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

Organizational Communication & Knowledge Work

We are interested in the multiple relationships between communication and organising. Our point of departure is that communication is not a mere tool for organizations that becomes visible in corporate websites, strategy papers, or other texts more. Rather, communication is part of a sociomaterial practice through which organising is achieved. In the hours we spend in meetings or writing e-mails, work is accomplished and ambiguity reduced. These communicative practices act not on their own, but are intimately entwined with objects and material artefacts (e.g. production machines, prototypes, reports).

Following a practice perspective, our work focuses on these entanglements of communicative action and material practice. In particular, we are interested in the following connected areas of research:

Coordination practices / knowledge integration

The ever increasing specialisation of the workforce brings with it the challenge of coordinating specialist work practices and ways of knowing. These aim to be integrated in partially shared tasks, in products, and services. Within the contexts of biotechnology, healthcare, and urban planning, we conduct research on how experts of different disciplinary backgrounds and belonging to multiple professional groups and/or organizations coordinate their specialised work practices.


Knowledge work in high novelty situations

When situations bear much novelty and thus ambiguity, the challenge in knowledge work is not only how to integrate diverse forms of knowing. When objectives are only partially known and the task at hand is shifting, the entanglements of communicational constructions and material artefacts are particularly interesting. We imagine and envision through our interactions and communication and re-imagine and re-envision through the materializations, resistances and breakdowns of the objects we face.


Knowledge visualization in work practices

Visual representations (e.g., conceptual sketches, diagrams, maps) are a particular class of material artefacts for knowledge work and present both communicative and interactive properties. We explore how visual objects are used across different work practices (e.g., project management, design engineering, strategy implementation), and we experimentally assess the impact of visual facilitation on (intra- and inter) organizational knowledge sharing and development. Further information on our current research in this area of research can be found under: http://www.knowledge-communication.org/.


Temporal organising

Work and communication practices are embedded in different temporal contexts ranging from 'projects' of 30 years (e.g. urban planning) to collaborations lasting for a couple of minutes (e.g. rapid response teams in hospitals). Equally, diverse temporal orientations may coexist among collaboration partners (e.g. event time, clock time). We inquire into how temporal contexts act on practices of organising and how we can more systematically account for time in our theorizing of organizations. Go to the research project we are conducting currently in this area.



Head of research area
Jeanne Mengis
Assistant Professor in Organizational Communication
Email: jeanne.mengis@usi.ch
Phone: +41 58 666 4512