1In the original tradition of the "Unplugged" section, "carte blanche" grants a wild card to world-class scholars to share their own perspective on novel ways to conceive of management today. They may offer new avenues and draw up an agenda for a specific research question. Authors have to be invited to submit to the "carte blanche" series by one of the editors.
“Storytelling Organization” is Being Transformed into Discourse of “Digital Organization”
2What is happening to the storytelling organization? I found some examples of “storytelling organizations” in a salesmen company (Boje, 1991) and in Disney-as-Tamara-land (Boje, 1995), where people doing sensemaking were chasing stories from room to room, but could not be in all the corporations’ rooms at the same time. Now storytelling organization has completely morphed, and has transformed sensemaking into the “virtual organization”. What happened? To answer this question, I will explore the long historical relationship between storytelling and discourse. The short answer is that discourse has displaced storytelling, especially in our digital age.
3My purpose therefore is to call for theory and research into the relationship between “storytelling organization” and the discourse of “digital organization”. I want to explore how they are each/both constitutive of organizing/organization (managing/management). To do so, I will explore seven problematics of the relation between storytelling and discourse, as summarized in Figure 1.
Seven Problematics in the Relation between Storytelling and Discourse
Seven Problematics in the Relation between Storytelling and Discourse
4Mikhail Bakhtin (1993, original writing in notebooks 1919-1921), Gertrude Stein (1935), Walter Benjamin (1936), and the recent “Kaupapa Māori” writing of Linda Smith (2017) and Graham Smith (2017) each discuss the decline of storytelling and ways to ensure its survival in the rush to discourse. Benjamin (1936/1968: 83-84), for example, declares that “storytelling is coming to an end” and the “ability to exchange experience” is disintegrating as “experience has fallen in value”. He also observes that the epic story forms of prose literature, once grounded in oral tradition (fairy tales, legends, myths), have also been transformed. Bakhtin (1993, in 1919-1921; 1981), Stein (1935) and Benjamin (1936) assert that folkloric storytelling began to decline with the invention of the printing press, becoming something archaic. Everything becomes just text. In place of epic stories, novels and newspapers become discourse that is disconnected from lived experience. Now we are witnessing digitalization and the final decline of the epic story grounded in lived experience, which is giving way to information, as everything becomes digitalized, and we are alienated from experience. We have grown “poorer in communicable experience” as “storytelling organization” has metamorphosed into “digital organization”.
5Mikhail Bakhtin (1993, writing in notebooks 1919-1921) gives us additional insight into how to overcome the “lemming effect” in which most people are not ethically answerable for intervening in obviously risky and dangerous organizational situations. Storytelling can be seen as an “aesthetic intuiting” that can get cut off by the lemming effect from the open event-ness of once-occurrent Being. The lemming effect causes three severances (splittings): (1) splitting content or sense from a given situated act/activity, (2) splitting historical actuality from the situation, and (3) splitting once-occurrent answerability from an experiencing situation. These three severances (or separations) remove self-determination (self-empowerment) and prevent the formation of ensemble leadership f and answerability to actual becomingness of the situation.
The Three Severances of the Lemming Effect
The Three Severances of the Lemming Effect
6Lemmings do not have self-empowerment, are not answerable to intervening in once-occurrent Being, and cannot develop what Rosile, Boje, and Claw (2016) call “ensemble leadership storytelling”. Lemmings do not have communion with the whole aliveness of the situation, and therefore lack self-answerability for engaging in acts or deeds that drain the swamp. It is what Bakhtin (1993: 1-2) proposes as a both/and relation to overcome the duality (severance) between content or sense of Being in open eventness and the living story experiencing of the situation in its process of becoming. In the both/and, the ought-to-be answerability for intervening in the “unity of my once-occurrent answerable” situation becomes possible (Bakhtin, 1993: 5). “The compellent actuality of the world will inevitably begin to decompose, it will disintegrate into abstractly universal, merely possible moments and retentions severed to the possibility” (Bakhtin, 1993: 58). In other words, when you drain the Phrog Swamp, the situation reverts to a lost communion with Being and self-interestedness takes over.
7According to Linda Tuhiwai Smith (2017: 11), “western ways of knowing” (WWOK) privilege written discourse over oral storytelling and pay scant attention to untold stories. “Indigenous ways of knowing” (IWOK) privilege the “living story” in place, in time, and in context over western discourse (and narrative), and the ways and forms of their telling are quite different (Boje, 2001; Rosile, 2016). Learning takes place more in the spoken interaction in relational networks, rather than in the written texts and written rules and procedures of bureaucratic hierarchy. IWOK takes on a critical theory standpoint in Kaupapa Māori (Denzin, Lincoln, & Smith, 2008; Hoskins & Jones, 2017; GH Smith, 2003, 2017; LT Smith, 1999/2008, 2017).
8Storytelling addresses the “why-question”, “the request for causal explanation”, giving an account of cause. Discourse analysis, by contrast, is generally defined as “texts” that are written, spoken, or are multi-media texts of television and Internet. Foucault (1984) limits discourse to recurrent and relatively stable (durable) discourses in texts. Others include narrative, rhetoric, metaphor, semantics, grammar, and vocabulary in linguistic analyses. For Foucault, discourses are elements of social practices. Do we want to locate “little d” within the macro-level (or meta or grand) “big D” discourses? As we will explore, this duality is problematic because it does not allow any mediator or intermediary relational process. Dennis Mumby (2011) challenges Alvesson and Kärreman’s (2011) “varieties of discourse” essay as a misplaced, reductionist conception of the interdisciplinary field of communication/organization studies and of the “linguistic turn”.
Seven problematics in the relation between storytelling and discourse
9Is storytelling a domain of discourse or is it constituted by discourse that is a domain of communication, or a linguistic translation of one into the other? Are storytelling and discourse mutually constituted? Seven problematics are involved in theorizing and researching these relationships.
