The Role of Computer-mediated Communication on the Formation of Organizational Identity in Megachurch Websites: A Content Analysis

This proposal is motivated by four research questions: (1) What role does mediated communication play in the ministry of the American megachurch? (2) How do megachurches use mediated communication to support their mission and vision? (3) How does this mediated communication support the creation and maintenance of organizational identity? And, (4) How does mediated communication support the megachurch model? Using a mixed methods approach, I will conduct a quantitative and qualitative content analysis on nine urban megachurch websites. This research will explore the communicative practices of American megachurches, specifically by studying how megachurches communicate organizational identity through mediated contexts. The findings, results, and future research will be discussed upon completion of the research study.

Keywords: organizational communication, organizational identity, megachurch, web 2.0, mediated communication

Accepted, Pending Revisions

My article, “Ethnography of Communication in Praxis in the Literature Classroom,” has been accepted pending revisions at The Journal of Instructional Research. An August 2016 publication date is scheduled.

Peter Abelard: A Man of Reason and Faith

“We are like dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants:
we see more and farther than our predecessors
not because we have sharper vision or greater height,
but because we are raised up
and borne aloft on their gigantic stature” (John of Salisbury, 1159)

Peter Abelard, the 12th-century philosopher, and theologian is considered to be the “greatest logician of the Middle Ages” and “the first great nominalist philosopher” (King, 2010, para. 1). Abelard, Abbot of Mont Ste.-Genevieve, counseled men and women from all lifestyles but had the greatest influence on, “kings, philosophers, poets, politicians, theologians, and monks” as well as numerous popes and heads of state (Section 1.1, para. 1). His direct influence spanned the 12th-century, and while scholars previously considered his impact to be contained within the late Middle Ages, many theologians, philosophers, and critics today are rethinking his influence and are now crediting his philosophical views as instrumental to the development of Enlightenment thought (Section 1.1, para. 1).

Historically, scholars asserted that Abelard advocated reason over faith in religious matters, and credited him as the first person to use the term “theology” in his philosophical discussion of religion and religious doctrines (Section 1.1, para. 1). Moreover, Abelardian scholars identify him as a colorful personality, a man of strong conviction, wit, and intelligence (Section 1.1, para. 1). Thus, while historically he holds a minor position within philosophy and theology, his published works are experiencing a revival in scholarship – a new reading and a fresh interpretation – by many in the academic community. This re-reading of his works has helped scholars to gain fresh insight into the man and his meaning. As a result, it is this renewed interest in Abelardian scholarship that has brought to light some interesting interpretations that may suggest that Abelard’s religious views – that reason forms the foundation for faith – may have been, and still are, incorrectly applied. Abelard’s position on faith, his spiritual renewal later in life, and his awareness of the agency and activity of the Holy Spirit suggest a different interpretation: one of a man of reason – AND – one of a man of faith. This critical review of the life of Peter Abelard seeks to gain a new appreciation of the philosophical and theological importance of his works as they intersect with modern communication theory. Thus, this review will explore his life, his three main areas of scholarship, namely his writings on logic, theology, and ethics as they are situated within Christian moral theology.

Shades of Meaning: Exploring Literary Ethnography through Liminal Spaces

The following article is currently in process. Literary ethnography is a relatively new approach to research, and until recently, was not considered an accepted method for ethnographic research. However, scholars have pushed the boundary lines of what constitutes ethnography to include such disparate approaches such as autoethnography and ethnography in the classroom. This critical review will examine key texts produced by Native American writers, and will explore their conceptual framework of  liminal spaces as they observe their own culture through dual lenses.

Introduction

Right and wrong were shades of meaning, not sides of a coin. (Erdich, 1984)

Louise Erdich, a Native American writer, is considered to be one the foremost authors of what has been termed the “second wave of the Native American Renaissance” (1975-1997), a historical revisionist and cultural movement centered on the reclamation, the revitalization, and the regeneration of interest in Native American heritage, texts, and artistic expression (Lincoln, 1985). Her first novel, Love Medicine, was published in 1984, shortly after she completed graduate studies in Writing at Johns Hopkins University. Erdich, a member of the Anishinaabe Band (Ojibwa or Chippewa) in North Dakota, writes stories and poetry centered on her experience as an Ojibwa growing up in America. Although her novel, Love Medicine, is set in a fictionalized town, the text clearly represents the unique cultural and tribal relationships foundational to the social structure of the Ojibwa people. Her use of idiomatic language, narrative style, and liminality enables her to layer the various aspects of Native American storytelling with realistic characterization. Her characters exemplify the Ojibwa culture as a “liminal people,” a people struggling to exist “between the spaces” of American social and cultural influence (Rutten and Soetaert, 2013, p. 645).

