As I noted in the first blog in this series started due a conversation at the last NCA, when I mentioned I wasn’t doing strictly organizational communication research.
“Trust me,” she replied. “We noticed.”
Heck, I had no idea anyone was paying attention. Given the small size of our community, I should have known. We are like some weird panoptic prison of disciplinarity.
Anyway, it turns out that I did not get away from organizational communication research. I’ve been extending it. And in order to do that, I needed to expand my own understanding, and broaden my own horizons first. I needed to find the tributary sources, take a few detours, and to do those I had to do a hell of a lot of reading. So where am I exactly? It’s not a difficult a story to tell.
Organizational Communication + Ethnography + Narrative + Pop Culture:
The research I am doing in the local comic book shop looks at narratives, socialization, communication, and stigma. The store is an organization (DUH!) where people tell stories, sometimes about how they are connected through the popular culture artifacts of their choice (comic books, etc.), and sometimes how they are stigmatized. This is not going to strictly be participant-observation ethnography, because I too am a member of this culture, so there will be personal narrative included.
Organizational Communication + Personal Narrative:
Another project I am working on (I have a tentative yes from the publisher) is going to be an edited volume on organizational autoethnography. There are details on my interest here. I got reinvigorated to do this after writing Ghosts, Vampires & Zombies, and the special issue of Storytelling Self Society on Bud Goodall, Nick Trujillo, and the new ethnography. (Really miss those two men.)
Organizational Communication + Popular Culture:
I am also working on a book that deals with pop culture portrayals of organizations, sensemaking, and organizing. Almost every television show has a setting and most of those settings are organizations. What do these portrayals tell us? I decided to concentrate on Joss Whedon’s opus for this. One reason is because I am a Whedon nut. (What? You couldn’t tell?) I already have most of the first three chapters written as drafts.
Narrative Organizing + Pop Culture:
There’s another project with Art Herbig. (Yes, him, again!) As I mentioned last week, Art is a trained rhetorician, but he is much more. He knows video production. His fantastic documentary, Never Forget: Public Memory & 9/11, came out last year. You can watch the trailer here. Me? I know as much about production as an aardvark knows about thermodynamics. Our project is on serial television, but will be different than most companions, as we are looking not at one particular show by an executive producer, but themes across shows. For me – because I look at narrative as a process of organizing – the question is “What is the guiding disourse/narrative across shows?” We are also looking at how production limitations impact these narratives. The proposal has been sent out. And we wait.
Side Note: I have to shamelessly plug the best companion book I’ve ever read: Wanna Cook?: The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad, by Guffey & Koontz. This book is amazing, and is required reading for fans, and anyone contemplating writing a companion on any show. It is detail-riffic! (And I am not just saying this because Ensley Guffey got his M.A. at ETSU. He really knows his stuff!)
Kierkegaard, Ethics, Cosplay
Notice I haven’t talked about Kierkegaard in a while? He’s coming back. I will be working with Chelise Fox on his parables and a piece on his critique of the press. Then there’s the relational/narrative ethics piece Jennifer Whalen and I are working on. There’s the previously mentioned cosplay convention work Andrew Dunn and I are doing. There's a great interview with Andrew Dunn talking about journalism, polymediation, and the DragonCon research we are continuing to pursue. That's here. Check it out.
“Hey Herrmann, aren’t you fried?”
“How are you not burnt out?”
“How is it that you can do all this stuff, without becoming mental?”
(Like I’m not mental, but that’s beside the point.)
These questions and some tips and warnings for graduate students and new academics, will be in the next – and final – blog in this series.