Storytelling and Organizing

Narratives do not simply inform organization members about the values, practices, and traditions to which their organization is committed. Rather, they help to constitute the organizational consciousness of social actors by articulating and embodying a particular reality
Mumby, 1987, p. 125

Thirty years ago Dennis Mumby (1987) positioned storytelling as the coin and currency of organizational life, and narrative theory as a meaningful way to understand organizing. This workshop will explore narrative as a theoretical frame, analytic material, representational form, and site of intervention in organizational communication scholarship. Facilitators will reflect on the promise and perils of storytelling in organizational communication scholarship. Participants will have hands-on opportunities to create and engage narrative artifacts. Workshop dialogue and activities will be informed by but not limited to the following questions:

  • How does storytelling function in organizational communication scholarship?
  • How can organizational communication researchers locate narrative sense-making in action?
  • How can researchers create conditions for embodied and imaginative storytelling among participants?
  • What does storytelling do for research participants?
  • How can researchers anchor and shape analyses from a narrative perspective?
  • How can researchers narratively represent the everyday sights, sounds, spaces, and experiences of organizing?
  • How can research and creative activity shift and/or enlarge the storytelling resources of organizations?
  • How can scholarship empower its participants to collaboratively explore and develop narratives to understand and navigate mundane and disruptive challenges?
  • How can storytelling extend the reach of our work to general publics?


8:30 - 9:00
Location: Arts West
132 West State Street, Athens, OH 45701
Entirety of workshop is in this location
Map and Details

Our Stories: Introduction of Workshop Facilitators
9:00 – 9:30

  • Brittany L. Peterson
  • Josh B. Barbour
  • Sarah J. Tracy
  • Laura L. Ellingson
  • Patrice M. Buzzanell
  • Lynn M. Harter

Locating Narrative Sensemaking and Storytelling in Action: Data Collection Tips and Techniques
9:30 – 11:00

  • Patrice M. Buzzanell
  • Brittany L. Peterson
  • Josh B. Barbour

11:00 – 11:15

Metaphors, Markers, and Meaning: Drawing as a creative way to trigger and analyze storytelling
11:15 – 12:15 pm

  • Sarah J. Tracy

Lunch Provided
12:15 – 12:45

Embodying Stories, Storying Embodiment: Doing Data Analysis in and through Messy Bodies
12:45 – 1:45

  • Laura L. Ellingson

Storytelling, Representation, and External Publics
1:45 – 2:30

  • Lynn M. Harter

Wrapping Up… Reflections on Narratively-Inspired Engaged Scholarship
2:30 – 3:00

  • Brittany L. Peterson
  • Josh B. Barbour
  • Sarah J. Tracy
  • Laura L. Ellingson
  • Patrice M. Buzzanell
  • Lynn M. Harter

Workshop Facilitators:

Dr. Sarah J. Tracy Arizona State University

Dr. Sarah J. Tracy (Ph.D., University of Colorado, 2000) is the Jeanne Lind Herberger Professor of organizational communication and qualitative methodology in The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University-Tempe. Her scholarly work examines emotion, communication and identity in the workplace with particular focus on emotional labor, compassion, workplace bullying, leadership, and work-life wellness. Her use-inspired scholarship and pedagogy focus not only on developing epistemological knowledge but also on reflexively examining and practicing ontological ways of being and interacting in the world.

She is a leader in qualitative research methods—including participant observation, interviewing, focus groups, organizational training/intervention, document analysis, and discourse analysis. Her award-winning research has resulted in over 65 monographs appearing in outlets such as Management Communication Quarterly, Communication Monographs, Communication Theory, Journal of Management Studies, Human Communication Research, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Qualitative Inquiry, Qualitative Health Research, and two books including Leading Organizations through Transition and Qualitative Research Methods. She regularly provides academic and professional workshops related to her research.

Dr. Tracy is Co-Director of The Transformation Project, a consortium of faculty, graduate students and community members who focus on communicatively transforming lives and relationships at all levels of human interaction. Activities include the organizational gratitude project, multiple conferences and symposia, journal articles, downloadable white papers, Wiki pages, and public presentations.

Dr. Patrice M. Buzzanell Purdue University

Patrice M. Buzzanell is Chair and Professor of the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida. She is an Endowed Visiting Professor in the School of Media and Design at Shanghai Jiaotong University. Her scholarly interests center on career, praxis, and resilience; her NSF grants (around $1.5M) center on engineering ethics, design, and institutional transformation. For this work, she uses mixed and multiple methods. Editor or coeditor of four books, she has authored more than 200 articles and chapters, plus encyclopedia entries and proceedings in engineering education and other disciplines. For this and other work, she has earned 17 top paper and 8 outstanding article and book awards. She currently serves on 16 editorial boards, and has edited Management Communication Quarterly and other journals as associate or special issues editor. A Fellow of the International Communication Association (ICA), she has served as President of ICA, the Council of Communication Associations (CCA), and the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language and Gender (OSCLG). Most recently, she was awarded ICA’s B. Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award and was recognized as a Distinguished Scholar by the National Communication Association (NCA). She feels honored to have received the Paul Boase Prize for Scholarship (Distinguished Lecture) at her alma mater, Ohio University, in 2012, and to have advised 53 graduate committees to completion (with more to come!). Prior to August 2017, she was the Distinguished Professor of Communication and Engineering Education (by courtesy) at Purdue University as well as Endowed Chair and Director of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence, operating from the Office of the Provost at Purdue.

