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.
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.
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.
A common feature of most organization-as-communication approaches is a processual view on organizational formation and reproduction, emphasizing the inherently precarious character of even the most bureaucratic organizations. But what about loose social collectives, such as online communities, terrorist networks, or hacker collectives? Is the notion of ‘organization’ useful for describing such fluid social collectives at all?
In a recent article published in the Journal of Management Studies (JMS)*, Leonhard Dobusch and Dennis Schoeneborn suggest using the term ‘organizationality’ for a gradual differentiation of social collectives regarding the degree to which they achieve the status of organizational actorhood. In the authors’ view, one crucial precondition of organizationality is the accomplishment of some form of collective identity through speech acts (“identity claims”) that try to delineate – and thus attribute – what the social collective is or does.
To address the research question on how identity claims contribute to the communicative constitution of fluid social collectives as organizational actors, Dobusch and Schoeneborn mobilize a ”communicative constitution of organizations” (CCO) perspective. Empirically, the authors are investigating the case of the “hacktivist” (i.e., hacker activist) collective Anonymous. Their study contributes to organization studies by showing that fluid social collectives (such as Anonymous) are able to temporarily reinstate organizational actorhood through the performance of carefully prepared and staged identity claims.
* Full reference: Dobusch, L., & Schoeneborn, D. (2015). Fluidity, Identity, and Organizationality: The Communicative Constitution of Anonymous. Journal of Management Studies, 52(8), 1005-1035 (the article is available open access until December 4, 2015).
Round Table Discussion of the Paper Development Workshop (PDW) Investigating the Constitutive Role of Communication for Organization and OrganizingPosted: October 3, 2015
As mentioned in a previous post the new EGOS Standing Working Group had a happy launching at the 2015 colloquium. This started, on July 1, with the pre-colloquium Paper Development Workshop (PDW) Investigating the Constitutive Role of Communication for Organization and Organizing organized by Michael Etter, Nicolas Bencherki, and Consuelo Vasquez. The PDW brought together a total of 36 junior and senior scholars for vivid conversations on how to further advance their research projects and papers. During the PDW Linda Putnam (University of California Santa Barbara), Cliff Oswick (Cass Business School) and Dan Kärreman (Copenhagen Business School) shared their thoughts and reflection on the challenges and new avenues of communicative and/or discursive approach to study organization and organizing. The video of this round table discussion and the Q&R that followed is now available.
CfP EGOS 2016 – Sub-theme (no.16) Organization as Communication: (Dis)organizing through Texts, Artifacts and Other MaterialitiesPosted: October 3, 2015
Following the official launching in 2015 of our Standing Working Group (SWG) “Organization as Communication”*, we are very happy to announce the sub-theme for the 2016 Colloquium of the European Group of Organizational Studies (EGOS) that will take place in Naples (July 7-9, 2016).
The sub-theme (no. 16) entitled “Organization as Communication: (Dis)organizing through Texts, Artifacts and Other Materialities” will be convened by Paul Leonardi, Tim Kuhn and Consuelo Vasquez. As you will see from the Call for Papers this sub-theme places a special focus on materiality and (dis)organizing. This said, we also invite conceptual or empirical papers that more generally apply a communication-centered or discursive lens to study organizational phenomena.
We are very much looking forward to your submission (short paper, 3000 words) by January 11, 2016.
Please find the full Call for Papers below – and via this website
In case of any questions, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
With kind regards,
Paul, Tim and Consuelo
*PS: For more information about our SWG click here.
Sub-theme 16: (SWG) Organization as Communication: (Dis)organizing through Texts, Artifacts and Other Materialities
This sub-theme is concerned with the fundamental, constitutive, and formative role of communication for organizing and organizations (including works that follow the “Communication Constitutes Organization” or “CCO” perspective). One way to reflect on this constitutive role of communication is to focus on the material dimension of communication, as communicative practices become inscribed in texts, artifacts, bodies, and sites (see Ashcraft et al., 2009). Since the linguistic turn, scholars in organization studies who foreground discourse and communication have been accused of ignoring the physically-embodied bases of organizational reality. The issue is not simply to reassert the importance of the non-discursive, but to transcend the long-standing dualism between the symbolic and the material dimension through novel perspectives on communication (ibid.). This means treating communication and discourse as a constellation of both intersubjectivity and interobjectivity (Latour, 1996; Orlikowski, 2007) and to focus on the co-constitutive entanglement between materiality and social action (Barad, 2003; Leonardi et al., 2012).
