When I was a doctoral student at the University of South Florida, Eric Eisenberg asked me a very important question.
“Are you and organizational communication scholar who happens to do ethnography? Or are you an ethnographer who happens to do organizational communication research?”
At the time I didn't give this too much consideration. I was an interesting thought experiment, certainly. Plus, I was right in the middle of my dissertation, doing a project on the socialization of new faculty that included organizational ethnography. I was also prepping other organizational ethnographies for publication in journals. So the question did not resonate.
One of the dilemmas is that I got bored with “organizational communication” as it is formally researched. I find it uninteresting, particularly in the communication discipline. Why? I found that I too often stand “on the periphery” of organizational communication. I wrote organizational autoethnographies. I attempted to use Kierkegaard. I attempted to take organizational theories and apply them to online spaces. None of these were acceptable to the organizational communication “standardbearer” journals. The ones that I published were published in newer or more interesting journals, such as QROM, JOE, etc. The ones that never saw the light of day sit in a folder in my computer labeled “Dead Ends and other Discarded Scraps.”
Is this exactly what happened to Nick Trujillo and Bud Goodall? It seems that over the years, they left organizational communication behind. Or more accurately, organizational communication abandoned them, as they stretched out to look beyond the subdiscipline, taking on issues of identity, culture, and narrative.
I’ve been thinking a lot about myself as a professional and about what it is that I want to do as an academic going forward. Most of my past research is either already published or in the final phase of being published. In some cases, I simply abandoned the research as a dead end. Good riddance.
But where do I go from here?
As I wrote about previously, I’m not as much interested in organizational communication proper as I am interested in the process of organizing at the intersection of personal identity. And I am an ethnographer at heart. And I am a geek.
How to combine these things? How to move forward?
I was sitting in Atomik Comics, the local comic book shop, browsing through back issues of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, and Doctor Who. I was talking with Shawn the owner, and a number of the other customers about our experiences at DragonCon and the first ever Nashville Comic Convention. We started talking about Star Wars, Spiderman, the Agents of SHIELD television show, and the dilemma of Marvel’s “Civil War,” that pit Captain America against Iron Man.
Then it happened. And I made a decision.
I asked Shawn if I could do an ethnography at the shop. He agreed. So an organizational ethnography in a sole-proprietorship, that combines my desire to do popular culture-geek research and investigate personal identity.
No, I do not have a new identity. Rather I am incorporating all of the things that I am interested in, all the things that make me "me" into a single whole.
Now to work on the IRB and get this process moving.