Discourse constituted by storytelling
10In this problematic, storytelling draws upon a variety of discourses to change relations between the social structures and social practices of social life—storytelling in its full corporality (embodiment) changed to something else, to digital discourse. Benjamin says two tribes of storytellers existed and interpenetrated: (1) storytellers who traveled from faraway lands; (2) storytellers who lived in a place and knew the local tales and traditions as “resident tiller [s] of the soil” (1936: #II). “The storyteller takes what he tells from experience—his own or that reported by others. And he in turn makes it the experience of those who are listening to his tale. The novelist has isolated himself” (section 5). In the Middle Ages, the master craftsperson and the traveling journeyperson exchanged the folklore of faraway places, the lore of distant time, and the tales of a place. Benjamin’s Nikolia Leskov, Bakhtin’s Rabelais, Hans Christian Anderson, and the Grimm brothers were traveling storytellers who kept the art of storytelling alive through the exchange of experience.
11Today, storytelling and storytellers have “fallen in value” and with it our moral world has halted (Benjamin, 1936: #I). Bakhtin (1919-1921 in notebooks published in 1986 in Russian and 1993 in English), Stein (1935), and Benjamin (1936), each point to the birth of the novel in antiquity; its dissemination by the printing press let information progress and storytelling regress. For Bakhtin, discourse becomes information in ways that turn theoretic and abstract, and are no longer connected to the once-occurrent Being and becoming of historical existence. Benjamin adds several other contradictions and replacements that combined to bring about the decline of storytelling, especially after WWI (1936: # I).
12Traveling and stay-in-one-place storytellers once gave agricultural advice, and some gave scientific accounts of the perils of gaslight. “All this points to the nature of every real story”; it contains in the “communicability of experience” something useful: in one case, wisdom (a moral, a proverb, or maxim), and in other cases, scientific instruction inalienable from the fabric of real life (Benjamin, 1936: #IV). Storytelling “has quite gradually removed narrative from the realm of living speech” and the epic storytelling of history (#V). “The fairy tale, the legend, even the novella” came to us from oral tradition, as ways of telling experience to listeners (#V). Then the writers of novels, and the newspaper took over, and oral storytelling no longer conveyed the fullness of life experience and hardly any wisdom. Instead, human communication was reduced to information that “gets the readiest hearing” (#VI). Benjamin observed the passing away of storytelling, how indigenous tribes of storytellers (travelers and stayers in a place) did not do much explaining, and left the hearer and reader to interpret things in context, something that mechanical reproduction (newspaper, novel) lacks.
13Storytelling is about the relations between discourse and non-discursive socioeconomic and sociomaterial events, processes, reconfigurations, and practices that bring stories and narratives into being in embodied practices of talking, writing, and acting (Vaara, Sonenshein, & Boje, 2016). “Storytelling organizations” (Boje, 1991, 1995, 2008) are part of the interplay of storytelling and discourse. Consequently, storytelling is considered a constitutive manifestation of discourse-and-text, and non-discursive and non-textual practices and processes. Micro-level discourses of leadership and small business are located within the context of macrolevel socioeconomic capitalist discourses and socioecological material-discursive systems that are multifractal configurations globally (Boje, 2016). When storytelling is no longer constitutive of organization, only discourse remains, and this is nowhere truer than in the “virtual organization” because virtual storytelling is not the same thing as what Benjamin (1936) called “mouth-to-mouth” storytelling.
14Starting with Aristotle (350BCE), dialogue is one, but not the only, element of narrative. Aristotle (350 BCE) situated differences and relations between the long course of history, epic story, and the theatric-narrative that was performable within a few hours. Fast forward to capitalism’s affairs, to the mechanical reproduction of the printing press, and now the digital reproduction of the Internet, computers, and cell phone texting. Capitalism, its storytelling organization, are now completely different from the epic story, whose generative power was grounded in Nature, not in the digital. In universities, government, corporations, we never unplug from digital organization “Storytelling organizations” (Boje, 2008) are becoming unraveled, and the storyteller is becoming more rare, all but extinct. Aristotle makes clear the ways in which narrative, story, and history are, or are not, the same. Aristotle (350BCE) defined “narrative” as being constituted of six elements in this order: plot, characters, purpose, dialogue, rhythm, and spectacle. Burke (1937/1984) retheorized Aristotle’s six narrative elements into the Pentad (model), by collapsing dialogue and rhythm together. History is a larger discourse than stories, and narrative can be enacted as theater in a few hours. History shapes discourse, but does discourse shape history? Dialogue is a kind of discourse, and one element of narrative. In other words, dialogue (defined as conversation and “discourse”) is the fourth element of narrative and is neither the least nor most important element. Nowadays, spectacle (6th element) is more prominent than plot. Many narratologists, from Kenneth Burke to Barbara Czarniawska (1997, 2004) and Karl Weick, have remained in the Aristotelian tradition.
15Organizational narrative and organizational story are not the same. Weick (1995) focuses on retrospective sensemaking narratives, and the plot having a beginning, middle, and end, and specifying organizing causes and effects. However, what is forgotten about Aristotle is that he positioned narrative in relation to story and history. Other organizational storytelling scholars focus more on story than narrative. For example, Gabriel (2008) says not all narrative is story, and that story must arouse emotion in its performative, whereas narrative has a more intellectual appeal.
16I take a different tack, treating narrative and story as constituents of storytelling, along with antenarrative (connective and transformative) processes of sensemaking (Boje, Haley, & Saylors, 2016; Haley & Boje, 2014; Rosile, Boje, Carlon, Downs & Saylors, 2013; Saylors, Boje, & Mueller, 2014; Weick, 2012).
17Antenarrative is before-narrative and its many “bets on the future”, in prospective sensemaking, rather than the usual backward-looking “retrospective-narrative-sensemaking” (Boje, 2001, 2008, 2011). Antenarrative is defined as four meanings of “ante”’, all of which are about preparing in advance to bring a particular future into being:
- Ante is Before-narrative, a preparing in advance, by doing activities that are needed before it is possible to enact a coherent strategic narrative of scalability.
- Ante is Beneath, in the communicative process, languages, symbols, and mappings—about being necessary in advance of articulating and scribing a strategic narrative.
- Ante is in-Between, in preparing in advance infrastructure processes that are necessary to bring a “break out” strategy in a direction, unknown to any retrospective sensemaking narrative, as Weick (1995) calls it. In 2012 Weick expressed an interest in Human Relations in antenarrative prospective sensemaking.
- Ante is a Bet on the Future, preparing a risk analysis of how to bring about different value propositions.