Limen means “threshold” or a place of comings and goings, beginnings and endings. In anthropology, liminal spaces are often referred to as “rites of passages,” stages that are “neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and [the] ceremonial” (p. 645). Arnold Van Gennep’s (1977) seminal work, Rites de Passages, suggested a three-stage structure to rites: pre-liminal as the beginning stage, liminal as in between stage, and post-liminal as the ending stage (p. 21). Turner (1982) drawing inspiration from Van Gennep’s, work posited the idea that liminality included more than stages associated with the rites of passages. He included liminality as part of the transitional process inherent in the development of personality, the determination of agency, and the deliberation of experience (p. 80).

Liminality, therefore, is a critical component to understanding how different individuals, groups, and cultures develop socially. Erdich and other Native American writers use liminality to ground their stories, and in doing so, they are able to describe the temporal disconnect experienced by Native Americans as they pass through these ritualistic stages, from acculturation to acclimation to assimilation.

Purpose of Study

This qualitative study seeks to understand liminality as it exists within Ojibwa culture. The proposed study is grounded in exploration of the theme of liminality as it is expressed through culturally representative texts including John Tanner’s autobiography, The Falcon (1830), Louise Erdich’s novel, Love Medicine (1984), and her poetry collection, Jacklight (1984). Additionally, digital archives maintained by the White Earth Nation (including video, language studies, and folklore) along with select historical and ethnographic documents from Central Michigan University’s, Ojibwa Collection, will be utilized. These representative texts, collectively, will be analyzed using a theoretical approach based on Kenneth Burke’s (1985) theory of Dramatism (Agency) and Berger and Luckmann’s (1966) theory of Social Construction. The outcome of this study is formative and directed toward education literacy, critical studies, and pedagogical development.

Beauty from Ashes: The Transformational Leadership Style of Joyce Meyer

Leadership style is as unique as the individual leader and often embodies such disparate characteristics as power, personality, and charisma (Takala, 2005, p. 45). Scholars have yet to agree on a single definition that sum up this type of leadership (Northouse, 2015, p. 1) and they choose instead to classify it as an approach or method whereby leaders typify certain characteristics, behaviors, and attitudes based on their charismatic personality (Takala, 2005, p. 45). There are many different approaches to leadership that focus on these attributes, but since the mid-1980s and 1990s, scholars have shifted their focus to include the role of vision and charisma in leadership practice (Northouse, 2015, p. 3). These scholars seek to understand how charismatic style can motivate and influence performance (Northouse, 2015, p. 3). Furthermore, scholars interested in the relationship between leadership style and power have examined the role personality and charisma play in developing the leader-follower relationship (Vito, Higgins, & Denny, 2014). Research has suggested that an emotional connection between leader and follower contributed to the desire for followership (Vito, Higgins, & Denny, 2014, p. 810). This research revealed that often leaders use their power, their personality, and their charisma to motivate their followers to achieve goals and objectives (p. 810). As leadership scholars seek to understand the nature of the leader-follower relationship, several theories have developed that place emphasis on these key characteristics. One theory in particular, Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory, suggests that transformational leaders use charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration to not only create followers, but to transform those followers into leaders (Tucker & Russell, 2004, p. 109).

This brief paper will explore Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory, and will suggest that the leadership style of Joyce Meyer, internationally known Christian minister, preacher, and evangelist, exemplifies this theory. Furthermore, this paper will suggest that as a leader of a worldwide Christian ministry, Joyce Meyer, not only uses her power, her personality, and her charisma to inspire, instill, and influence her followers, but rather she uses these attributes to transform their lives through the powerful message of hope she brings through her preaching, teaching, and evangelizing ministry.

