to everyone who is interested in learning more about how the Luhmannian variant of CCO thinking can be fruitfully employed for conceptual and/or empirical inquiries!

Off-EGOS Workshop on Space, Creativity, and Organizing

I’ve been meaning to link to the Off-EGOS Workshop on Space, Creativity, and Organizing for weeks without getting around to do it. No more excuses to Nicolas about not linking or participating in the workshop. I’ll be attending to casually analyze some data (or so I have been told) with the aid of wine (which certainly helps in terms of creativity) and crackers (which may or may not help with creativity, but they go well with the wine, that’s for sure). Be sure to sign up!

From Membership to Contributorship

There is no organization without individuals. There is no communication without individuals. Still, organization studies necessarily emphasize the organization or organizing and happily neglect the individual. Individuals only enter the picture through the backdoor of membership. Thus, it is not the individuals who make up the organization but the negotiated roles they take on to participate in communication.

McPhee & Zaug (2000) point to membership negotiation. Luhmann (2000) recalls March & Simon (1958) in a similar vain when he points out that individuals are part of the organizational environment. And now the Montreal School as one of the three pillars of CCO thinking (Schoeneborn et al., 2014) moves on the idea of membership with a conception of contributorship. You’ll find the article of Bencherki and Snack on Contributorship and Partial Inclusion: A Communicative Perspective behind the paywall of the online-first section over at the Management Communication Quarterly.

  • Luhmann, N. (2000). Organisation und Entscheidung. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.
  • March, J. G., & Simon, H. A. (1958). Organizations. New York, NY: Wiley.
  • McPhee, R. D., & Zaug, P. (2000). The Communicative Constitution of Organizations: A Framework for Explanation. Electronic Journal of Communication, 10(1/2).
  • Schoeneborn, D., Blaschke, S., Cooren, F., McPhee, R. D., Seidl, D., & Taylor, J. R. (2014). The Three Schools of CCO Thinking: Interactive Dialogue and Systematic Comparison. Management Communication Quarterly, 28(2), 285–316.

Change is the Only Constant

In organizational studies, we frequently say that change is the only constant. I don’t really know who said this to begin with, and it really doesn’t matter, but change really is the only constant, not least because any communication event or episode is new another next first time (Garfinkel, 2002). How, then, do we go about change? From a CCO-friendly perspective, there is conversations of change (Ford & Ford, 1995), organizational becoming (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002), etc. And now there is even a virus to bring about change. Forthcoming in the International Journal of Technology Management (which, to be honest, I never read before) is an article by Steffen Roth on Growth and Function: A Viral Research Program for Next Organizations. It relies heavily on Luhmann, so be careful to put on your thinking cap before immersing yourself in the constructivist thought of viral change.

  • Ford, J. D., & Ford, L. W. (1995). The Role of Conversations in Producing Intentional Change in Organizations. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 541–570.
  • Garfinkel, H. (2002). Ethnomethodology’s Program: Working out Durkheim’s Aphorism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Tsoukas, H., & Chia, R. (2002). On Organizational Becoming: Rethinking Organizational Change. Organization Science, 13(5), 567–582.

Call for Papers on Discursivity, Relationality, and Materiality

The idea of a communicative constitution of organization (CCO) has led to a number of special issues in communication and organization studies over the past years (e.g., Management Communication Quarterly, 2010, Vol. 24, Issue 1; Organization Studies, 2011, Vol. 32, Issue 9). Communication Research and Practice has a call for papers out for a special issue on discursivity, relationality, and materiality. The deadline for submission is April 1, 2016. So go, get your manuscript ready.