Identity dilemmas in organizational change and digitalization processes: A material-discursive study of organizational narrative-small-story dynamics

Ann Starbæk Bager

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Digitalization is a major concern in today’s organizations. The affordances of a growing body of technological modes and platforms fundamentally affect our everyday (organizational) lives in terms of how we make relations to others (globally and locally) and how we make sense of our selves. Thereto, it provides multiple data points through which others can evaluate and monitor work performances. Hence digitalization is continuously changing our work conditions for good and bad as it fundamentally changes employees work conditions and the co-production of identities. Digitalization effects are pervasive but also subtle and cunning.In this presentation analyses of identity formations in organizational digitalization/change processes is displayed from a storymaking perspective. The methodological frame is based on Bakhtinian dialogicality (1993) and combines storytelling organization theory (SOT, Boje 2014) and small story analysis (SSA, Bager 2015, Bamberg 2016). Thereby organizations are perceived as ensembles of complex storytelling practices spanning multiple spaces/participants embedding conflicting voices, ambiguity, power relations and struggles of meaning. The discourse analytical lens allows investigation of narrative-small-story dynamics involving how employees in local organizational settings create a sense of self and others through positioning activities against manifest organizational/societal narratives. The analysis strategy captures multimodal aspects together with the smallness and chaotic features of storymaking which allow a more nuanced look at identity work than often found in traditional narrative studies.Empirical examples are drawn from fieldnotes, interviews and meetings. Among other things the analyses show how employees have a lot at stake identity wise as their small story efforts reveal identity dilemmas as integral part of change/digitalization processes. The overall rationale is that from studying narrative-small-story dynamics we can strategically become smarter at designing organizational processes that challenge more hegemonic narratives/discourses in order to create more egalitarian organizational practices.
Bager, A. S. (2015). Organizational (auto)-ethnography: An interaction analysis of identity work through the study of other-orientation and storytelling practices in a leadership development forum. Tamara Special Issue on Organizational Ethnographies. Vol. 13, no 3Bakhtin, M.M. (1993). Toward a Philosophy of the Act. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.Bamberg, M (2016). Language, interaction, and culture. In H. Miller (ED.), The Sage encyclopedia of theory in Psychology (pp. 497-470. London, Delhu, New York: Sage Publications.)Bamberg, M. og A. Georgakopoulou (2008). Small stories as a new perspective in narrative and identity analysis. Text & Talk, 28 (3): 377-396.Boje, D. (2014). Storytelling organizational practices: Managing in the quantum age. Routledge
Original languageEnglish
Publication date5. May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 5. May 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventThe Dark Side of Communication: 2nd International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Discourse and Communication in Professional Contexts - Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
Duration: 14. Aug 201916. Aug 2019


ConferenceThe Dark Side of Communication
LocationAalborg University
Internet address


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