19“Antenarrative is not the same as ‘anti’-narrative. In anti-narrative, the person cannot narrate plot or closure, but is in the present moment” (Boje, 2001: 3). “Anti-narrative and antenarrative do share this in common: both are beyond the closure required of narrative theory” (Boje, 2001: 3). “Story resists narrative; story is… on occasion even anti-narrative (a refusal to be coherent)” (Boje, 2001: 2). Riach, Rumens, and Tyler (2016) resurrected the anti-narrative and antenarrative relation in their rendition of Butlerian organizational performativity that disrupts the apparent linearity, stability and coherence of organizational narrative performances by “undoing” them in anti-narrative/antenarrative processes.
20According to Judith Butler (2011: 140), “the normative forte of performativity—its power to establish what qualifies as ‘being’—works not only through reiteration but also through exclusion as well”.
21The key difference between narrative/story and antenarrative is that instead of having a one-sided emphasis on language/semiotics, antenarrative process theory is focused on pre-structured (discoursal as well as non-discoursal) material-discursive configurations. Narrative-counternarrative and living story webs, therefore, are partly linguistic/ semiotic and early constituted from material-discoursal that are multifractal in linear, cyclical, spiral, and/or rhizomatic dynamic configuration patterns.
22True storytelling includes history, (auto) biography, personal reminiscences, forensics, (multi) fractality, and “onto-story”. Benjamin (1936/2007: #VII, p. 90) tells us that “the nature of true storytelling is” experience wisdom layered in story upon story, which is worth retelling by listeners, whereas information value is only in an instant, with no wisdom whatsoever. We call this new praxis, “true storytelling” (http://truestorytelling.org, Boje, Larsen & Brunn, 2017). True storytelling is defined as ethical praxis, a methodology and antenarrative process of strategy. It is the opposite of fake news, fake story, or fake corporate social responsibility reporting. History as discourse ungrounded from true storytelling is often superficial, what Heidegger (1962) calls “historicity”, an appeal to an intellectual schema, to generalizing theoretically. I define historicity as washing away most of the events and characters to order a particular emplotment. True storytelling is related to what Heidegger (1962) calls “historicality”, a more revealing, deeper fuller exploration of situated events.
Storytelling constituted by discourse
23A variety of organizational discourses are popular in a variety of ways (Alvesson & Kärreman, 2000, 2011). But there are several problems. First, we can analyze the organizational discourse produced in interviews and everyday life as “socially constructed texts” (particularly talk and living stories empirical material). But that would leave out materiality and reduce leadership to text. The first issue I want to raise with organizational discourse is its dualism. The organizational discourse is divided into discourse (called “little d”) that is interpersonal (often psychological traits of leaders) and is estranged from the macro Grand Narratives Discourse (called “Big D”) about societies, globalization, economics, politics, and ecology.
24Dennis Mumby (2011) and Norman Fairclough (2005) challenge Alvesson and Kärreman’s (2001) “varieties of discourse” essay as a misplaced, reductionist conception of the interdisciplinary field of communication/organization studies and of the “linguistic turn”. His main point is not that they dualize the “little d” discourse as separate from the “Big D” discourse, without addressing the processes that relate them together, which Mumby believes are “dialectical” and not a “dualism” (or separation). A “critical perspective” on the “linguistic turn” “has highlighted the ways in which power and discourse are inextricably and constitutively lined in the construction of social realities” (Mumby, 2011: 1149). For Mumby, the linguistic turn is more than a simple shift to a focus on language, talk, texts, discourse, communication, or what I call storytelling (narratives-living stories-antenarratives). Rather the linguistic turn is about the whole continental philosophical tradition that attempts to transcend subject-object dualism in much of modernist knowledge production.
25The second problem is that organizational discourses are considered material-discursive practices, events, and experiences of historical and sociomateriality trends. That means discourse is more than psychology, or in-the-head. Leadership is relational. We know that is important to be participatory, to be convivial, to not be a bully. Given the use of natural resources by organizations, their impact upon climate change, it is also important to have an ecological conscience, to understand planetary science, to be about the long term, about humanity's survival in the long haul. Third, organizational discourses are types of ethical, economic, cultural, ecological, political, and scientific reasoning-discourses about the relationship between the micro-world of an organization and the large-scale reasoning of a societal-global world at a grand narrative level of discourse (or meso-level).
26Most discourse studies don’t mention storytelling, or marginalize it to one of a long list of discursive elements, or reduce it to text. More fundamentally, it involves sociomateriality and material-discursive practices. Nor is it discursive versus realist examinations of “intersubjective character of social reality—a reality in which both the discursive and material are inextricable entwined, but are by no means isomorphic or reducible to each other” (Mumby, 2011: 1149).
27For example, Grant, Oswick, Hardy, Putnam and Phillips (2004: 3) define organizational discourse as “the structured collections of texts embodied in the practices of talking and writing (as well as a wide variety of visual representations and cultural artifacts) that bring organizationally related objects into being as these texts are produced, disseminated and consumed”. Consequently, this is the discourse-as-text approach within a social constructivist and linguistic approach. Organizations are replete with “text” (written budgets & reports & curriculum & email & digital measures of performance, spoken interaction in meetings & convocations & graduations & dissertation defenses, multi-semiotic televised text on monitors & screens, Internet traffic, online classes, etc.). These varied texts relate to social practices in their discoursal aspect, and to genres of discourses (the economy, politics of nation, globalization, war and peace). The agency of social actors, in this example, is the academics who write, speak read, listen, and interpret texts. The social agency of instantiating discourses, articulating them, novel ways to hybridize them (e.g. the corporate university, globalized university) and to transform them is intertextual and interdiscursive.
28Storytelling-as-text and discourse-as-text treat all writing, all speech acts, all dramaturgy, and all storytelling and discourse-as-text that is socially constructed. In this approach to the linguistic turn, storytelling and discourse are treated as “texts” and as intertextualities out of which individual text is constituted in a long chain of texts that transform other texts (Grant et al., 2004: 12). Text, narrative, story, and discourse fragment, merge and emerge (Gabriel, 2004: 63). Storytelling is stored, retrieved, bought and sold, cited and summarized in “texts”. The “texturing” of storytelling is a specific modality of social action, social production, meaning-making and institutional work and identity work of organizations.
