Sneak Peek: Network of Communication Episodes at EGOS

Next year’s EGOS is approaching fast with the deadline on January 14, 2013, only a few weeks away. Several tracks are of interest to CCO/OaC scholars. Of course, there is The Communicative Constitution of Organization: Organizations as Precarious Accomplisments hosted by our very own Dennis Schoeneborn, Francois Cooren, and Tim Kuhn. Also hosted by another member of this here circle of scholars, namely, Alex Wright, is Organizing Performativity: Bridging Theory and Practice within and across Organizations.

It’s common courtesy at EGOS to stay with your track throughout the entire conference, which is why you need to choose to participate in just one. Let me give you a sneak peek at what you may be in for if you decide to join Dennis, Francois, and Tim.



What you see is an organization displayed as a network of communication episodes, much like the one you already saw in our respective paper recently published in Organization Studies. There 439 communication episodes, each one represented by a vertex. 55,754 edges hold these vertices together, each one representing the participation of at least one individual in two linked vertices. Thus, the network of communication episodes provides a quick overview of the themes and topics that (re)produce the organization.

I’ve put in two additional information on the (re)production of themes and topics. First, the size of a vertex indicates the number of individuals who participate in a communication episode (e.g., the number of people who attend a meeting). Second, the color of a vertex indicates the time spell a communication episode takes place; there are 24 time spells on a grayscale ranging from the first spell all black to the last spell all white.

With that information at hand, see how the organization comes full circle from big themes and topics central to many individuals (black vertices at the center of the network) to many, many small communication episodes clustering in the periphery, finding it’s finish with, once more, big themes and topics.

I can zoom into single communication episodes and cluster thereof, making them easily accessible to qualitative interpretation of the conversations among individuals. But that’s about as far as I’ve gotten with my analysis. The general idea is to use the network (and many more quantitative and qualitative information) to illustrate organizational failure. Because it’s in there, just not that obvious right now.

I won’t reveal the organization behind the network, all I’m saying is that many of you are intimately familiar with it. (If you already know the organization I’m talking about because I told you, please don’t reveal it in the comments; all other speculations are welcome.)

Now I only have to convince Dennis, Francois, and Tim to accept my half-finished paper. Four weeks to go.

The Determinants of a Successful Constitution of Organization: The Case of J.J. Abrams’ Lost

Last summer, I put out a call for a master thesis taking upon the challenge to look into the determinants of a ‘successful’ constitution of organization. I implicitly left open the definition of success, but I was clear on the literature underlying the idea of the master thesis: the communicative constitution of organization (CCO) or, in other words, organization as communication (OaC). Besides a rigorous foundation in the literature, I wanted the master thesis to take the first season of J.J. Abrams’ highly acclaimed television series Lost, because it beautifully depicts the rise and fall of an organization. A unique opportunity for a social scientist to observe this up close and personal, if you will. Here’s my call:

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Organization Studies: Special Issue on Communication, Organizing, and Organization

The September issue of Organization Studies is dear and near to us, not just because Dennis and I review books that promote the notion that communication constitutes organization. More importantly, it’s a special issue on communication, organizing, and organization!

The special issue is edited by Francois Cooren, Timothy Kuhn, Joep Cornelissen, and Timothy Clark. Tim (the first Tim) and Joep already joined us for meetings in Berlin and Zurich, and Francois will join us next year in Hamburg. Who knows, maybe we’ll have Tim (the other Tim) drop by, too, if just to have had all of them at our table.

Of course, the special issue has some exciting articles, too. And in case I haven’t mentioned it, two book reviews 😉

Some Bibliographic Measures of Organization as Communication

Now that we have a group on organization as communication at Mendeley to keep the respective bibliography in one place, it’s time to look beyond the boundaries of our frequently-cited references. I’ve prepared a quick-and-dirty bibliographic analysis of the past 45 years of research on organization and communication for last week’s meeting at the University of Zurich, so let me walk you through it.

Using the search term organi[z,s]ation AND communication in the ISI Web of Science database, I got more than 8,918 articles. I immediately dropped all articles from obviously unrelated fields of neuroscience, pedagogy, and the like, which left me with a good 2,000+ articles and a first histogram:

Histogram of Articles on Organization and Communication

Next, I looked at the coauthorship network of 4,168 coauthors on 1,949 articles. Pretty dense!

Full Coauthorship Network

Hidden to the eye, but right there in the numbers are four large components of the coauthorship network. I inspected each one of them briefly by looking at the central coauthors, the articles they wrote together, and the journals these articles were published in. Thus, I was able to label each one of the four large components: (1) communication for organization, (2) communication in organization, (3) communication of organization, and (4) communication as organization. Check out the components below.

The labeling is admittedly very crude, but nonetheless it provides you with a good idea of the approach each one of the research fields (i.e., components) is taking to communication and organization:

(1) Communication for organization is the most obvious component, not just because it is the largest of them all. The basic idea here is that communication is more or less a means to achieve organizational ends. These ends may be The Role of Communication in Managing Reductions in Work Force or Informational Influence in Organizations: An Integrated Approach to Knowledge Adoption.

Component 1 - Communication for Organization

(2) Communication in organization takes upon the notion that communication is an organizational process next to many others. Thus, we find articles such as Information Processing in Traditional, Hybrid, and Virtual Teams: From Nascent Knowledge to Transactive Memory and Central Agencies in the Diffusion and Design of Technology.

Component 2 - Communication in Organization

(3) Communication of organization characterizes organizations as collective actors that communicate with their environment. Communication is mostly understood as the voice of an organization. Articles then bear titles like Analyzing Communication In and Around Organizations and Government and Corporate Communication Practices: Do the Differences Matter?.

Component 3 - Communication of Organization

(4) Communication as organization (or, they way we put it, organization as communication) is the smallest, but at the same time youngest component. It comprises all the coauthors well know to us and the the papers found in our above mentioned bibliography. The notion of communication, of course, is that it constitutes organization, thus effectively putting the two concepts en par.

Component 4 - Communication as Organization

Most interestingly to the component is that the two most central scholars are Francois Cooren and Gail Fairhurst, who seem to be holding the research field together. Now, that is only half the truth as none of the many coauthored chapter from edited volumes are in the data, just articles from journals. Hence, scholars such as Jim Taylor and Linda Putnam appear somewhat on the periphery of the component.

I must leave it up to future research to take a closer look, but that may not be too far off.

James R. Taylor and The Montréal School of Organizational Communication: An Ego-Centric Coauthorship Study

Organization as communication is making its rounds. The newest addition to the program is a bachelor thesis on James R. Taylor and The Montréal School of Organizational Communication: An Ego-Centric Coauthorship Study, which I’ll supervise here at the University of Hamburg’s Chair of Organization and Management. Read on for the abstract.

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The Communicative Constitution of Organization, live and unplugged

Witness the birth of an organization: We’re happy to announce that the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) grants its support to our scientific network on the communicative constitution of organization!

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