Effective Leadership Principles of Virtual Teams

Since the mid-1990s, virtual teams have become the mainstay for many organizations (Kirkman, Rosen, Gibson, Tesluk & Simon, 2002, p. 67). Technological and telecommunication advancements have made it possible for organizations to engage in business virtually, to establish a global reach into new markets, and to facilitate practices that are not bound by geographic location (p. 68). As such, organizations deploy virtual teams or virtual groups, comprised of individuals spread across the globe, to support business needs and to distribute business directives. Brandt, England and Ward (2011) define virtual teams as “individuals working together who have never met each other in person and probably will not meet face-to-face during the assigned project” (p. 62). Virtual teams, by their nature, provide organizations “access to previously unavailable expertise, enhanced cross-functional interaction, and the use of systems that improve the quality of the virtual team’s work” (Townsend, DeMarie, & Hendricks, p. 17, 1998). Virtual teams provide many benefits to organizations, but because team members are dispersed geographically, virtual team leaders face challenges to create groups that are high functioning and productive (Quisenberry & Burrell, 2012, p. 98). Consequently, communication ability and leadership behavior are two of the most critical components necessary to help virtual teams perform well and to succeed in a global marketplace. This brief paper will consider the importance of communication skill and leadership behavior in order to suggest guidelines leaders should consider when building, managing, and communicating with virtual teams.

Giants of the Gospel: A Cluster Analysis of Megachurch Mediated Communication

The megachurch with its mega members, multisite campuses, and mediated messaging are on the rise in America. Prior studies have examined church rhetoric and communication, but very few scholarly studies have addressed the growing trend of the megachurch and its use of technological advancements to help disseminate their message. Using Burke’s cluster analysis framework, this study examined the websites of the country’s ten largest megachurches. An analysis of key terms (community, prayer, hope, love, and Trinity) suggests a clear relationship between megachurches and Christian theology, as well as an argument for a perceived megachurch mentality or mindset. Considering both the mere repetition of the data, along with further clusters of support, the megachurch mentality is comprised of three themes: a push for church members to build community, to engage in worship and other religious experiences, and to connect with like-minded believers through ministries and small groups. In the end, this study contributes to an early, but growing field of academic research examining megachurch mediated communication.

Keywords: megachurch, cluster analysis, mediated communication

Ethnography in Praxis in the College Literature Classroom

In this article, I suggest that an applied communication approach using Dell Hymes framework of ethnography of communication could serve as an intervention strategy in order to promote a greater sense of shared community by increasing member-shared knowledge based on speech codes, speech acts, and speech events within the college literature curriculum. I explore this framework with consideration on how this communication approach could be used as a way to help students identify with stories that contain culture-specific language in the form of speech codes, and how this assumed shared knowledge is necessary for member identification. This article is exploratory; it offers researchers interested in the intersection between applied communication research and ethnography the opportunity to study the ways mediated communication can create cultural sensitivity through an insiders or emic view of the heritage, the language differences, as well as the patterns of speech often found in ethnically diverse literature.

Keywords:

ethnography of communication, applied communication, pedagogy

A Critical Review of Black’s “Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in Method”

Edwin Black wrote his treatise, “Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in Method” (1965) while working on his Ph.D. at Cornell University. Black’s suggestion that Neo-Aristotelian practices based upon the assumptions and principles of theory limited the critic’s ability to understand the historical, social, political, and ideological context of texts provoked controversy among rhetorical critics of the day (p. ix). His method book, while, not welcomed by all scholars, opened the doors to new avenues of public discourse, and unchained subsequent generations of students and scholars to envision new ways to think, to explore, and to conceptualize the rhetorical process. The study method, published originally in 1965, was reintroduced to students in 1978 and has continued to be considered one of the most influential books in the field (Black, 1978).

Invitational Rhetoric

Recently, I was introduced to Foss and Griffin’s 1995 Theory of Invitational Rhetoric. I had never heard of this theory before, but learned about it while conducting research for my Advanced Theory of Communication course at Regent University (Spring 2015). I read two journal articles (currently being reviewed for my Applied Research Methods course) that suggest the “possibility” of designing English and Communication courses using this theory as a base model. The articles were suggestive of applicability, but not thoroughly tested in a classroom setting. I am intrigued by this possibility, and I am thinking of using this theory to create a multi-modal writing course for first year Freshman Composition. I need to flesh out the idea more, and of course, conduct some research (of which there is scant in literature at this time). My hope is that I might be able to produce some scholarly work, perhaps a conference paper, on this topic. It seems to be gaining some traction in higher education, specifically in Writing and Rhetoric departments and groups.