My interest in the social media aspects of Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 technologies with respect to organizational knowledge management has naturally led me to the closer examination of the rhetorical situation and fitting responses to communicative exigences. With this as my baggage when reading Harrison, I found myself nodding almost throughout the entire article. She says, “The rhetorical situation places contextual boundaries around singular events and thus focuses our attention at tn analytic level below that of “organization.” Audiences, exigencies, and constraints forming rhetorical situations may arise within organizations, but the idea of organizations as social units forming a broader context for rhetoric cannot be accommodated to this approach.” (p. 257/8)
As I mention in my comment to Monica’s post, the larger social context often determines if a given rhetorical situation exists and/or whether is merits communicative action. Harrison talks about reciprocity of rhetoric and community, one influencing the other and vice versa. “Communities of thought render rhetoric comprehensible and meaningful. Conversely, however, rhetorical activity builds communities that subsequently give meaning to rhetorical action.” These statements are especially significant in light of the New Rhetoric which acknowledges (not uniformly) that certain epistemic processes are rhetorical in nature. The notion that socially constructed knowledge about reality is heavily influenced by rhetorical symbolisms can easily be gleaned by looking at not only organizational cultures but also at many other discourse communities with their idiosyncratic characteristics, e.g. political parties, academic fields of study, school PTAs, etc. The rhetorical situations within each of these larger social contexts arise at least in part out of the larger communities’ rhetorical and social paradigm. The social capital of the community members rests to a large degree upon a foundation of a common way of symbol interpretation, a common framework of understanding. This cognitive aspect, as Harrison points out, can vary greatly between organizations, especially among different industries.
While this approach might limit the generalization of certain findings, it does validate those findings that transcend discourse communities and larger social contexts. This approach might necessitate more case studies but, in the end, will yield solid results.
While I do feel very comfortable with Harrison’s approach, I also see great need in Sullivan and Porter’s call for praxis, especially when designed to bridge the gap between academia and the workplace. In fact, I see ample synergy between both approaches. Ideally, we combine Harrison’s and Sullivan and Porter’s suggestions to acknowledge the situatedness of methodology, it’s existence in a larger social context, along with the need for a theoretical framework supporting it. By doing this, credibility might be gained by both, practitioners and academics.