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Accepted Paper:

Why meetings matter: enhancing field theory with communication theory  
Christoph Haug (University of Gothenburg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposes a heuristic tool for making sense of “too much data” by conceptualizing meetings as “governance units” of strategic action fields and to use data from meetings to identify these fields and what is at stake in them, and how they interrelate with each other.

Paper long abstract:

This paper combines the theory of strategic action fields (Fligstein & McAdam 2012) with a constitutive view of communication (Cooren 2012) in order to provide an approach to meetings that honours the importance of meeting talk for the constitution of broader fields of action such as groups, departments, organizations, inter-organizational networks, industries, etc. Building on Schwartzman's (1989) definition of meetings as being about common business of the participants ("meeting frame") and the insight that meetings tend to produce follow-up meetings, I argue that such meetings constitute internal governance units (IGUs) of strategic action fields and, therefore, serve the purpose of ensuring the routine stability and order of the always contested field. For the researcher, this makes several basic question salient during fieldwork and analysis of meeting data: "Which broader field (common business) are meeting participants oriented to?", "What's at stake?", "Who is 'in control' and how?" Likewise, when starting to explore a field, looking for pertinent meetings will provide insights on how the field (and field rules) is communicatively constituted and governed. Most interestingly, studying meeting talk in detail reveals that participants are routinely oriented towards finding out what is possible or what makes sense in a particular situation. The meeting allows them to let the situation "speak for itself", enabling them to act collectively and thereby (re)produce their strategic action field. Accordingly, if the situation is too ambiguous or conflict-ridden, the field becomes unstable until a new settlement is reached (or it disintegrates).

Panel P106
Meetings: the 'infrastructure' of work in local and global settings
  Session 1