Tag Archives: discourse

UFHRD 2014: 4 June, parallel session on Theory & Foundations of HRD

We’re in to the next parallel sessions and again I’ll be taking short notes on these.

Discourses in HRD: Complexity, Continuity and Contradictions, Jean Kellie, Brian Milsom (University of Hull). The research was framed by the integrationist agenda of HRD with HRM and a functionalist approach around effectiveness and unitarist approach the deproblematises the ‘fit’ between the individual and organisation. The alternative is a critical perspective (Garavan 2007; Valentin 2006) drawing attention to the different meanings attached to HRD by different stakeholders. Researching HRD professionals and the discursive devices used in the promotion of HRD in organisations and how this is influenced by dominant discourses within organisations and this may result in competing and complementing discourses and how public and private discourses on HRD may be reconciled.
The research used 20 semi-structured interviews. Found evidence of competing discourses including tensions between organisational and individual discourses. In particular, linking identity troubles centred on the discursive practices of the HRD practitioners.

A Question of Identity: The Meanings of Identity and the Significance of Identity as a Theoretical Foundation for HRD, Russell Warhurst (University of Chester and Aalto University Finland). The study focuses on Management Development (MD) which is a major area of HRD activity as an empirical study on identity work. Brown 2014 meta-analysis of identities in organisations and much research in identities is on identity as an outcome of HRD interventions.

There are massive problems in issues of definitions of professional identity. This research adopts a constructivist perspective with identity as a project of becoming and identity work and hence identity shift. Identity is formed through discourse “it is through narrative that we define ourselves”.

Through the analysis of interview data, a sub-group of “higher than average” learners demonstrated considerable personal learning and team and organisational learning. These managers displayed certain distinct characteristics: strong sense of managerial sense – a differentiated sense of self; secure sense of managerial self – claimed selves to be creative change agents; evidence of self-doubt questioning their capabilities; and strong commitment to future managerial self – strong commitment to their managerial careers. These four facets can be understood as a precursor to an unusual appetite for learning and as new resources for identity work.

Gold and Holman (2001) management education should concentrate on the significance of identity for readiness to learn.

Q on whether found evidence of earlier identities that echoed forward to their managerial identities. Non-higher learners tended to maintain their earlier professional/ specialist identities.

Twitter and Micro-blogging conference – third and last day

These are notes from the Twitter and Micro-blogging conference at Lancaster University for day 3.  The full programme can be found on Lanyard.The Twitter hastag is #LUTwit

I am also following eLearning @ Edinburgh on #elearninged

First session is Cracking the Code on Twitter use by media fandom by Rhiannon Bury at Athabasca Uni.

Places her research in the context of the increase in Twitter users representing 16% Americans as Twitter users compared to 67% using Facebook. Using a survey of TV fans found younger fans using twitter more frequently than older fans and female fans more likely to use Twitter than male fans.

Interested in micro-celebrity and presentation of self (Goffman). But pointing to lack of analytical research of Twitter use as a shared system of meaning and the semiotics of Twitter at the micro level of the Tweet and the macro level of the feed. For this presentation, focusing on the macro level and the aggregation through the feed (although could look to the hashtag).

Looking at syntagmatic relations of signs as linearity, combination, addition and deletion; and paradigmatic concerned with selection, substitution and intratextual relations (Chandler 2002). Also interest in connotation as in link between sign and the user – combining system and use in analysis.

At micro-level, Tweet as syntagma of text as speech act and visual structured temporally in the feed given as the date/ time stamp. [but temporal structure more complex than that – impact of the (delayed) RT – parallel temporal frames].

At macro-level and aggregation becomes complex. Feed has only one structure: newest to older and [symmetry] as software forces importance of the latest Tweet.

Access to twitterverse is always partial, incomplete and fragmented – can’t see all 500m users at one time.

Understanding fan Tweets as secondary text – primary text being the TV show. With fans, text is never just informational but also affective – pleasures of the text and signify importance of fan. Found that fans tend to follow and read but little original content generation and an emotional attachment. Twitter affords a feeling of a closer relation to producers, celebrities, etc.


Now going on to session on political agenda setting in Belgium elections by Pieter Verdegem.

Presenting paper with two disclaimers that alot of the data analysis by his PhD student @eveliendh and that this is the first run of analysis being presented here.

Points to problems of using Twitter to predict election results and paper titled I Wanted to Predict Elections with Twitter and all I got was this Lousy Paper. But his own analysis looks to issues of influence and potential disintermediation of traditional media and impacting on behaviour of politicians on SoMe. Cites concept of liquid politician. Three groups of stakeholders: politicians, media and citizens

Belgium as country with the longest period with no government. Harvested Tweets of local elections 2012 (municipalities) but some candidates also standing/ sitting as Federal politicians. Saw a typical pattern of Tweeting with massive spike of Tweets in the few days around the election day (see Bruns).