Dr. Laura L. Ellingson Santa Clara University

Dr. Laura Ellingson (Ph.D. University of South Florida, 2001) is a Professor of Communication and Women's & Gender Studies at Santa Clara University. Dr. Ellingson's passion for methodological and epistemological innovation infuses all of her research and creative work. She seeks to enlarge possibilities for spanning theoretical, paradigmatic, and representational boundaries through her development of a crystallization framework for qualitative research (Engaging Crystallization in Qualitative Research, 2009, Sage) and her articulation of embodied research strategies (Embodiment in Qualitative Research, 2017, Routledge). Narrative, feminist, and pragmatic perspectives guide her ethnographic research in communication in health care delivery and in extended/chosen families. In addition to numerous articles and chapters, she is the author of Communicating in the Clinic: Negotiating Frontstage and Backstage Teamwork (2005, Hampton) and co-author with Dr. Patty Sotirin of Aunting: Cultural Practices that Sustain Family and Community Life (2010, Baylor Univ. Press) and Where the Aunts Are: Family, Feminism, and Kinship in Popular Culture (2013, Baylor Univ. Press).

Dr. Lynn M. Harter Ohio University

Dr. Lynn M. Harter (PhD, University of Nebraska, 2000) is a Professor in the School of Communication Studies and Co-Director of the Barbara Geralds Institute for Storytelling and Social Impact in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University. Guided by narrative and aesthetic sensibilities, Dr. Harter’s research and creative activity focus on the communicative construction of possibility as individuals and groups organize for survival and social change amidst embodied differences. Her scholarship encompasses a range of issues including pediatric cancer care, disability-related concerns, and the organizing of healthcare for underserved populations. The various strands of her work are connected by a primary concern: how do symbolic, material, and corporeal resources foster resiliency among individuals facing vulnerable and difficult life circumstances? She has published over 60 journal articles and book chapters, edited three scholarly books, and produced an Emmy-award winning PBS documentary series.

Dr. Josh B. Barbour The University of Texas at Austin

Joshua B. Barbour (Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is an assistant professor of Communication Studies and affiliate faculty with the Center for Health Communication at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. He studies the confluence of the macromorphic and communicative in organizational life. He focuses on the difficult conversations that professionals have at work such as deliberating about organizational and technological change, questioning another expert's judgement, and interpreting organizational data to make decisions. His research is concerned with how organizations manage information and make meaning and how research can (re)design communication to help them do so with more sophistication, and it reflects the assumption that by changing how we communicate with one another we can work together more equitably and more effectively. His current and past projects include engaged scholarship in organizations where the management and interplay of information and meaning have important societal consequences such as a toxic waste storage facility, nuclear power plants, disaster preparation groups, and healthcare organizations. His work has appeared in Communication Research, Communication Monographs, Communication Theory, Health Communication, the Journal of Health Communication, the Journal of Applied Communication Research, the Journal of Communication, and Management Communication Quarterly

Dr. Brittany L. Peterson Ohio University

Brittany L. Peterson (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) is an associate professor in the School of Communication Studies and the Coordinator of E-Learning for the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University.

Dr. Peterson’s research agenda explores the communicative construction of membership in organizations with a particular focus on defining and understanding involuntary membership. Her scholarship also investigates the membership experiences of “high stakes” and traditional volunteers as well as stigmatized members with an eye toward agency, ownership, tension, empowerment, and community. She juxtaposes her work on membership alongside theories and constructs of structuration, dialectics, narrative, organizational identification, and organizational socialization/assimilation. Dr. Peterson’s work has been published in peer-reviewed journals including Management Communication Quarterly, Communication Monographs, Health Communication, Communication Quarterly, Non-Profit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Communication Education, and Journal of Applied Social Science as well as in edited books.

She teaches graduate and undergraduate classes on organizational communication, (in)voluntary membership, interpretive research methods, and communication and new technology. Dr. Peterson is also the recipient of several awards including the 2014 Central States Communication Association Outstanding New Teacher Award, the 2014-2015 Dean’s Outstanding Faculty Service Award at Ohio University, and the 2017-2020 Presidential Teacher Award at Ohio University.