Assistant Professor Emma Christensen (Roskilde University) and Professor Lars Thøger Christensen (Copenhagen Business School)
Examining the (Re)presentational Voice
While many things can represent an organization – slogans, logos, visions, strategies, products, utterances – the voices of members occupy a specific status, especially because they can add elements of authority, authenticity, and credibility to the notion of what the organization is or hopes to be. In this presentation we discuss what it means to voice an organization, to be its official representation internally as well as externally. From a constitutive perspective on communication, we focus on how expectations associated with specific representational roles – respectively the voice of the manager and the rank-and-file employee – involve and produce communicative tensions. In particular, we draw on Louis Althusser’s notion of interpellation and Judith Butler’s extension of this concept to understand what it means to be called upon to voice one’s organization as a manager or as a rank-and-file member. In both cases, we argue that there are strong elements of self-discipline as well as complex communicational tensions at play. While the managerial voice is assumed to present the organization in accurate and truthful ways, it is at the same time expected to be aspirational and describe an attractive future as if it is within reach. This tension is likely to provoke charges of hypocrisy, insincerity and even bullshit. The voice of the rank-and-file employee, on its part, is expected to add authenticity and credibility to the corporate voice, hereby providing the organization with a distinct and unique personality. Yet, in assuming that particular role, the voice of the rank-and-file member is likely to be hijacked by an idealizing performance image that disciplines its execution. Although there is no automatism at play, we argue that member voices – when performing officially on behalf of the organization – are streamlined by wider social norms and expectations, thereby defeating its original purpose. In both cases it is necessary to discuss what is being constituted through processes of voicing: the person, the organization, or the wider society.
- Emma Christensen (Ph.D., Uppsala University) is an Assistant Professor in communication at Roskilde University (Denmark). She studies internal and external dimensions of organizational communication. In particular, she studies strategizing communication from sociological and social-psychological perspectives, including issues of voice, control, and discipline.
- Lars Thøger Christensen (Ph.D., Odense University) is Professor of Communication and Organization at the Copenhagen Business School (Denmark). He studies how organizations make sense of themselves and their surroundings through communicative practices. In particular, his research interests include issues of organizational identity, autocommunication, CSR, transparency and talk-action dynamics. Currently, he is involved in studies of how voices of members are mobilized by organizations to increase authenticity and credibility.
Professor Samantha Warren (University of Portsmouth)
Using Instagram in a participant-led field study: Reflections on the politics of organizational communication and identity
In this presentation, I discuss how Instagram can be used as a tool to gather visual data during participant-led field studies. I will draw on my own research practice using a field study conducted with colleagues at Bristol Business School, University of West of England (and in particular Dr. Harriet Shortt), to undertake a ‘sensory post-occupancy evaluation’ of a UK Business School building. The use of Instagram was part of the research design in this study and I hope my reflections in this presentation will enable interested researchers to make practical and well-informed methodological choices when considering the use of social media for their own research.
Social media is now an established, growing and ever-advancing social and technological revolution and one with which I argue researchers need to keep pace. During the presentation I will consider the pragmatic elements of using Instagram for research data collection, but with particular emphasis on the complexities of participants’ attitudes to social media and how these might impact researchers’ work. The reactions and behaviours we encountered during our year-long data collection were unexpected and highly illuminating of issues to do with the politics of organizational communication, and the subtleties of personal identity construction – particularly for the students who we had difficulty enrolling into the study. In short, our participants reported a reluctance to contribute their (literal) views using Instagram because they perceived the medium to be one where only an ‘airbrushed’ and positive version of reality can be displayed. However, as I will explain this led to the emergence of vital and highly useful data in itself and helps greatly in progressing protocols for using public social media platforms for research purposes.
If we have time, I will also suggest analytical techniques to make sense of Instagram posts as visual data and consider the ethical issues and challenges of this emerging kind of research, but if not, further and more detailed reading can be found in the chapter which this presentation extends (Shortt and Warren 2020). An ‘author copy’ of the chapter will be circulated to VAKKI participants.
Shortt, H. & Warren, S. (2020) ‘Photography: Using Instagram in participant-led field studies’ in Ward, J. & Shortt, H. (eds) Using Arts Based Research Methods, Palgrave: London, pp.237-270.
- Samantha Warren’s research interests lie in the area of organizational aesthetics and arts-based approaches to studying the lived experience of work and management. She is best known for her development of visual methodologies (and particularly photography) within management disciplines, but has also undertaken research on smell as an embodied cultural practice, and written on aesthetic/sensory research methods more broadly. Her current project explores the intersections of women, technology and cultural production through a case study of female electronic music producers’ careers, for which she is in receipt of a Leverhulme Fellowship. Sam is also a DJ and music producer herself under the name of Dovetail. She lives and works in Portsmouth on the south coast of England, having previously held Chairs at Cardiff University and University of Essex where she was Director of Research.