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14 February 2023, 15 - 16.30 

The dynamics of structuring and silencing: how audibility enacts asymmetrical power relations in online meetings

This study investigates the processual constitution of power relations in distributed work settings. Unlike previous studies that focused on how visibility shapes power relations in virtual collaboration, we investigate power relations from a communicative perspective and focus on the audibility of actors as an effortful accomplishment in communication. Drawing on video-recorded meetings, interviews, fieldnotes, and documents from a fourteen-month online-ethnographic study of a project team at a German investment firm, we inductively identify and theorize two communicative practices—structuring and silencing—that constitute different degrees of audibility. Structuring describes how actors give voice to speakers, topics, or sequences in the conversation.  Silencing expresses the practices to mute oneself, not interrupting others, and not returning to previous topics during video meetings. By engaging in these two practices actors accomplish different degrees of audibility. Whereas less powerful actors cannot even make themselves physically heard, powerful actors are audible all the time and can sustain that audibility by making decisions that affect the structure of future meetings. We contribute to research on power in organizational communication, specifically in contexts of distributed work.

Blagoy Blagoev.jpg

Blagoy Blagoev

Technical University Dresden

Lena Rieck.jpg

Lena Rieck

Technical University Dresden

Boukje Cnossen.JPG

Boukje Cnossen

Leuphana University Lüneburg

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