45K Tweets with 42k on election day. Completed some content analysis to identify the ‘loudest’ voices which were mainly established and institutionalised accounts – parties, traditional media etc.

Green Party Twitter account was one of the most active with parties receiving more while citizens stronger in sending Tweets.

Hyperlinks used especially to traditional media outlets but also to new media (blogs, YouTube etc.). Analysed use of additional # to the formal election # to emphasise parties, localities and humour

Tweeting showed a flat and decentralised network with increased in interaction following election much higher than expected.

Responses were interesting: citizens more likely to repsond to questions from institutions than other citizens … while institutions rarely responded to citizen questions.

Intending to do much more research on interactions, content analysis and SNA and comparison with other elections and with other periods of Twitter activities (non-elections).


On to the final plenary by Ruth Page on Saying Sorry: corporate apologies posted to Twitter. 

States a certain ambivalence about going last but gets to have “the last say”.

Why Twitter is significant for corporations? Twitter as a participatory environment (Jenkins 2006) without gatekeepers giving unmediated access. But Twitter not an even playing field and is part of the rest of SoMe and ‘real world’ interactions with the similar power relations of social practices. But also on how Twitter is used and the affordances of Twitter platform.

Jansen (2009)  Twitter as e-word of mouth. Is useful for orgs to follow and track. 51% Twitter users follow corporate accounts in respect of corporate new and/ or customer care

The data set: 17.7k tweets; 100 accounts; 40 companies; 30 celebs; 30 ordinary accounts gathered 2010 and 2012.

Research objective on apologies emerged rather than preplanned – identified 1200 tweets with apologies in them.

Distinguishes between tweet types updates (one to many ‘broadcasts), public but addressed to individual and RT – doesn’t take in to account use of quotes or MTs. All types accounts had more updates than other types – especially for corporates.

Corporate broadcast tweets involving pushing, brand and across link analysis

Corporate brand promotion using hashtags used in updates (one to many) and hashtagging increasing over time even tho # not needed to be included in revised twitter search algorithm. Corps tending to use hashtags of their names, products or area of expertise so linked to brand positioning. Ordinary peoples’ hashtags tend to position them as consumers and interactors. Noting dichotomy between corp branding and ordinary ppls’ positioning as consumer/ audience.

Rise of ‘amplified talk’ in terms of including hyperlinks in tweets – positioning selves as authoritative recommenders of sites/ resources but this is changing now as more people are sharing links increasingly across multiple platforms. Also seeing collapse of the division between personal and professional between 2010/12. For corps tend to link to own websites and customer engagement platforms, eg, flickr

Modified RTs has stronger growth 2010 – 2012, especially for purposes of self-promotion eg, customer endorsement.

By 2012 corps increasingly using address messages, and modified RTs suggesting an increasingly interactional/ conversational use of Twitter. Used corpus linguistics for analysis of tweets and found pattern of customer care talk as increasingly prominent in corp tweeting.

Now showing a clip from Big Bang Theory

Approaches to apologies: apologies as reluctant; or to music (!) and political apologies (see Nick Clegg).

Apologies are ‘post event speech acts to enable future interaction and restoration of equilibrium. Linguistic research on apologies is very rich but mostly private and spoken apologies. Much less research on public apologies.

Have identified in research five compents of apologies: using term sorry; taking responsibility; offer to repair the offense; promise to avoid it repeating. But in twiter corps not take responsibility or promise not to happen again (accountability, power to take responsibility and legel implications of promising not to repeat the error – implied liability).  Corps tend to not restate what the actual problem is … as need to acknowledge that they’re dealing with an individual without broadcasting the problem.

Only 10% of corp apologies include an explanation and where did so was to: down play their responsibility, eg, customer is wrong; blaming a third party and factors beyond the company’s control (weather). Avoid suggesting direct agency of the company (eg, caused by office closure… not “we closed the office”)

30% corps make offer of repair (compared to 10% ordinary users) – corp repairs around refunds; investigation etc.. fixed by others not the tweeter illustrating the interactional context as draws in wider corp resources.

Corp apologies also include an imperative – telling the customer to do something – wait for corp reaction or asking customer to do something, eg, please email us … but imperatives are risky for the corp as don’t close the loop/ resolve the complaint.

