Research Talks at the 2014 International Communication Association: Hello, Seattle! :)

Space NeedleSeattle is a gorgeous, gorgeous city, with some amazing people, buildings, and food, and I’m thrilled to be in the middle of things right now for the annual conference of the International Communication Association! This is a bittersweet occasion; on the one hand, this is my first appearance here at ICA as a faculty member, representing Wayne State University, yet on the other hand, the conference marks the end of my two-year term as Student Board Member, a profoundly insightful position. During my two years, I have enjoyed working with the ICA leadership to set up some fantastic new opportunities and structures to enable graduate student members of the ICA in their professional development, and I’m sure that my successors will do an even more awesome job, extending these initiatives. So, as I bid adieu to this post, I’m settling for a wonderful few days in Seattle, exploring and experiencing the city, and engaging in some wonderful research with my Communication colleagues.

I also thought I’d share the abstracts of the two papers I’m presenting here at ICA. The first one is a poster presentation for the Organizational Communication Division, titled “The Birthing Process is Messy”: Positioning Sustainability “In the Cloud” as an Emerging Profession, drawn from my dissertation research and co-authored with my doctoral adviser, Dr. P.M. Buzzanell.  The abstract reads:

We examine how practitioners communicatively position the emerging profession of sustainability, which employs around 3 million people in the United States alone. Despite extant research on emerging fields, this literature mainly focuses on institutional developments and entrepreneurial actions, neglecting the wider subjectivities that develop among “ordinary” practitioners of such nascent fields. In contrast, we adopt a “practice-based” approach, using discursive positioning theory. Drawing on interviews with 45 sustainability practitioners and 35 contributed curriculum vitae, we find that 20 discursive resources are used to construct four broad subject positions for the emerging field—discovery, enlightenment, legitimacy, and consumption. Our data suggests a “cloud” approach to field positioning, whereby positions overlap and practitioners utilize different (re)combinations of the discursive resources, in response to particular tasks, contexts, and stakeholders. Our findings contribute to discursive positioning theory, practice-based perspectives to emerging professions, and the political embeddedness of work.

ICA 2014 - Emergent professions - POSTERYou can see the expanded poster by clicking on the image at the side. Of course, if you happen to be at ICA this weekend, then I’d love it if you’d drop by during the Plenary Poster Session, and say hello!

The second paper will be presented at a session organized by the Public Relations Division of ICA, and is titled Engagement as Connection/Connectivity: Online/Offline Intersections at a University Sustainability Office. What is this one about, you ask?

This article extends mainstream understandings of strategic versus dialogic engagement by tracing the use of social media by organizations. Specifically, I draw from a yearlong ethnography with the Sustainability Office at a large Midwestern university to examine how online engagement is shaped by offline identities, and offline practices are influenced by online engagement. I suggest a “connection/connectivity” lens to engagement, constituted by four interconnected narrative threads—connecting relationally/institutionally, connecting inside/outside, political connections, and cyborg connectivity. I show how these narrative threads problematize the dichotomy between strategic and dialogic modes of engagement, and recognize the emergence of broader, digitally constituted publics.

If you would like to know more about these projects, or my research in general, feel free to check out my Ongoing Research and Publications pages on this website, or contact me at rahul.mitra@wayne.edu.

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