29What all this tells us is that discourse is on the rise and storytelling has gone to the margins. By the time Roland Barthes (1970/1974: 5) enters the linguistic turn, storytelling is under siege from discourse that has a “plurality of entrances”, from “the infinity of languages” reducing the plurality of storytelling’s experience entrances, to the “writerly text”. If nothing else, my project is to rescue storytelling from the onslaught of discourse as some network of texts that has impoverished the storytelling Benjamin (1936) mourned in its decline. Discourse is text in its plurality, “acknowledging that each one has its share of truth” but carrying the assertion that “nothing exists outside the text” too far from the storytelling of experience (Barthes, 1974: 6). I do admit that antenarrative is the multiplicity of connotation, the plural, antecedent to narrative and story signification systems. Language then is “the raw material of denotation”, while connotation-outside-experience is the intertextual networks circling any particular text (p. 7). Barthes treats connotation textually, smitten by “the law of the Signified” in what I will call the Western Way of Knowing (WWOK) of the textual turn where text has no “anterior” since all connotation/denotation is just text (p. 8), with nothing “anterior to the text” (p. 10). Barthes picks a single Balzac story, reduced to a single text, to code in five ways the threads of meaning, intertextual connotations, in a “step-by-step method” (p. 12).
|two narrative codes:|
|The Proairetic Code (ACT)||Actions of the narrative
sequence taken from|
Aristotelian proairesis (his element of diction) becomes discourse that connotes action of what will happen next in a plot fulfillment
|The Semantic Code (SEM)||Signifi ers se mantica lly connoted in (seme) unit of text (word, sentence) bringing order to a narrative in a polysemic system|
|three discourse codes|
|The Hermeneutics Code (HER)||Raises a question leading to or blocking a solution or voices of truth with snares, equivocation, or jamming|
|The Symbolic Code (SYM)||Dialectical adversaries (A/ B), at some symbolic level the thesis-antithesis, and mediations (AB)|
|The Cultural Code (REF)||Foundational of the truth, or cultural codes of knowledge or wisdom that give discourse moral authority|
30Storytelling is reduced to text and intertertextuality. The five codes are all textual signifiers for taking apart any story, breaking it up into two narrative codes, and three discourse codes forming “a kind of network, a topos through which the entire text passes” in the privileging of writing and reading over orality (p. 20). The five codes of discourse lead Barthes to two propositions. “The first is that discourse has no responsibility vis-à-vis the real: in the most realistic novel, the referent has no ‘reality’… whence the inevitable destruction of novels” (p. 80). The second proposition reduces truth to a “‘well-made’ sentence” with a subject (theme), a statement (question), and various subordinate clauses in some “predicate (disclosure)” (p. 84). It seems a contradiction to reduce storytelling to discourse, and discourse to text, as if text is all there is. This contradiction points to our task here, which is to explore the problematic relation of storytelling and discourse in situations of organization/organizing. It is quite shocking and revolutionary (after Barthes) to consider anything ontologically existent outside text.
31Storytelling-as-text can be seen as product and as process, bought and sold, cited and summarized, storied and retrieved. Storytelling-as-text has a time frame within spaces, objects, persons that become textured. Text-as-storytelling is also processes situated in the “here and now” involving specific persons in specific places, specific times, and concrete situations. Storytelling-as-text is often the detailed analysis of interview texts, archival texts, Internet texts (email, social media), dramaturgical scripts, and conversational texts. The downside is that the reduction of discourse analysis to the systematic study of texts also would locate microlevel discursive action in the context of more macro-level (meta or grand) discourse (Barthes, 1974). It has the advantage of including the category of the multiplex of “intertextualities” in globalization and organizational research.
32Critical realism is minimally the claim that there is a real world existing independent of our epistemology (ways of knowing) about it (Fairclough, 2005: 7). Fairclough (2005: 5) challenges Grant and Hardy’s (2004) formulation for collapsing “categories of discourse” and “text” and leaving no way to analyze the contingency of these effects. Is discursive action equivalent to texts? Are texts themselves discourses? Is a structured collection of texts a discourse? If so, are texts the “micro-level” and what then is the macro-level of discourses? Fairclough raises questions about the relation between discursive processes and structures. He does not want to privilege one over the other. Therefore, for critical realists, ontology must be distinguished from epistemology. The natural world exists despite human beings having limited or mistaken knowledge about it. Further, the multiple intertextualities would include relations between actual texts and actual events, and between “reported speech” and processes (and events) and networks of practices and associated orders of discourse (interdiscursive) and the linguistic/semiotic analysis of texts (that articulate varieties of discourse). Organizations accumulate pre-structured networks of social practices which are articulated in storytelling modalities and orders of discourse. The levels of reality, scalars, MELDARA model, and four plenaries of critical realism are summarized in the next table.
Summary of Critical Realism Typologies
|7 levels of reality of open laminated systems:||Seven scalars:||MELDARA model:||Four plenary theory:|
|1 Physical level
2 Biological mechanisms
3 Psychological mechanisms
4 Psycho-social mechanisms
5 Socioeconomic mechanisms
6 Cultural mechanisms
7 Normative mechanisms
2 Individual, biological level
3 Micro-level (e.g. ethnomethodology)
4 Meso-level (functional roles of capitalist and worker)
5 Macro-level of whole regions or whole societies
6 Mega-level of whole traditions of civilizations
7 Planetary level of wholeness
|1M first moment for non-identity|
2E 2nd edge for negativity
3L 3rd level for totality
4D 4th dimension for human transformative praxis
5A 5th aspect for reflexivity understood as spirituality
6R 6th realm for (re-) enchantment
7A 7th awakening stands for non-duality.
|Plane 1 -material
Plane 2 - social interactions between human beings, who are agents
Plane 3 - social structure proper, e.g. forming foreign polity about oil
Plane 4 stratifications of embodied personality of agents (some quite egotistical), e.g. being-for-self in use of technology resulting in climate change.
Summary of Critical Realism Typologies
33Critical realist ontology is transformational since “human agency produces effects by drawing upon existing structures and practices which are reproduced and/or transformed in action” (Fairclough, 2005: 8). Organizations have been treated as more stable, while organizing is considered a precarious, ambiguous, uncertain process continually being made and remade (Fairclough, 2005: Mumby & Clair, 1997; Mumby & Stohl, 1991; Weick, 1979). For example, Mumby and Clair (1997) contrast “organizing-as-communication-discourses” with “organization-as-structures-discourses”. Fairclough (2005) does not think it makes sense to treat organization and organizing (structures or process/agency) as alternatives, but rather to look at their relationship. Both organization and organizing have causal effects on how organizations change. Mumby and Clair, 1997: 181), for example, suggest “organizations exist only in so far as their members create them through discourse”.