Also noted that corps tend to start tweets with “Hi” (19% of corp apologies – to personalise response but also shows social distance and not really knowing the individual) and close with a “thanks” and signature (37% of apologies). Ordinary people are more conversational and informal in apologies.

Emoticons (oh dear) used to mark alignment between corp and customer but can be used to mitigate a negative response (smiley face for stating can’t do anything) or to enhance the interaction (eg, following).

Patterns: avoid reputational damage – avoid restating problem; deny agency; signify social distance; avoid explanation or if do, then seek to repair.

But so what? Interesting for a linguist but challenge for the speaker is to make this research useful? Looking t potential for this analysis for customer care training and PR impacts.

Twitter and micro blogging – presentation slides

My slides on Discursive practices in informal learning events on Twitter presented at #LUtwit:

Is a profession also a discursive community?

Discourse analysis (DA) is about the study of “language in use” (Nunan 1993, p7) operating at a number of levels (Fairclough 2003; Alvesson & Skoldberg 2009). Heracleous (2006) identifies two over-lapping levels of discourse: communicative action based on interactions between individuals to, for example, share experiences or build relations, and deeper discursive structures that ‘guide’ and regulate communicative actions. Mäkitalo (2012) argues that professional discursive practices are indivisible from professional practices themselves. Furthermore, Fenwick et al (2012) suggest that discursive practices seek to stablise as, what are termed, discursive resources that constitute the legitimised discourses of professional practice. Professional learning and development is concerned with the re-production of those deeper discursive structures.

Bragd et al (2008) argue a discursive community is constituted through common meanings through discursive interaction. So each utterance can be treated as being created through interactions within an identifiable group of actors and texts rather than as the isolated acts of individuals (Dennen 2008). Thus, discourse is a mechanism that generates a ‘feeling’ of being part of a community through contributing to a particular discourse with particular uses and particular terms that are commonly understood as discursive repertoires (Eriksson & Kovalainen 2008) or resources (Rigg 2005). So a community is generated around some level of discursive structure that decentres the individual person to focus on networks of activity and influence (Fenwick et al 2012). Furthermore, discursive communities not only reinforce common understandings among members but also identify perspectives that differentiate members from ‘others’ outside the community (Bragd et al 2008). Hence discursive communities emerge through both collective meaning-making and processes of marginalisation and exclusion that ‘delegitimise’ ‘other’ discursive practices.

Discursive communities can then be seen as central to Mäkitalo’s (2012) processes of identifying what constitutes legitimate professional knowledge resources including vocabularies and dominant metaphors (Francis 2007). Rigg (2005) discusses collective meanings within discourses becoming institutionalised as a common language and meaning-making enterprise within an organisation. Such processes of institutionalisation could also occur through networks of interaction permeating organisational boundaries (Jorgensen & Henriksen 2011) including, for example, professional communities identified through their common discursive practices (Wenger 1998). Hence, a professional ‘field’, in Bourdieu’s sense of the term, can be negotiated, refined and revised through ongoing social interaction made identifiable by its’ repertoires and genres (Czarniawska 1997, 180).

So in conclusion, a professional domain is constituted by discourse and so a ‘profession’ is a discursive community [?]


Space & flows of practice: exploring the relationship between Web 2.0 technologies and a practice perspective on HRD.

Here is a paper abstract accepted for the upcoming UFHRD conference in Brighton:

This paper explores through an analysis of technology enhanced professional learning (TEPL) using social software a practice based approach to understanding and framing human resource development (HRD) and communities of HRD practitioners. Social software has been described as employing web 2.0 technologies in supporting ‘digital social networks’ supporting interactions between social entities (Kieslinger & Hofer 2007, p7) through computer-mediated-communication to form online communities (McAfee 2009). These technologies can include applications such as blogs and micro-blogs, discussion forum, wikis, etc. (Wagner & Bollojou 2005). The use of social media to enable collaborative and peer-to-peer professional development activities has become increasingly common in recent years (McCulloch, et al 2011; Bingham and Conner 2010).

The practice perspective perceives learning and knowledge as relational processes (Cook & Brown 2005) where learning is understood as a social, collective and active process. Learning and knowledge are not possessed (Cook & Brown 2005) but rather are something that people do together (Geiger 2009). In the context of TEPL it can be seen that the main mechanism of practice is textual (Koole 2010). Hakkarainen (2009) points specifically to technologies that generate epistemic artefacts providing a material representation in the digital world of agents’ intangible ideas. Online, such artefacts can be seen specificially as text or discourse objects (Bartel & Garud 2003). So through TEPL using social software, practices are interactions between people and these discourse objects (Orlikowski 2007; Hussenot & Missonier 2010). This interaction can be understood as a process of learning where actors in a network (Aceto et al 2010, p6):

…learn by making and developing connections (intentionally or not) between ideas, experiences, and information, and by interacting, sharing, understanding, accepting, commenting, creating and defending their own opinions, their viewpoints, their current situations and their daily experiences.

