Università della Svizzera italiana Faculty of Communication Sciences ./index.htm

Exploring temporal work in coordination

With their current work on how hospital emergency teams achieve coordination in conversation, Katharina Hohmann and Jeanne Mengis have been selected to present their paper on “The Conversational Constitution of the Task at Hand: A Temporal Work” as one of the four top papers of the Organizational Communication Division of ICA’s 63rd Annual Conference. The paper argues that when emergency teams coordinate in view of a fleeting object of concern that continues to evolve and develop in unexpected directions (i.e. stabilizing and diagnosing a patient), they engage in active temporal work drawing recent past and imminent future into the present stream of activity.

An earlier version of the paper has also been recognized as one of the top student papers at this year’s APROS 2013 in Tokyo, Japan, where it was presented during a stream exploring the dynamics of performativity and practice.

A more refined version of these conference papers will appear in the edited volume on “Language and Communication @ Work: Discourse, Narrativity and Organizing” of the Perspectives on Process Organization Studies book series.

Mengis J., Hohmann K. (forthcoming). Temporal Work in Coordination: Co-Orienting Around a Fleeting Object of Concern. Cooren, F., Vaara, E., Langley, A. & Tsoukas, H. (eds.) Language and Communication @ Work: Discourse, Narrativity and Organizing (Perspectives on Process Organization Studies), Oxford University Press.



We argue that the continuously unfolding process of coordinating multiple activities around a fleeting task involves active temporal work. Building on co-orientation theory we focus on the repeated attempts of collaborators to co-orient their specialist work around an object of concern, i.e. the task at hand, that continues to evolve and develop in unexpected directions. Our focused ethnography in the resuscitation bay of an emergency department shows that when multiple professional groups co-orient their activities around the stabilization and diagnosis of a critically ill patient, they (inter-)actively draw their past and future co-orientations into the present stream of activities by engaging into three interrelated, temporal practices: fabricating the present, re-performing the past in the present, expanding the future present. The study thus identifies a centripetal movement where recent past and imminent future co-orientations are conversationally and materially drawn into the present and points to the non-linearity of the temporal unfolding of coordination.