34Like Fairclough, I adopt a version of storytelling that does both kinds of discourses (linguistic/semiotic elements of social events of social structures and facets of social practices). We both have an analytic dualism between narratives constituted out of dominant discourse that is stable and durable, and what I term “living stories” in Indigenous Ways of Knowing (IWOK), which lack the coherences and beginning-middle-end plot structures privileged in western narrative. I see a mediating role for antenarrative processes in the relationship between dominant (grand/ stable) narratives and webs of living stories, as well as between the various kinds of discourses that constitute social events of social structure as well as becoming facets of social practices. In Savall’s model (Savall & Szrdet, 2008), storytelling is constituted in both structures and behaviors, and in practices that are dysfunctional or have hidden costs.
35The dialectical-relational ontology of Fairclough’s (2005: 4) critical realist view of discourses advocates seeing entities as emergent products of processes and pre-structured discoursal (and non-discoursal) objects. Critical realism (Archer, 1995; Bhaskar, 1986) claims there is a “real world” that exists independently of our sensemaking knowledge about it. The natural world and the social world differ. The social world is dependent on human action for its existence and is socially pre-constructed for any human being (Fairclough, 2005: 7). In sum, critical realists distinguish ontology from epistemology, in order to avoid the “epistemic fallacy” of reducing ontology to epistemology. Thus, in “stratified ontology” processes, events and structures constitute different strata of social reality. In critical realism (and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)) the empirical domain is the one experienced by social actors. The empirical domain is part of the actual and real domains. Actual is the domain of events and processes. Actual is part of the real domain but is not a straightforward reflection of the “real”. The actual is constituted in events and processes. Real is the domain of structures associated with causal powers. Real encompasses both the empirical and actual domains. “Real” structures, and “real” social agents, have causal powers to affect the “actual”. The mediating entities are the social practices, including discourse, for selection and ordering allowances of (real) social structures that act actualizable in social life in a certain place and time. In critical realist ontology, institutions and organizations are “social fields” regarded as networks of social practices. Human agency produces effects by drawing upon existing (real) structures) and (actual) processes/events, and practices to transform action (paraphrase Fairclough, 2005: 8).
36Within discourse studies, narratives and stories are usually defined as limited “domains of discourse” (Boje, 2012) or as the “domains of conversation” (Gergen, Gergen & Barrett, 2004), just rhetoric (Cheney, Christensen, Conrad & Lair, 2004), imposed/exposed tropes (including metaphor, synecdoche, metonymy) (Oswick, Putnam & Keenoy, 2004), as well as irony that is intentional or situational (Oswick et al., 2004: 120). Other researchers are less interested in specific domains of discourse and instead focus on discourse (or critical discourse, big D discourse, little d discourse) as their explicit consideration (Alvesson & Kärreman, 2000; Hardy et al., 2004; Iedema, 2003; Putnam & Fairhurst, 2001). The primary focus is on language and rhetoric. For example, in rhetoric “narrative and stories are but one domain of discourse, the study of which allows us to consider how discourse can be used in order to achieve particular ends” (Grant et al., 2004: 6). Could this relation between “big D” and “little d” be mediated by, as yet, unexplored antenarrative processes? Vaara & Tienari (2011: 370), for example, studied antenarratives as “central discursive resources in times of change”. They drew on antenarrative analysis (Boje, 2001, 2008) to make sense of the unfolding merger process in Nordic bank organizations. Antenarrative analysis makes sense of the ontological process by focusing on the fragments of text, communication and conversation to construct identities and interests. What they did not do was look at more macro (big D) and micro (little d) discourse mediations by antenarrative processes. Derrida (1979: 94) treats narrative as the closure of the text that can be hegemonic.
37For me, antenarrative mediates the relationships between storytelling and discourse. Storytelling includes narrative-counternarrative, (living) story-counterstory, and connective antenarrative processes. Antenarrative has to do with processes that are constitutive of narrative and story. The question is, are these antenarrative processes merely discourse processes, by another name?
Storytelling and discourse are in dialogical and dialectical relationships
38If the relationship between discourse and storytelling is co-constructive, mutual, and entangled, then we have to study that relationship. Some aspects are dialogical in many ways and others are dialectical, also in many ways. Bakhtin (1981) includes biography among ten chronotopes, four of which are adventure and six are folkloric. Bakhtin (1981) defines chronotope, after Einstein, as the relativity of space and time. When we sort Bakhtin’s chronotopes into the fake (fictive) and true (real) types of storytelling, something interesting happens. The adventure chronotopes are in either/or duality, but the folkloric chronotopes are dialogically transformative between fake and true storytelling.
Ten Fake and Real Bakhtinian Chronotopes (adapted in new ways from Boje, 2008: 139)
|4 ADVENTURE CHRONOTOPES|
|Fake (Fictive) Adventure Chronotopes||True (Real) Adventure Chronotopes|
|1 Greek Romance Adventure (space and time interchangeable;
events do not change the hero traveling through diverse geography
encountering characters different from oneself)|
3 (Auto) Biography Adventure (Historical spatial and time events heroic character discovered hidden traits illuminated on the public square)
|2 Adventures of Everyday Life (Mix of adventure time and everyday time as
hero in spatial context does change hero’s identity in the trials and revelation
on public square)|
4 Chivalric Romance of Epic Adventure (Mix of 1, 2, & 3 where chivalric code is tested in everyday life)
|6 FOLKLORIC CHRONOTOPES|
|Fake (Fictive) Folkloric Chronotopes Dialogic with True (Real) Folkloric Chronotopes|
|5 Historical Reversal of Folkloric Realism (Fullness of here-and-now is transformed by tipis to past/mythic thought to concretize the ephemeral
6 Rogue, Clown, & Fool Folkloric Archetypes (Out of pre-class structure these medieval masks mix 2, 3, 4, & 5) into the world in order to see falseness of every situation including the feudal and institutional hypocrisy)
7 Folkloric of Rabelaisian Purge (Laughter purge of transcendent and renewal, interacted with all above chronotopes to get to folkloric “grotesque realism” that was appropriated by modernity)
8 Folkloric Basis for Rabelaisian (Time is collective/generative/pregnant, part of productive rough, measured by labor events in concrete here-and-now, and profoundly spatial in earth, ripening in it)
9 Idyllic Folkloric (Organic localism; time is agricultural and craft able, family grafted in time events, in spatiality of place living organically in familiar territory, and in rhythms of life; all of this disintegrates with advance of modernity)
10 Castle Room Folkloric (place and time of telling situated, so that spacetime of a Fast Food Restaurant, a Salon, a Disney Castle, a Museum or Tamara-Land, become its own chronotope in which 1 to 9 can interplay)
Ten Fake and Real Bakhtinian Chronotopes (adapted in new ways from Boje, 2008: 139)
39Historically, in the novel, the emerging ten forms of chronotope beginning with Greek “Romantic Adventure” and ending with “Castle Room Folkloric”, became dialogical to one another. What I want to stress here is how dialogic the chronotopes are not only in the history of the novel, but also in organizations. Further, it is the six folkloric chronotopes in organizations that play a transformative role, sifting true storytelling out of the fake storytelling in the dialogic of real with fictive spacetime accounts.
