Fabricating Methods: Untold Connections in Story Net Work

By Hitchin, Linda | Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Fabricating Methods: Untold Connections in Story Net Work


Hitchin, Linda, Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry


The focus of this special is untold stories and at first glance this focus may be baffling. For, surely, one of the primary responsibilities of critical organizational studies per se is the examination of organised negations (see for example Alvesson et al, 2009; Parker, 2013; Delbridge, 2014). This is certainly the case for sociologists whose interest resides in revealing hitherto obscured or untold characteristics of social domination, inequality and harm. So, why elevate the trope of the 'untold' when it is implied?

It is quite reasonable to question whether storytelling research needs to underscore the untold. For over three decades researchers have been pursuing organizational stories. Consider here the quite different influential contributions of Gabriel (1991, 2000, 2013); Brown (2004, 2005) and Ybema (1997, 2004, 2010). Each here has developed knowledge of the abuses, gratifications and meanings of story in organizational life by paying attention to stories that exist or have the potential to exist but have not, for one reason or other, surfaced. The recognised critical potential here is in investigating social, linguistic or psychological processes that may be working to keep a significant potential story below the surface. Contemporaneously, a different research direction was pursued by those who encountered stories in action. This is the area that is of particular interest to me and I am thinking here more of the concern for political narratives and dynamic storytelling research found in influential studies where the energy, agential potential and often the vectors of organizational stories are actively pursued such as those found in Boje (1995), Czamiawska (1998), Sims (2003), Gherardi (2000) and the collaborations between Keenoy and Oswick (2004); and Gherardi and Nicolini (2000, 2002).

So, again, why raise the untold trope?

Pursuing the untold: interference

Well, to suggest an answer, I will follow a practice that I intend to adopt throughout this article and call upon an outside interference to connect with the object of the exercise: untold stories. The point here is that there is potential value in connecting the untold with interferences. However, I suspect such potential is best shown rather than told and hence it unfolds in the telling of the paper.

The first interference that I want to summon is taken from fieldwork: specifically a day with H. To provide a background to that fieldwork I now offer short methodological briefing: The fieldwork was undertaken in three forms: firstly, an eighteen month multi-site ethnography that moved in and around a story that was being made into a television series; secondly, a return three years later to work with some of the production team on another project and then finally a continuing series of work reflections with one storyteller pursuing her stories across time (identified herein as H). The research was located in science technology studies and it was never intended as such to be a study of storytelling. The study was a sociology of translation (or otherwise an actor network) ethnography attending to sociomaterial assemblages and fictional accounting of technology. The purpose was to examine potential value for understanding sociomaterial agency through attention to fictional constmctions of technology. In faith with actor network approaches the fieldwork was conducted with an anthropological sensibility for time and immersion: that is deep immersion and adequate time to capture sociomaterial life as lived in the field. A further methodological assumption that in line network theory/method is that the research would demand an itinerant, multi-site strategy where the fiction-technology assemblages could be pursued in action (see Heath, 1998). The second phase of research followed two years later and focused on specific traces of genre fiction that emerged in the deep field ethnography. This research was a lighter touch - in as much as it involved periods in the field working alongside story makers but without the immersive character of ethnography: hence a qualitative approach but without the immersion. …

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