In line with these considerations, this sub-theme proposes questioning the (socio)material dimension of communication and its implications for organizing and disorganizing: How is communication or discourse materialized and thus contributes to the stabilization, transformation, and dislocation of organizational phenomena? What particular types/forms of materiality (e.g., texts, bodies, objects, or sites) are constitutive of organization, and how do they take part in organizing? What are the implications of (socio)material perspectives on communication for organization and management studies and practices?
While questions regarding the entanglement of the symbolic and the material are not new (see, e.g., Trist & Bamforth, 1951), extant investigations have typically emphasized either the symbolic or the material character of phenomena, thus (re)creating ontological dualisms that limit their explanatory value. A focus on the constitutive role of (socio) material communicative practices promises two benefits to these bodies of work. First, by highlighting both the material and symbolic dimensions of communication and discourse, analysts can trace the ‘imbrication’ that generates particular organizational forms and processes (Leonardi, 2011). Second, by examining how bodies, texts, artifacts, and sites (among others) contribute to complex and contingent organizing practices – and not merely as drawn upon by human actors – we can gain insight into the accomplishment of both ordering and disordering (Vasquez et al., forthcoming). Taking such a perspective allows us to open the notions of discourse and communication to account for organization as a heterogeneous site of conflicted (socio)material practices (Kuhn, 2012).
We invite papers that question the symbolic-material dualism by drawing on a communicational, narrative, and/or discursive lens on organization and organizing. Papers should seek to explore the (dis)organizing features of (socio)material practices of communication in particular, and/or should aim to address the constitutive relations between communication and organization more generally.
Below is a list of indicative, but not exhaustive, topics and questions related to the sub-theme:
How does (socio)materiality participate in processes of organizing and/or disorganizing? How does sociomateriality constitute, maintain or change work routines and communication patterns? How does it disrupt and/or stabilize organization?
How can we study bodies, technology, artifacts, texts from communication-centered perspectives? What further categories of ‘the material’ (e.g., economic) need to be considered from this perspective?
What can be gained by switching from a focus on the ordering capacities to the disordering capacities of communication? How can (socio)material approaches help reveal disorder, tensions, contradictions, and paradoxes of communication and the constitutive role of these tensions for the communicative constitution of organizations and organizing?
What are the implications of a (socio)material approach to organizational communication and discourse for core topics of organization studies, such as , strategy, leadership, structure, change, or corporate responsibility?
Ashcraft, K.L., Kuhn, T.R., & Cooren, F. (2009): “Constitutional Amendments: ‘Materializing’ Organizational Communication.” Academy of Management Annals, 3 (1), 1–64.
Barad, K. (2003): “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28 (3), 801–831.
Kuhn, T. (2012): “Negotiating the Micro–Macro Divide. Thought Leadership from Organizational Communication for Theorizing Organization.” Management Communication Quarterly, 26 (4), 543–584.
Latour, B. (1996): “On Interobjectivity.” Mind, Culture, and Activity, 3 (4), 228–245.
Leonardi, P.M. (2011): “When Flexible Routines Meet Flexible Technologies: Affordance, Constraint, and the Imbrication of Human and Material Agencies.” MIS Quarterly, 35 (1), 147–167.
Leonardi, P.M., Nardi, B.A., & Kallinikos, J. (eds.) (2012): Materiality and Organizing: Social Interaction in a Technological World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Orlikowski, W. (2007): “Sociomaterial Practices: Exploring Technology at Work.” Organization Studies, 28 (9), 1435–1448.
Trist, E., & Bamforth, K. (1951): “Some Social and Psychological Consequences of the Longwall Method of Coal-Getting.” Human Relations, 4 (1), 3–38.
Vásquez, C., Schoeneborn, D., & Sergi, V. (2015): “Summoning the spirits: Exploring the (dis)ordering properties of organizational texts.” Human Relations.