Storytelling and discourse in quantum relationship
40The storytelling and discursive body is inseparable from earth ecologies. “Quantum storytelling, for me, is a pragmatist-ontological approach to storytelling organization theory, inquiry, and intervention research” (Boje, 2014: 248). Quantum storytelling is ontological, with Being-in-the-world in-space and in-time in the uncertain task environments of organizations. We are walking climate ecologies, bodies composed of 32.4 trillion living cells in exchange with the environs. In posthumanism, humankind is one of many species, and life is living deep into the subatomic realm. Myra Hird (2009) looks at the biological constitution of the body at molecular level. If we take it to its conclusion, then quantum storytelling means that humankind is losing control of material-embodied-composition to increasingly micro-plastic, petrochemical, medication concoctions, and cyborg-digital-gigabyte kinds of implanted things that are changing the human body. Tonya Henderson and I have been working on fractality as a dimension of quantum storytelling (Boje, 2016; Boje & Henderson, 2014; Henderson & Boje, 2016). The theory is that there are combinations of fractals called multifractals that are entangled in complex organizations. In quantum storytelling terms, there are fractal narratives, fractal living stories, and fractal antenarratives.
41Did the linguistic turn go too far, and miss the relationship of materiality to storytelling and discourse? William James’s (1907/1909: 98) discussion of story (telling) and discourse, the oneness and manyness, in the context of his overall pragmatism project, includes the observation that “things tell a story”. In the linguistic turn, Weick’s (1995: 127-9; as cited in Boje, 2008: 77) retrospective sensemaking narrative, people are doing the telling. “People think narratively” and “organizational realities are based on narration”, “the experience is filtered” by “insight”, “typically search for a causal chain”, “the plot follows—either the sequence beginning-middle-end or the sequence situation-transformation-situation”, and “sequencing is a powerful heuristic for sensemaking”.
42If the linguistic turn has gone too far, then we can bring it back to William James’s observation, not only people but also “things tell a story” (James (1907: 98 in his book, Pragmatism). He is not only talking about the materialist approach to storytelling. Pragmatism has something important to say about a variety of discourses and their relationship to one of the earliest conceptions of systems thinking and about storytelling making another turn that Stein (1935) and Benjamin (1936) did not notice. Rather than take an either/or standpoint on the dispute between materialists and rationalists, or empiricists and abstractionists, James presents the pragmatist case for both/and, and points to a relationship between storytelling and discourse as both/and. The empiricists and materialists, “meaning your lover of facts”, and the abstractionists and rationalists, meaning your lover of generalized principles, are invited into “the world of concrete personal experiences” of story/history/biography and many discourses (James, 1907: 20-27). He lays out his interpretation of Charles Sanders Peirce’s (1877, 1878, 1905) pragmatist method. A complete exploration of pragmatism is beyond the scope of this essay (see Boje, 2014).
43James (1907: 92-98) addresses both the “subject of discourse” and the subject of “story” together. James (1907/1909: 89) is lecturing on the pragmatic methods as its “plunges forward into the river of experience” and is doing this in the ancient philosophy problems of “the one and the many”. For our interest, the one and the many storytellings, and the one and the many discourses, are somehow a part of what we call organizational systems and their ways of organizing.
44“First, the world is at least one subject of discourse” and “its manyness” is also “irremediable to permit no union whatever of its part, not even our minds could ‘mean’ the whole of it at once” (James, 1907/1909: 92). On the one hand, the unity of discourse is a monological specification, while, on the other hand, the varieties of discourses declare plurality. James says discourses are in space and in time, and little worlds of discourse that change each other, with innumerable paths between them. The pluralities of discourses in “larger hangings-together, little worlds, not only of discourse but of operation, within the wider universe”, “figure in many different systems” whose “definite networks actually and practically exist” in ways “more enveloping and extensive” (James, 1907: 92-3).
45Besides discourse, James discusses the “obvious fact the unity of things” in “their variety” are “interlocked” and the rationalist-discourse sees only the oneness, and the materialist-discourse only the multiplicity, the manyness. He asks pragmatic questions about the relationship between one discourse, many discourses, and one story and a collection of them that hang together, in the “ensemble” of “connexion that special things have with other special things” and are “constituted by those first lines of influence” in “network of acquaintanceship” (James 1907/1909: 93). In this context, James declares:
Things tell a story. Their parts hang together so as to work out a climax… Retrospectively, we can see that altho no definite purpose presided over a chain of events, yet the events fell into a dramatic for, with a start, a middle, and a finish. The world is full of partial stories that run parallel to one another, beginning and ending at odd times. They mutually interlace and interfere at pitons, but we cannot unify them completely in our minds. In following your life-history, I must temporarily turn my attention from my own. Even a biographer of twins would have to press them alternately upon his reader’s attention. James
47But in James, not only people, but “things tell a story”. On the one hand, James (1907/1909) observes one story of the whole and on the other hand, declares the multiplicity (or plurality) of stories:
… that the whole world tells one story enters another of those monistic dogmas that a man believes at his risk. It is easy to see the world’s history pluralistically, as a rope of which each fiber tells a separate tale; but to conceive of each cross-section of the rope as the absolutely single fact, and to some the whole longitudinal series into one being living an undivided life, is harder. James
49In other words, “things tell a story” and pluralistically, a multiplicity of stories told in human discourse, are “more epic than dramatic” (James, 1907/1909: 99). The stream of human (social) experience has its rhythm in the materiality of things, and its oneness/manyness of “things tell a story”.
