«University of Colorado, Boulder CU Scholar Communication Graduate Theses & Dissertations Communication Spring 5-28-2014 Form, Function, and Figure: ...»
The December board meeting also included more moments of discussion about new members, goals for the following year, and additional topics. I will talk about these moments more in the
Although the most recent board meetings included more discussion than earlier meetings, the bulk of each meeting followed a more informational trend. This has been the trend of the majority of meetings. Mary characterized meetings as such in a conversation with me on instant messenger, presented in the excerpt below.
Excerpt 8 (February 2013, Facebook chat meeting, lines 57-58 & 62, Mary) 1 Mostly, for me, meetings are about seeing where everyone is at. forcing some 2 conversation. making things more personal.
3 ((3 turns omitted)) 4 a normal meeting is supposed to be more informational In this excerpt she marks the genres of talk included in meetings as “seeing where everyone is at”, “forcing some conversation”, and “making things more personal”. The last two genres might also fall under discussion-based purposes of meetings, but “forcing conversation” seems like this genre is either an unwanted part of meetings, hence reinforcing their informational purpose, or meetings are the only place that “conversation” happens in SPC, which would reinforce their discussion purpose. “Making things more personal” could be a genre related to either purpose. If related to information-giving, as Mary seems to imply these genres are related to by her statement in line 4, then this genre could mean that information-giving that happens face-to-face feels more personal than information-giving online. However, since Mary’s characterization of genres and styles changed between February and September 2013, and this change was partly reflected in the talk itself, perhaps meetings will become primarily discussion-based in the future.
Interest and Participation In many of the early meetings, Mary would ask participants “is everyone still with me” to ensure that everyone present virtually was following along with the meeting talk. She would
that’s fine” (Mary, board of directors meeting, 12/8/2012). Otherwise, Mary will gauge the opinion of the other members by asking questions. An example from the September 2013 board meeting shows the kinds of questions that she will ask to start a discussion.
Excerpt 9 (September 2013, Board of directors meeting, Lines 298-301, Mary) 1 What do you guys prefer, do you hate having meetings? Ha- are we having enough 2 meetings? Should we have less meetings? Should we not call them meetings? Should 3 we call them fiestas? Would that make it better?
Her series of questions in this excerpt request the meeting attendee’s thoughts on the issue of meetings. After she finished this line of questions and paused for someone to take a turn, the resulting talk was more of a discussion than her other strategies to gauge interest and participation had inspired. Most of the questions use “should”, indicating that Mary is searching for normative statements and thoughts on meetings. Questions that are particular like these draw more discussion than the other strategies that she uses, like asking for interruptions, and this more recent meeting in my data set includes the most discussion-like sections of talk. For a further explication of this, see the norms of interpretation section below and excerpt 13.
Since April 2013, meetings have included more frequent turn changes and more frequent side conversations. Rather than receiving information, some members of the board are beginning to speak for their committees or actions that they have taken on behalf of the organization. The following excerpt is an example of this from the September 2013 board meeting. When Mary talked about a situation that involved the marketing committee and an
outside vendor, Lise joined in:
Excerpt 10 (September 2013, Board of directors meeting tape 2, lines 157-161, Mary and Lise)
In line 3 above, Lise coauthors Mary’s tale about the printer. As one of the people involved in the problem, she clarified the issue as a problem of “miscommunication”, which Mary repeated when she recounted the rest of the tale. Such a move might encourage others to make similar coauthoring turns, because Mary accepted the imposition rather than discouraging the interruption.
Other members have begun bringing up new topics of discussion when Mary asks the clearinghouse question, like “any questions, comments. Anyone wanna talk about anything” (Mary, board of directors meeting, September 2013). After this question in September 2013, Lisa asked about the progress on the resource kit that was created by the education committee and designed by the marketing committee. After a similar question in December 2013 Doug brought up a concern with how he handled a person who had threatened suicide in a Facebook post after one of these questions. Mary responded to this and then asked again, and Amanda responded with details about a grief counseling training program coming up that she had read about. After a third “anything else” question, I responded with another request for interviews.
The fourth request brought no response, so Mary closed the meeting.
The goals of many of these meetings are related to information dissemination. Mary, either prompted by herself as the meeting chair, or once prompted by me as the meeting chair, includes a report of what has been happening with SPC. Occasionally, committee meetings also serve as a deadline to collect or report on individual tasks and assignments. In most cases, Mary assigns these individual tasks, although Lise, the marketing committee chair, does delegate those
which is that meetings are meant to be informational. I explicate this purpose further in the norms of interpretation section below.
The outcomes of meetings typically meet the goals for each meeting. Those who attend the meeting supposedly become informed about what is happening with the committee or the entire organization, whichever Mary reports on. One outcome of meetings is not usually set in the stated goals of the meeting. When discussion or debate happens in meetings, Mary does gather the opinions and thoughts of the other members that weigh on decisions that she is considering or that might improve upcoming tasks. So although decisions are not typically made in meetings, except to vote in the board of directors at the required annual meeting, the discussion and opinions of members voiced during meetings do potentially influence the decisions that are made for the organization.
