The Contraction of Meaning: The Combined Effect of Communication, Emotions, and Materiality on Sensemaking in the Stockwell Shooting

38 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2014

See all articles by Joep P. Cornelissen

Joep P. Cornelissen

Independent

Saku Mantere

Hanken School of Economics

Eero Vaara

Aalto University School of Business

Date Written: July 2014

Abstract

In this paper, we seek to understand how individuals, as part of a collective, commit themselves to a single, and possibly erroneous, frame, as a basis for sensemaking and coordinated actions. Using real‐time data from an anti‐terrorist police operation that led to the accidental shooting of an innocent civilian, we analyse how individual actors framed their circumstances in communication with one another and how this affected their subsequent interpretations and actions as events unfolded. Our analysis reveals, first, how the collective commitment to a framing of a civilian as a terrorist suicide bomber was built up and reinforced across episodes of collective sensemaking. Second, we elaborate on how the interaction between verbal communication, expressed and felt emotions, and material cues led to a contraction of meaning. This contraction stabilized and reinforced the overall framing at the exclusion of alternative interpretations. With our study we extend prior sensemaking research on environmental enactment and the escalation of commitment and elaborate on the role of emotions and materiality as part of sensemaking.

Keywords: commitment, emotions, framing, materiality, sensegiving, sensemaking

Suggested Citation

Cornelissen, Joep P. and Mantere, Saku and Vaara, Eero, The Contraction of Meaning: The Combined Effect of Communication, Emotions, and Materiality on Sensemaking in the Stockwell Shooting (July 2014). Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 51, Issue 5, pp. 699-736, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2457283 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joms.12073

Joep P. Cornelissen (Contact Author)

Independent

No Address Available

Saku Mantere

Hanken School of Economics

Eero Vaara

Aalto University School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 21210
Helsinki, 00101
Finland

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