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The appearance of shared meanings : ambiguity and humour in police communication


The appearance of shared meanings : ambiguity and humour in police communication

Lennox, Jenepher A (1992) The appearance of shared meanings : ambiguity and humour in police communication. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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In contrast to accepted notions regarding the necessity of shared meanings for effective organizing, the basic premise of this paper is that organizational meanings are not shared as such but rather overlap to varying degrees, while they are used by organizational members as if shared. That is, following Weick (1979) it is argued that it is only necessary for organizational meanings to overlap among members to the degree that sense can be made and organization enacted. Secondly, it is argued in this paper that organizational activity is enacted despite, or more likely because of, the partially shared or overlapped nature of communication meanings. That is, because of the inherent ambiguity in symbolic language forms such as humour and metaphor, organizational members communicate as if they share meanings and thus exact their organization on the basis of the appearance of shared meanings. Finally, it is argued that the sense of community that results from shared activity and the appearance of shared meanings is more important to the process of group development than whether meanings are, in fact, shared. To test this argument, the ethnographic research presented in this dissertation focused on the communicative behaviours of the members of a temporary organization: a group of candidates--senior police executives--on a six week Executive Development Course at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa. Through observation of behaviour and conversation, survey questionnaires, sociometric analysis and semi-structured interviews, the meanings for organizational symbols (humour and metaphor) were identified. Then, individual members' interpretations of these symbols, and the implicit social rules influencing them, were identified and analyzed for comparison and contrast. The findings demonstrate that organizational activity was enacted under conditions of limited overlap of meanings. Furthermore, the data show that meanings themselves were not shared completely, but that a complex set of implicit rules regarding the meanings was shared. As well, importantly, a pattern of putdown humour was found, wherein subjects moved from putting themselves down, to putting down their shared occupation and other people, to finally putting each other down. Related to this pattern of putdown humour was a set of implicit social rules regarding putdown behaviour which appeared to be shared by the candidates. Finally, it is clear from the data that the sense of community that was created through the appearance of sharedness was of greater interest and import than whether the actual meanings were shared. This dissertation thus focused specifically on the meanings held by organizational members, and, unlike any previous work, uncovers a number of layers of meaning and sharedness.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Communication Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Lennox, Jenepher A
Pagination:vi, 272 leaves ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Communication Studies
Identification Number:HM 132 L45 1992
ID Code:4431
Deposited By: Concordia University Library
Deposited On:27 Aug 2009 19:40
Last Modified:13 Jul 2020 19:57
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