Organisational Listening: A Vital Missing Element in Public Communication and the Public Sphere

Jim Macnamara

Abstract


Voice and communication are seen as largely synonymous in social theory, democratic political theory, media studies and in more than 600 human communication theories that have been identified. That is to say, voice is normatively conceptualised as dialogic and communicative, not simply seen as speaking. However, in the context of organisations and organisation-public relationships (OPR), which are extensive in industrialised and institutionalised societies, research indicates that voice and communication are predominantly enacted as speaking. A pilot study reported in this article indicates that allegedly communicative functions including public relations, involve considerable and often massive resources devoted to creating an architecture of speaking and doing the work of speaking on behalf of organisations including government departments and agencies, corporations, and institutions. Conversely, this research raises serious questions about the extent to which organisations listen to those who seek to engage with them. Further, it suggests that organisations cannot effectively listen unless they have an architecture of listening or do the work of listening, and identifies cultural, structural, political and technological components to create this vital missing element in public communication and the public sphere.


Keywords


voice, listening, speaking, public relations, engagement, work of listening, architecture of listening

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The University of Newcastle
ISSN - 1839-8227