50James turns from retrospective judgments of the truth, “towards concreteness of facts, and towards the future” in the “verification-experience”, in which the half-true of previous truth changes “experiencable reality... everlastingly in process of mutation-mutation” (James, 1907/1909: 146). Here we get a glimmer of an answer to our question: What is the relationship between storytelling and discourse? One answer is storytelling is constitutive of discourse. Ask a discourse theorist and they will give an opposite answer: storytelling is constitutive of discourse. The storytelling-discourse relationship is not well defined or studied systematically in the social sciences. When you look at the applied fields of organization storytelling and organization discourse, the relationship is even more obscure.
51Add to this the complexity of many turns: linguistic turn, material-discursive turn, ontological turn, embodiment turn, and several different critical turns of sociomateriality (critical realism, critical theory, critical discourse analysis, agential realism) and you begin to discern the problematics I am focused on in this essay. In the linguistic turn, storytelling and discourse are assumed to each be constituted and sustained through language (Boje, Ford, & Oswick, 2004; Cheney et al., 2004: 83). However, in reaction to the linguistic turn going too far and ignoring materiality, and the material-discursive relationship, there has been increasing theory and research into the sociomateriality relationships between storytelling and discourse (Barad, 2003, 2007; Latour, 2007; Orlikowski, 2007; Orlikowski & Scott, 2008). In the linguistic turn and social constructivism there was hope for “replac [ing] e consciousness with language as the fundamental constitutive description falls to the re-psychologicalization of experience” (Deetz, 2003: 425).
52In the sociomaterial turn, there was hope for bringing material back into relation to the discursive and the social.
Storytelling and the material-discursive relationship
53Silvia Benso (1997/2000: 12): “as all good storytellers have known ever since a long time ago, things tell stories, as much as they are material for stories”. Benso (1997/2000: 5) retraces “Heidegger's description of things as gathering elements that enable a discourse on things in terms of their alterity” versus “Levinas's otherness of the other person”. Alterity has a double meaning, being other or in otherness, quality of being different or otherness in diversity.
54Latour (1998) and Barad (2007) asserted that the social constructivism and linguistic turn has gone too far in exorcizing “material” from the social. Storytelling analysis is concerned with the relational interplay between relative permanences of narrative-counternarrative orders of material-discursive practices, living story webs, and potentials of antenarrative, pre-narrative and pre-story practices that are material-discursive as well as non-discoursal.
55Are organizations and organizing constituted through discourse into coherent social reality that frames sense (Mumby & Clair, 1997: 181)? From a critical realist discourse perspective, institutions and organizations are material and social worlds “constituted through consciousness or language” that comes to the social as “previously structured” and therefore “cannot be collapsed into discourse” (Reed, 2004: 415, italics original). Rather “storytelling organizations” (Boje, 2008) are generative structures (bureaucratic, hierarchic, capital, and social stratification) that in realist-based approaches to organizational discourses are pre-constituted in material conditions that constrain/oppose the social (Fairclough, 1992: 60). For Foucault (1998), knowledge is constituted in discourse, in power and resistance relations. Globalization, for example, in dialectical thinking comes to be constituted out of the flows and processes to become permanences (things & systems) (Fairclough & Thomas, 2004: 381). Storytelling as discursively constituted traces discourses and their effects. For example, globalization and discourse are in interrelationships in dialectics of discoursal and non-discoursal moments that become reified into processes of globalization (Harvey, 1996; as cited by Fairclough & Thomas, 2004: 381).
Storytelling and discourse in the wwok-iwok relationship
56Kaupapa Māori is an indigenous paradigm (theory and method in praxis) that resists the western approach to academic discourse and research. WWOK has an “ideology of cultural superiority” (LT Smith, 2017: 13). Kaupapa Māori regains control of the research process in investigations by indigenous scholars of Māori people’s lives that include IWOK. The Kaupapa Māori paradigm contexts critical pedagogy for failing to enact a liberatory project (LT Smith, 2017: 14). In sum, Kaupapa Māori is a relational ontology, resisting colonial imperialism while recognizing the human relationship to non-human agency (Hoskins & Jones, 2017: 49; LT Smith 1999/2008: 119). Kaupapa Māori embeds its qualitative research (including storytelling) in the critical discourse about WWOK narratives of history, politics, colonization, and imperialism. As such, Kaupapa Māori is a critical engagement with posthumanist “new materialism”—how things are agential (James, 1907). IWOK involves a strong element of participatory and consultative interaction of an ensemble community and its spiritual ecology and material condition in the “unity of spirit and matter, and the relationship of all things through endless correspondence” of microcosm within macrocosm of the Natural world of plants, animals, natural phenomena, and human kind (Cajete, 2000: 33). “Creation stories and myths incorporate humans and animals as they interact with each other at various levels and planes of the Earth and the cosmos as a whole” to create “ecological empathy” (Cajete, 2000: 40). IWOK is also constitutive of “Native Science”, understanding of “nature and sources of life, embedded in guiding stories of a people and the language and ways of life, that, convey their stories” (Cajete, 2000: 74). WWOK, by contrast, involves a strong element of hierarchic and bureaucratic written texts and imposing rules and procedures to work through contradictions (Rosile, 2016; Rosile, Boje, & Claw, 2016).
57Like the English in England, the Māori in New Zealand lived life every minute of every day. But the English who settled in New Zealand and in North America had no daily life every day, and nothing in common with the indigenous peoples. Rather, the English continued to live in the life of their home island, England, and paid scant attention to acclimatizing to a new island life. When the English in New Zealand (and in North America) forbade the indigenous to have any language other than English, something happened to do with the relation between narratives within storytelling. As with Benjamin, Stein observes that a decline in storytelling and the rise of printing technology, the novel and the newspaper in the official language, changed the indigenous cultural ways of knowing their place, their soil, their land. The indigenous, forced to learn only English, could no longer engage in storytelling and came to have a different meaning, and a different movement, of their life. Language matters; colonizing and settling the daily lives of indigenous people, matters.