Furthermore, such objects and interactions generate consequences that are separate from the intentions of the original authors (Alvesson and Skoldberg 2009, p234).

Lawless et al (2011) describe human resource development as a social and discursive construct. HRD as a can be seen as a practice that is defined by how it is discussed and what discursive resources are mobilised in the practice of HRD (Francis 2007).

This paper explores how HRD practices are assembled in networks (Fenwick 2010) in open online environments for TEPL. The study research sites are two regular open Twitter “chat” events focused on HRD practices and as a learning resource for participating in the events. The research approach uses Actor-Network Theory as a socio-material and practice framework operationalised using Discourse Analysis. The research analyses the interactions between people and discursive objects to explore how HRD practices are identified and framed.

The research finds that specific networks evolved within the “chat” events as actors sought the enrolment of others through processes of translation (Mitev 2009). The dominant discourses of HRD as performance based were replicated (Lawless, et al 2011; Francis 2007). Common discursive repertoires between the two sets of event participants were identified and a number of common viewpoints taken as black-boxed “givens” that acted as obligatory passage points for participants to pass through to be enrolled in specific networks. Clear positions of identity discourses emerged to differentiate members from “others” outside the specific communities (Bragd et al 2008). Noted ‘other’ actors included (pejoratively) ‘management’ and ‘regulations/ compliance’ requirements. A distinction could also be noted in how certain HRD practices were discussed as being for a more particular group of actors able to engage effectively in self-directed learning as against those perceived as lacking the competences to engage in such learning activities.

Rather than realizing the democratic potential of the “architecture for participation” of web 2.0 (Martin et al 2007), the research found that strategies for the containment or management of discursive struggles were often mobilised (Alvesson & Deetz 2000; Alesson & Wilmott 2002) to generate a “co-ordinated management of meaning” (Oswick & Robertson 2009, p186) in the framing of HRD practices. So, as has been argued with workplace learning in general, these open environments for professional development are socially constructed and regulated learning spaces (Billet 2004, p320). Discourse objects act as boundary objects (Denham 2003), a space of negotiation, translation and tensions between actors where (Antonacopoulou 2005, p5):

…tensions capture both the socio-political forces as well as the ‘elasticity’ and fluidity of organizing as different processes and practices connect to provide new possibilities.

Furthermore, the framing of HRD practices could not be identified through the development of a single discourse object but rather as an accumulation of micro-practices of individual actors (Pachler & Daly 2009). So the learning network assemblages framing HRD practices can be understood as textscapes (Keenoy and Oswick 2004) whereby HRD practices can be understood in a particular way in that particular virtual space at that particular time. Thus, a focus of analysis is placed on what Scardamalia & Bereitner (2008) termed ‘ideational content’ focusing on the linkages and patterns between utterances rather than specific text objects themselves. Actors could be identified operating as generalisers summarizing and “black-boxing” certain practices while localisers attempting to translate generalized practices to local micro contexts (Nicolini 2009). So HRD practice can be framed as rhizomatic (Cormier 2008) in that is shaped, reshaped and negotiated by actors in the practice at that time and space.

So it is suggested here that HRD practices can be conceived as the practices of the bricoleur who (Wiseman 2000):

…works with materials that are always second hand … The bricoleur is in possession of a stock of objects (a “treasure”). These possess “meaning” in as much in as much as they are bound together by a set of possible relationships, one of which is concretised by the bricoleur’s choice.

This paper argues that analysing the discursive strategies of actors in open web 2.0 spaces provides an opportunity to analyse discourses of HRD practices as they emerge through the interaction of actors within networks; that these networks and learning practices extend beyond specific organisational or institutional boundaries and that these discursive practices are rhizonomic and hence what can be framed as practices of HRD is in a constant state of fluidity. HRD practices can be understood as bricolage whereby HRD practice is constantly in an “interactive moment” (Shotter 1993, p3). However, it is also suggested that such networks of HRD practices are sites of discursive struggles that can be (unconsciously) contained to inhibit expansive learning (Fuller & Unwin (2004) and constrain new opportunities.  Furthermore, this paper argues that HRD practices and practitioners need to engage with the flows of knowledge interactions and artefacts as they form wider networks of learning that flow beyond, across and between the traditional boundaries of the organisational structure.