The Parasitic Organizationality of Post-Truth Communication

Peter Winkler, Dennis Schoeneborn

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Post-truth communication (PTC) presents one of the most pressing challenges to democratic societies today (Maddalena & Gili, 2020; Harsin, 2015). Rejecting the fact-based and truthseeking endeavor of the enlightenment, PTC tends to spur social distrust and polarization (McCoy et al., 2018; Bennett & Livingston, 2020). Yet, PTC does not only endanger society atlarge. It also presents an increasingly pervasive and non-accountable mode of organized social evaluation with detrimental consequences for established organizations that strive for responsible corporate citizenship. Despite this growing challenge, thus far, organization and management studies offer surprisingly little insight into the organizing logics of PTC and how to responsibly engage with them (apart from rare exceptions, such as Knight & Tsoukas, 2019). To tackle this gap, our conceptual contribution pursues three main aims. (1) It provides an overview of central insights on the organizing logic of PTC from extant literatures primarily from the field of political communication and media studies, and it identifies their limitations. (2) We propose a complementary explanation of the organizing logic of PTC and its disruptive impact on formal organizations based on a theoretical perspective that regards communication as constitutive of organizations (CCO) (Ashcraft et al., 2009). We present a model, which explains PTC as a form of parasitic organizationality (cf. Dobusch & Schoeneborn, 2015). More specifically, we argue that PTC maintains its own organizing ability at the expense of weakening the organizing ability of targeted formal organizations, incl. corporations. We unfold this parasitic mechanism on the level of interconnecting communication episodes, identity building, boundary drawing, and mobilizing agency. (3) Based on this conceptualization, we derive practical implications for socially responsible forms of corporate engagement with PTC on the level of positioning, monitoring, and response strategies
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCSR Communication Conference 2022 : Conference Proceedings
EditorsHannah Trittin-Ulbrich, Dennis Schöneborn, Matthias Wenzel, Ursa Golob, Klement Podnar
Number of pages2
Place of PublicationLjubljana
PublisherFaculty of Social Sciences. University of Ljubljana
Publication date2022
ISBN (Electronic)9789612950309
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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