Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Comprehensive Vision

Over the past few years I have been pursuing this idea of "research as a second language" by many, often divergent routes. I am going to have to take some time to bring it all together sometime soon, or I may get completely lost. One way of doing this, of course, is to imagine the act of putting together a book.

As the descriptive subtitle of this blog suggests, I really have three main focus areas: writing, representation, and the criticial standing (crisis) of organization studies. These are actually organized from the least to the most "philosophical" concerns, and, perhaps ironically, from the most general to the most specific.

Writing: At the most general, and least philosophical, level I am interested in the writing process. This includes everything from planning your work to developing your voice (your style). One part of a book called Research as a Second Language would address these issues and, hopefully, provide a comprehensive vision of "composition", i.e., the art of drafting, redrafting, and finishing a text. The art of putting your reseach in writing.

Representation: Representation is the ability of one thing to stand for another thing, or one person to speak on behalf of others. And, of course, the ability of a reasearcher to speak on behalf of one or another reality (an object of research). In academic writing, this is a very important capacity and one that we develop whether we like it or not in the course of our studies. I say "whether we like or not" because representation has seen a great deal of challenges over the last 20 or 30 years. But whether representation is something you struggle for or against, it remains central to the art of expressing yourself in the research idiom, your second language.

Crisis: Organization studies faces a number of a specific challenges to its critical standing. This is in part because it is a relatively young discourse, and is still struggling to come into its own as an "academic" field. It lacks a strong tradition of scholarship and therefore a naturalness about how to present and respond to academic criticism. This has deep consequences for what is meant by knowledge in org studies. In an important sense, research is a second language for organization theorists as such, either because they have closer affinities with on-the-ground management than the world of research or because they received their training in more established fields and have to learn a new set of terms, and new set of standards.

Well, there you have it, my comprehensive vision. My suggestion is to develop your work habits, your representational (or deconstructive) capacities, and your criticial faculties (both in your head and on your campus) in order to become a respected member of the organization studies community, a competent user of its language. Pretty much in that order.

4 comments:

Presskorn said...

Just out of curiosity: If you’re suggesting a book project here, and it seems that you are, is it then suppose to replace your old project entitled “Composure”(or "Roundness")? With my very limited knowledge of both ideas, they both seem to cover some of the same ground(?).

Although, the “Composure”-idea would seem to confront the representational question more directly than dismissing it with “whether we like it or not” – which makes me like the Composure idea slightly more.

Not that you’re not right about the “whether we like it or not”; we often do represent stuff, and necessarily so if we purport to do science. I take that to be the point of your remark on the “immediacy of objects” in the Drawing-Fish-video as well.

As I said: just curious…

Thomas Basbøll said...

Good question. The two projects are related, as you noticed. But they are two different projects.

RSL would be a practical guide, an ABC or manual for academic writers especially in management studies (where I have most of my experience as an editor). But it is very true that I see the challenge of academic writing as one of finding "composure" in a very specific kind of "crisis".

Composure would take up this challenge in (for lack of a better word) deeper way. It plays the normative off against the empirical, the epistemic against the ethical, our beliefs against our desires. The difference between these two aspects of experience (ultimately its appearance and its surface) is, as you may recall, our "suffering".

My idea is that this experience of suffering (the difference between what there is and what one becomes) tends, at different times, towards either composure or crisis—a coming together or a falling apart. Like I say, there is a "profundity" in that project (which I'm not entirely comfortable with).

The difference between the two projects might be put simply as follows: one is about composition and criticism the other is about composure and crisis.

Presskorn said...

I like the idea of "suffering" as the result of the friction between what is
and what one becomes.

Wittgenstein sometimes wrote of philosophical problems as being profound (in the sense that music can be profound)
, sometimes as causing profound anxiousness (in the Freudian sense), but newer of philosophical (dis)solutions
as having this characteristic.

There is, of course, some lessons to be learned there, but they're not easily spelled out.

Perhaps we may say that the desire, at least, to say something profound is an enemy of thinking.

Thomas Basbøll said...

Yes, Wittgenstein said that the so-called "depth" of philosophy is the depth of a grammatical joke.

Interestingly, e.e. cummings said that the essence of poetry lies in the following exchange:

Q: Would you hit a woman with a child?
A: No, I would hit her with a brick.

Poetry also suffers (!) from the illusion of depth.