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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2012

Communication Norms on organizational theory and research : The case of contracting for supply chain management


Norms in a Built-Up Human World
The world of our everyday lived experience consists largely of a builtup human environment that affords and constrains human activity. Organizations are part of this built up human environment just as software programs, buildings, roads, nature reserves, and waterways. the built up human environment is tool-like in that it is purposefully built to afford and constrain preferences but it also becomes naturalized and its normality provides grounds upon which further building up of the environment takes place. Whether, or how, the built-up environment is a homogenizing or diversifying force in human affairs is a long-standing concern across a range of disciplines. Central to this concern is how the built-up world comes to be as it is - that is, normal as in regular, routine aspects of everyday life and normal as in a preferred, sanctionable expression of an idealized sense of what life should be like. While the field of organizational communication has given important attention to the processes through which social reality is constructed, this has largely focused on symbolization and cognition with much less concern or even attention to the material aspects of the built up environment. one consequence is that the relationship between norms, materials, and the materiality of the constructed human environment remains elusive. in particular, norms of communication are understood generally as arbitrary conventions rather than recognizing how norms are also boundedly rational solutions and that norms come to be through diffusion and social learning rather than recognizing that norms also arise as inventions developed through human creativity. thus, it is hard to conclude that the built up environment is either a univocal homogenizing or diversifying force in human affairs but instead something much more interesting than conventional descriptive and critical theorizing would reveal. The aim of this paper is to address norms in theorizing about the built up environment through the conceptualization of communication as design and through the context of contracting in supply chain management. Communication norms in Contracting for Supply Chain Management an ethnographic study of contracting for supply chain management reveals some key problems in understanding the role of norms in the built up human environment. the purchasing department of a large public university in the northeast of the United States had encountered recurring problems in establishing, maintaining, and dissolving purchasing contracts with its corporate vendors. one common problem is the many official protests they receive from vendors whose contract bids get rejected in the competitive bidding procedure. the study was undertaken to improve understanding of the contracting process in a supply chain so that that the bidding process could be improved. the study context thus presented the problem of understanding norms in the built up human environment and in particular communication norms. Van eemeren (2010) describes three approaches towards understanding norms that are relevant to organizational communication research: a) norms as observable behavioral regularities of communication; b) norms as internal to the conduct of communication; and c) norms as developed externally to linguistic, communicative conduct. Communication norms can be and have been studied from approaches similar to the three Van eemeren discusses. any one of these approaches has theoretical, methodological, and practical consequences for conceptualizing and engaging communicative practice. the regularity approach understands norms in communication as those communication behaviors that occur most frequently or that are typical. the approach is descriptive. the external norms approach understands norms as counterfactual ideals about a practice, whose implementation would render that practice preferable to its actual conduct. the norms are typically derived from theoretical-philosophical considerations about the communicative practice. this approach is critical, with the aim to improve the practice by reference to a theoretical ideal of practice. the internal norms approach understands norms as situated ideals to be discovered through an abductive engagement with actual conduct that seeks to reveal emergent standards and expectations communicators orient to and hold each accountable to. Communication norms in Organizational Communication Theory What is the status of norms in organizational communication? Perhaps the most common approaches in organizational communication are those of regularity and external norms. However, constitutive theories of organization have shifted the ground on which the regularity and external approaches have drawn justification. Seeing tangible communication displays as material and norms as ideal, this question touches on efforts to understand materiality in organizational communication. actor-network theory (Callon & latour, 1981) and the Montreal approach to the communicative constitution of organizations (CCO; Taylor & Van Every, 2000) have each conceptualized materiality in communication to explain the transcendence of a communicative activity across time and space. artifacts in an actor-network cast into material relief the agencies of one or more actors involved in their innovation and use (Callon & latour). texts and macroactors bestow unity and endurance on an emergent organizational practice (Taylor & Van Every). However, as detailed these accounts are in describing the emergence of conventional communication practices, they render convention arbitrary in the face of other possible alternatives. they leave one to ask how well a communication practice addresses the interactional and institutional demands that became normatively relevant as the practice emerged. neither the regularity- nor the external norms approach can yet adequately account for the norms that actually drive the emergence of communication practices. the Montreal School's CCo approach and actornetwork theory remain descriptive, and essentially see communicative norms as conventional and arbitrary. Critical-rational approaches only talk about norms for as far as they should exist, but do not (necessarily). it is proposed here that an internal norms approach is a good avenue to address the immediate concerns raised in the study of contracting and the more general concerns about norms in the built up environment. Craig and tracy's (1995) grounded practical theory (GPT) exemplifies how norms can be derived from a study of actual discourse and interaction practices in organizational communication. The design stance toward communication (aakhus & Jackson, 2005) expands upon this practical understanding of norms as internal to a communicative practice. it considers communication norms implied in human constructions such as technologies or organizations, in terms of how these norms came to be internal to the communication practice, and how they contributed to the constitution or conventionalization of that practice.
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hal-00840396 , version 1 (02-07-2013)


  • HAL Id : hal-00840396 , version 1


Mark Aakhus, Leon Laureij. Communication Norms on organizational theory and research : The case of contracting for supply chain management. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. ⟨hal-00840396⟩


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