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Research Methods for Non-Representational Approaches of Organizational Complexity. The Dialogical and Mediated Inquiry

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    This paper explores the methodological implications of non-representational approaches of organizational complexity. Representational theories focus on the syntactic complexity of systems, whereas organizing processes are predominantly characterized by semantic and pragmatic forms of complexity. After underlining the contribution of non-representational approaches to the study of organizations, the paper warns against the risk of confining the critique of representational frameworks to paradoxical dichotomies like intuition versus reflexive thought or theorizing versus experimenting. To sort out this difficulty, it is suggested to use a triadic theory of interpretation, and more particularly the concepts of semiotic mediation, inquiry and dialogism. Semiotic mediation dynamically links situated experience and generic classes of meanings. Inquiry articulates logical thinking, narrative thinking and experimenting. Dialogism conceptualizes the production of meaning through the situated interactions of actors. A methodological approach based on those concepts, “the dialogical and mediated inquiry” (DMI), is proposed and experimented in a case study about work safety in the construction industry. This interpretive view requires complicating the inquiring process rather than the mirroring models of reality. In DMI, the inquiring process is complicated by establishing pluralist communities of inquiry in which different perspectives challenge each other. Finally the paper discusses the specific contribution of this approach compared with other qualitative methods and its present limits.

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    Paper provided by ESSEC Research Center, ESSEC Business School in its series ESSEC Working Papers with number DR 10004.

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    Length: 41 pages
    Date of creation: Feb 2010
    Handle: RePEc:ebg:essewp:dr-10004
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    ESSEC Research Center, BP 105, 95021 Cergy, France

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