Publication details [#4506]

Fearon, David Spencer, Jr. 2006. Social enaction: How talk-in-interaction constitutes social organization. Bakhtiniana: Revista de Estudos do Discurso 66 (12) : 4552. 4552 pp.


This dissertation applies analysis of conversation dynamics to the topic of organizational communication, asking whether organizations can be understood and described as they emerge through the situated conversational interaction of their members. This is an alternative to many current perspectives in organization theory that employ a researcher's summary of collective practices to explain how organizations operate. The approach draws from methods of conversation analysis (CA) and ethnomethodology (EM) and other interaction- oriented perspectives, which best maintain the focus on talk dynamics. The enaction perspective integrates theoretical points often unexpressed in CA and EM literature that reconcile talk and social organization, written as an accessible introduction for readers unfamiliar with interaction approaches. Analysis of social enaction draws upon the same evidence participants employ to understand and be understood by each other. The perspective takes as guiding metaphor three common meanings of 'enact': the public performance of actions participants orient to each other, which brings forth a social domain of organization, and which establish and warrant the relevance of certain actions, references, and contexts over others. Participants enact social organization through the practices of making references recognizable, indicating relevant next actions, assessing prior actions, adjusting to troubles, and remaining accountable to criteria members negotiate within the interaction itself. These chapters compare the enaction approach to classical and current organization theory. They also present methods for analyzing the social enaction of organizations, illustrated by a corpus of video recorded 'team meetings' from a variety of firms, including manufacturing and insurance companies, a hospital, a community college, and a multinational corporation. Findings discuss a range of activities that constitute meetings, including openings, agendas, and institutionalized practices. During their conversation, meeting members tend to move new topical references and issues toward more unspoken forms, which can become an institutionalized mode of accounting specific to that group or firm. Speakers often employ these established accounts and practices to negotiate new or contentious issues by subtly accommodating their personal stance to affiliation with others, managing the quality of relationships among organization members. These are among methods discussed by which people constitute social organization and its transformation through talk. (LLBA, Accession Number 200614724, (c) CSA [2007]. All rights reserved.)