This book demonstrates the power of writing in informal and formal organizations in the past and the present. It shows how writing, despite long lasting criticisms that can be traced back to Plato, and in spite of its frequent definition as a mere recording medium is in fact a creative mode of communication that supports the expression of emotions, the developing knowledge, and the building of strong communities among faraway individuals. The first part of the book illustrates how this has been true historically. The focus on writing as a fundamental mode of communication – the other being speech or the oral mode – is still important in our technology-infused world, where writing seems to have been reduced to short cryptic text messages or tweets. Precisely because of their heavy reliance on technology, current practices are in need of a deeper understanding that focus on deep as opposed to surface features and unveil the four essential mechanisms – objectification, reflecting, specifying, and addressing – that give writing its creative powers.
In the second part of the book, we use contemporary case studies and interviews to illustrate how shifting our focus from the media to the mode of communication and focusing on the mechanisms of writing allows us to go beyond current debates about the capabilities of various communication media and to understand better today’s communicative practices. This book is an attempt to unveil the powers of writing as well as to highlight the implications for organizations of the potential loss of these powers in today’s world where writing-based distributed collaborations, interpersonal relationships, and online communities are key sources of innovation and support for individuals and organizations.
“This is an important book, but it is also a delight to read. It is important because it calls attention to a neglected dimension of organization, its foundation in the media of communication. It is a pleasure to read because its analysis is concise and to the point, and it is enriched by relevant illustrative examples. It is the kind of book that should be part of every student’s introduction to organizational and management studies, but it is also a book that we should all read, to understand the world we are in, where reading is taking on a whole new meaning when books are becoming accessible, as never before.” - James Taylor, Emeritus Professor of Communication, Université de Montréal, Canada
“This is a most timely book. In a world where writing increasingly appears as cryptic one-line text-messaging, it reminds us of the true powers of writing that come from a focus on the deep structure of communication – expressing emotions, developing knowledge, and building community – rather than surface features. The book is useful to anyone interested in understanding the impact of new communication technologies on organizational processes, and in harnessing the true powers of writing." - C. Marlene Fiol, Professor of Strategic Management, The Business School, University of Colorado Denver, USA
"By focusing on the written mode rather than on specific communication media, Fayard and Metiu bring a refreshing and productive new perspective to the literature on computer-mediated-communication (CMC). They show that writing—whether letters three centuries ago or email today—has critical powers for expressing emotions, developing knowledge, and building communities. The historical cases that they analyze bring a particular richness to their argument. This is a must-read for all CMC scholars, but also for a wide audience interested in what new communication technologies mean for society." - JoAnne Yates, Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management
"It is generally assumed that writing is an activity reserved for novelists, scholars and journalists. Yet writing plays a crucial role in organizing, not only as means of communication, but also as means of inscribing and stabilizing actions and events. Anca Metiu and Anne-Laure Fayard explore writing on paper and online, within and outside formal organizations, thus revealing its less recognized but vital functions." -Barbara Czarniawska, Professor of Management Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Part 1: The Power of Writing: Evidence from Letters 1. Writing as a Fundamental Mode of Communication 2. The Mechanisms of Writing 3. Expressing Emotions through Writing 4. Knowledge Development through Writing 5. Writing and Community Building Part 2: The Power of Writing in Online Communication 6. From Letters to Online Writing 7. Expressing Emotions and Developing Trust Online 8. Creating Knowledge in Online Interactions 9. The Role of Writing in Developing a Sense of We-ness in Online Communities 10. Beyond the Media: The Power of Writing
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