The contraction of meaning: The combined effect of communication, emotions and materiality on sensemaking in the Stockwell shooting

J.P. Cornelissen, S. Mantere, E. Vaara

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Society for the Advancement of Management Studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-736
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Volume51
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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Bombers
Communication
Law enforcement
Emotion
Sensemaking
Materiality
Contraction
Interaction
Management studies
Police
Escalation of commitment
Enactment
Suicide
Exclusion

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The contraction of meaning: The combined effect of communication, emotions and materiality on sensemaking in the Stockwell shooting. / Cornelissen, J.P.; Mantere, S.; Vaara, E.

In: Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 51, No. 5, 2014, p. 699-736.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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