Meetings are an infrequent occurrence in SPC compared to other sites. During my study, meetings were scheduled anywhere from one per week to one per five months. Other communication channels are used more often than meetings, such as Wiggio, the online platform that members use to post information for others to read and then possibly comment on those posts. The official rules of each committee and the board of directors have rules related to the meeting cycles that should occur. Each committee’s document with rules for the conduct of its members states that the committee will hold monthly meetings. The board of directors’ rules are stated in the organization’s bylaws. The bylaws state that the board of directors will hold one annual meeting at the end of December in order to (re-)elect board members and to discuss the
Although these rules seem clear, Mary has stated that meetings will actually be held when there is enough “information” to warrant holding a meeting. In practice, the committees meet less often than the board of directors. The board has met four times since it was established in July 2012, and three of these meetings are included in this data set: December 2012, September 2013, and December 2013. Committees meet on more of an “as needed” basis. The community relations committee, marketing committee, and education committee each have two meetings included in this timeframe, although I was only able to attend the community relations meetings so far. The fundraising committee only met once in November 2012. I have included a timeline of these meetings in Appendix 1. Some committee members have met more informally to accomplish some work of the organization, but I only have access to the informal meetings that Mary and I have held together throughout my research, such as the Facebook chat meeting in February 2013.
One meeting pattern happened at the end of 2012. Mary called “informal meetings” with all of the committees to review the committee’s progress since they were formed in March 2012.
Each of these meetings included some talk about the progress of the organization as a whole, as well as the progress made toward the 501(c)(3) status. The same meeting pattern did not occur at the end of 2013 as a year-in-review for each committee, so this pattern might have been unique to the end of the first year of the organization.
Having explicated the form and function of meetings in SPC, I now turn my focus to the norms of interpretation. In the following section, I provide descriptions of, excerpts from, and interpretations of the metacommunicative talk in three meetings. The first is the earliest meeting
November 2012. The second meeting is from the middle of my study, the instant-messaging meeting that happened in February 2013. The third meeting is one of the most recent meetings that SPC held, a board meeting in September 2013. I provide some context for each meeting, who is present, why the meeting was called, and some description of the talk prior to the excerpt.
Then, after producing the excerpt from each meeting, I interpret the metacommunicative talk about meetings for the norms of interpretation that are reflected and constituted in that talk.
November 2012 Fundraising Committee Meeting The fundraising committee meeting was called by Mary as one of the year-in-review meetings at the end of 2012. It was called an “informal meeting”, and attendance was not “required”. Therefore, only three members of the committee attended: Mary, who also chaired the meeting, Lise, her sister, and me. Mary began the meeting by recounting what the committee had accomplished so far during the year. Then she asked for Lise’s and my opinions, as committee chairs for other committees, about using Wiggio as a communicative platform. I put forward the observation that we seemed to be using Wiggio instead of holding meetings, which resulted in further talk about meetings. The exchange about meetings culminated in Mary’s
lengthy turn in the following excerpt:
Excerpt 11 (November 2012, Fundraising committee meeting, 5:45, Mary, Katie, and Lise)
Mary starts off by characterizing how meetings need “things… to meet about” in line 2.
She delineates between tasks that can be accomplished individually and do not require a meeting, such as creating a budget for the following year, and more complex tasks that would require a meeting, such as a “big fundraising event”. In lines 5-6 she says that the first kind of task could just be handled over the internet. Meetings about menial tasks such as that are characterized as a “burden” on people, in line 7, because they interrupt people’s schedules, someone has to produce meeting minutes, and there must be a “quorum present”, which is a legal term used in the bylaws of the committee. However, when there is a large task or goal, like a fundraising committee, then meetings would be used to “sit down” and “discuss all of the dynamics” as Mary says in line 12. The annual board meeting is a meeting with a larger task associated with it, “going over reports” as she mentions in lines 16-17, and thus the meeting cannot happen on Wiggio, the board must “be physical”. Finally, in lines 24-25 she says that committees have not been meeting because they “haven’t had anything to talk about”.
Together, these statements start to paint a more nuanced picture of SPC’s meetings.
Meetings require some threshold of talk that should be covered in order to justify holding a
“big fundraising event” or “going over reports” seem to require the face-to-face interaction in a meeting. However, it is unclear what Mary expects to happen in meetings. Discussion and reading are the two tasks associated with meetings in this interpretation. Although “discuss” indexes a different genre later in the excerpt, when in the phrase “discuss all of the dynamics”, this term seems to index more of an informational kind of discussion where those present would be informed about the dynamics of an event through discussion. While the distinction between discussion and posting comments on information posted to Wiggio seems to be clear to Mary, the only difference that she gives in this excerpt is the amount of information. Large amounts of information, perhaps amassed over time, require a meeting. Small amounts of information, such as a task being completed, require an internet posting and some comments. Lise and Katie do not state opposing viewpoints to this interpretation of the difference between Wiggio and meetings at this point of the organization, so they perhaps had similar opinions to Mary during this meeting.
February 2013 Mary and Katie Meeting Meetings became a focal issue in this February 2013 meeting. This meeting is perhaps akin to many informal meetings that Mary holds on behalf of SPC that only involve one other person. Mary and I arranged to talk with each other on Facebook messenger, our typical channel for conversing about personal and professional matters while I reside in Colorado. We did not have an agenda for this meeting, but we primarily discussed meetings and how to improve them.
In this conversation, I propose that I may consider conversations like this chat to be meetings (lines 21-22), and therefore I will treat this as a meeting for this analysis. Although there were no agenda or meeting minutes that preceded and followed this meeting, this conversation has