58In sum, storytelling is done differently in WWOK and IWOK. A key difference is the relationship between their ways of storytelling and discourse. WWOK storytelling has been overrun by western discourse’s focus on theory, abstraction, and what Bakhtin (1993) calls “intuitive aesthetic”. IWOK resists the colonization of storytelling by western discourses, and in the Kaupapa Māori paradigm stands in opposition to western academic research paradigms.
Storytelling and discourse in embodiment relationship
59This is a countermove to #2 (Discourse constitutive of storytelling) by moving outside the textual reductionism approaches. It includes the living story as embodiment beyond text. Embodied storytelling necessitates a retheorizing of narrative therapy from a textual approach to an embodied restorying process (ERP) approach. Benjamin (1936/2007: 84), writing his observations ten years after WWI, notices that veterans “returned from the battlefield grown silent—not richer, but poorer in communicable experience”. We notice this same phenomenon in the veterans returning from the Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan war zones—grown silent, unable to storytell their experience of stress and mayhem. The veteran returns home with what Linda Hitchin (2014) calls “untold stories”. Flora, Boje, Rosile and Hacker (2016) study ERPs to treat post-deployment family stress. They adopt a sociomaterial, translational approach. Veterans are unable to engage in communicable storytelling of experience. However, their body has imprinted trauma experience within faraway places. The military bureaucracy disciplines the soldier to tell it in the military way, to “man up” and keep silent.
60In non-military storytelling organizations, one has to “first have to be able to tell the story” by allowing the situation to speak about “the fabric of real life” (Benjamin, 1936/2007: 86-87). But this is impossible because “the art of storytelling is reaching its end because the epic side of truth, wisdom, is dying out”. The storytelling organization in decay has some symptoms. The narrative has gradually separated from the “realm of living speech” and “prose literature—the fairy tale, the legend” has become devoid of wisdom, incommensurable to the fullness of life (p. 87). And there are more delicate webs of living story processes whose texturing and organizing are more embodied practices of talking/writing/showing constituted by fragile/unstable/nonlinear/incoherent/ terse/partial/ ephemeral/unfolding/ undone ways of telling/hearing/seeing/doing/ being.
61Rather than divide/dualize narratives as a grand discourse (Big D macro-level) “Discourse” and living story webs as micro-level (little d micro-or mess-level) “discourse” categories/texts, I prefer to analyze the relationality between them. I do this with the mediating/dialectical/dialogical role of antenarrative processes that bring narratives-counternarratives and stories-counterstories into being. Storytelling is part of discursive-action, textualizing-action, and dramaturgically performative-action.
Discussion and conclusions
62I have argued that the situation of modern day “storytelling organization” turned “digital storytelling” is separate from any “true storytelling” of communicable experience in the decline of any “true storytelling” grounded in space, time, and mattering of Nature, and the rise of digital life and work. Something profound is happing to the storyteller’s life. In digital storytelling, the narratives of economic progress seem wholly inadequate. In living stories, the epic layers on top of each other, “a variety of retellings” (Benjamin, 1936/2007: 93) happened in the “storytelling organization”. Now, the storytelling organization is no longer connected to Nature, to lived experience, but only engages in digital reproduction. For example, in our universities, we take digital measures of our writing, teaching, and service performance. We teach in digital classrooms, using WebCT, Canvas or some other kind of digital platform, and university libraries have more digital and print holdings. The Board of Regents, Chancellor, and Provost work out a digital “master plan”, a budget of spreadsheets, and online curriculum catalogues, faculty keystroke in “Banner” and “Canvas”, “Digital Measures” and make digital reports of committee work to convocation gatherings. The encyclopedia memory of the storytelling organization has transitioned from epic story work by storytellers to digital work, to keystrokes. We are no longer in the womb of the epic story, and the so-called “digital storytelling” in “digital organization” is lifeless. Storytelling organization has changed the balance between acts of narrative digital narration and the web of mouth-to-mouth living stories of life existence.
63My reading of Bakhtin is that a true storytelling as mere aesthetic activity is powerless to drain the swamp because it is separated (or split out) from the situated process of becoming in all its historicalness of once-occurrent event. What is needed is a storytelling where the aesthetics of narration are in communion with the living story grounded in the once-occurrent event. “It is as if rays of light radiate from uniqueness and, pressuring through time… penetrate with the light of value all possible time and temporality itself… my own participation uniqueness… in experiencing the world” (Bakhtin, 1993: 60-1).
64Without answerability, people in organizations seem to behave much like lemmings. Lemmings are part of the Muriodea superfamily in or near the Arctic that includes small rodents, voles, muskrats, rats, gerbils, and hamsters. Lemmings just follow along even when the situation is dangerous. The “lemming effect” occurs in humankind when a majority of our peers are conditioned to just go along with the flow of the larger group, rather than risking any independent thought or action. The lemming effect is named after the popular myth of lemmings exhibiting herd behavior, being under a hypnotic spell, so much so that they follow each other even when it leads them into situations, even over a cliff, that could cost them their lives. Lemmings mouth the opinions of herd leaders. Lemminghood is an innate bureaupathology phenomenon, present in most organizations and managing takes advantage of it. First, the Taylorism-Fayolism-Weberian (TFW virus), as Henri Savall and colleagues (Savall & Zardet, 2008; Savall, Zardet & Péron, 2011; Worley, Zardet, Bonnet & Savall, 2015) call it, is a kind of contagion of central planning of tasks (Taylorism), administrative ordering of everything (Fayolism), and bureaucracy signoffs to do anything (Weberian). The three forces combine into the TFW virus to produce lemmings. Second, a related contagion is what Gabriel (2008) calls organizational miasma, a state of pollution (material, psychological, and spiritual) that afflicts all who work in certain organizations that undergo sudden and traumatic transformations. Miasma contagion results in discarding many valued members through downsizing or retrenchment, without either the necessary separation rituals being observed nor any psychological mourning. Third, as Foucault (1979) observed in Discipline and Punish, a panopticon of micro-power disciplines and punishes to produce docile lemminghood. Fourth, Harvey (1977) depicted “organizations as phrog farms” based on the fairy tale the Princess and the Frog. In phrog farms, we let our boss turn us into a phrogs, losing all self-determination. In this phroginess, we swat at the flies instead of draining the swamp.