What is OCIS?

This week the OCIS Executive Council held a post-annual meeting conference call. One topic discussed at length was what it means to division activities to be both “OC” (organizational communications) and “IS” (information systems) .  [My understanding is perhaps there was once two divisions, merged together many years ago (?).]

As a gross over-simplification, one way to describe the dynamic is: we are more-so information systems researchers and we are seeking greater involvement (or re-involvement, as the case may be) of (organizational) communications researchers. Certainly, many theories and methods of communications studies are relevant to the phenomenon of greatest interest to many OCIS members. If only both tribes always came to market we’d all enjoy a bigger feast.

Another, perhaps more accurate view, is of a group of researchers who are interested in the overlap of organizational communications with information systems. In this way, the word and means the intersection of instead of the union of. Theories and methods of communications studies are still quite relevant, as are a body of knowledge from information systems literature, but only to the extent that they illuminate the intersection. [And, as a division of the Academy of Management, the phenomenon of interest relates to (and another large body of work to draw from is) management… that part almost goes without saying.] The feast may not be as large, but that right-sized plate of my favorite cuisine sounds more appealing than an over-whelming buffet.

I don’t know, this contrast is rather tidy. Does it make sense to anyone else? How does it fit with your own interests and research approaches?

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2 Responses

  1. increasingly it seems that there is little in Organizational Communications that doesn’t involve Information Systems, and vice versa, so I usually rely on the “converging of the phenomena” explanation, but I like the idea of OCIS being about an intersection of interests.

    Of course, being from an Information School there’s substantially less pressure to ‘justify one’s field’ and conversations tend to turn more on what you are researching, but I get the impression from Academy and ICIS that this is a much bigger deal in B-schools (and, to some extent, in I-Schools that have more departments (Syracuse has none)).

  2. I’ve about decided that the academic field of Information Systems has been in a perpetual state of crisis since inception!

    If I had to guess, though, IS is far from unique in suffering from a “grass is greener” syndrome. I bet many academic fields think other disciplines are better established, better defined, and view more legitimately.

    I agree with your statement that most Org Comm work involves IS, though some work like genre’s is not limited to IS. The majority of the IS field, esp. on related to IS economics and IS development doesn’t think of itself in terms of organizational communication.

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