Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

David Boromisza-Habashi

Second Advisor

Karen L. Ashcraft

Third Advisor

Timothy Kuhn

Fourth Advisor

William Penuel

Fifth Advisor

Leah Sprain


Inspired by the recent publication of The Cambridge Handbook of Meeting Science and particularly Schwartzman’s (2015) concluding chapter, I write this dissertation to closely examine the order-disorder dynamic of meetings. Order represents momentary accomplishments or achievements in meeting events, which could always be otherwise. Disorder, on the other hand, represents the “local sense” of a meeting which both energizes and resists order. In order to study this order-disorder dynamic, I situate my work in the relational ontological turn, particularly DeLanda’s (2006) theory of assemblages. This ontological grounding provides the foundation for a perspective of meetings as emergent events, where order and disorder are emergent effects. This perspective further brings together two research traditions: the ethnography of communication (Hymes, 1972; Schwartzman, 1989) and the Montreal School in the communicative constitution of organization tradition (Cooren, 2010; Taylor & Van Every, 2000). With these perspectives together, I ask the question: How do meetings as emergent events cultivate the transient effects of organization and culture?

My research design utilized ethnography and practices of the ethnography of communication to inform data collection and analysis. I conducted a four-year ethnography with a small nonprofit organization called Suicide Prevention Campaign, particularly focusing on their meetings, which tended to be held through hybrid or virtual means. For data analysis, I constructed a descriptive framework that involves: temporality, act dynamics, contingently obligatory relations, and emergent effects.

In the analysis chapters, I use narratives to represents the eventfulness of meetings. I detail three ways that meetings as emergent events cultivate the transient effects of organization and culture: deciding, legitimizing, and presence-ing. Deciding demonstrates the power of repetition, documents, and rhythm in organizing meetings. I claim that legitimizing acts to drag disorder toward order, but not all disorder can be “transformed” because there are always excesses, surpluses, and supplements to order. Finally, I argue that hybrid meetings presence disorder in distractions, disruptions, and interruptions, which play an integral role in meetings by simultaneously energizing and resisting order. I conclude the work with a discussion of cultivation for design in applied research and several future directions in meeting science.

Included in

Communication Commons