Sub-theme 43: Multimodal Methods in Organization Research

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Joep P. Cornelissen
Erasmus University, The Netherlands
Curtis LeBaron
Brigham Young University, USA
Matthias Wenzel
European University Viadrina, Germany

Call for Papers

Advances in mobile computing have democratized the use of digital technology. Thanks to reduced costs and increased ease of use, photo and video technology, eye-tracking, wearable sensors, etc., are more accessible to organization scholars than ever and enable scholars to collect and analyze data in new and different ways. Importantly, these technologies deliver “multimodal data”, i.e., data that reflect the simultaneous unfolding of talk, bodily movements, and materiality in time and space (Streeck et al., 2011). Multimodal data are interesting and relevant for the empirical examination of organizational phenomena. Therefore, organization scholars have used multimodal methods – the collection and analysis of multimodal data based on digital technology – for the study of a broad set of topics, such as embodied cognition (Gylfe et al., 2016), emotion (Liu & Maitlis, 2014), institutional work (Zundel et al., 2013), routine dynamics (LeBaron et al., 2016), space (Jarzabkowski et al., 2015), strategy realization (Balogun et al., 2015), and strategic communication (Wenzel & Koch, 2017).
These and other works have demonstrated some of the opportunities that multimodal methods offer for organization scholars (LeBaron et al., 2017). For instance, multimodal methods allow researchers to record richer and more detailed data compared to more traditional methodologies (Christianson, 2016), conduct more fine-grained analyses (Gylfe et al., 2016), and help reviewers and readers “see” and verify the research results (Ariño et al., 2016). Perhaps most importantly, the use of multimodal methods enables scholars to discover surprising and unexpected patterns through repeated and detailed analysis that might pass unnoticed in interview or observational data but turn out to be consequential in processes of organizing (Hindmarsh & Llewellyn, 2016). Therefore, scholars have suggested exploiting more fully the known as well as exploring unknown opportunities that multimodal methods provide (e.g., Gylfe et al., 2016; Vesa & Vaara, 2014).
However, the use of multimodal methods also requires organization scholars to make a number of difficult choices: including “cinematic decisions” (LeBaron et al., 2017). For instance, to collect usable multimodal data, researchers must give careful consideration to the position of the recording equipment (Mengis et al., 2017); an in-depth analysis of the overwhelmingly rich detail of multimodal data requires researchers to foreground some aspects while declaring others as less relevant (Hindmarsh & Llewellyn, 2016); and to show convincing empirical evidence, researchers must reduce the complexity of multimodal data by selecting and highlighting those aspects that are theoretically relevant (Christianson, 2016). Thus, it seems that digital technology is not just an instrumental tool that researchers can use to display social reality in a more “accurate” way; rather, depending on the choices made, digital technology foregrounds some aspects of social reality while silencing others, thus making it a “tool-in-use” (Jarzabkowski & Kaplan, 2015) that both enables and constrains organization scholars in the practice of generating empirical research results. This points to the need for a more reflective use of multimodal methods that takes the practice of collecting and analyzing multimodal data more seriously.
The aim of this sub-theme is to provide a forum for engaging discussions that continue and advance debates on the use of multimodal methods in organization research. Therefore, we invite papers that present surprising results based on multimodal data and unpack the complex practice of using multimodal methods in organization research. We welcome both conceptual and empirical papers that extend our understanding of the spectrum of possibilities that multimodal methods offer, reflect on the limits of collecting and analyzing multimodal data, and elaborate on ways in which organization scholars can constructively cope with these limits. To facilitate broad discussions and give voice to multiple perspectives, we are open to all kinds of approaches to the collection and analysis of multimodal data, including self-produced data, material produced by the media, and organization-owned data as well as qualitative, quantitative, and configurational analyses, among others.
Some of the questions that submissions could address are:

  • What kinds of surprising and previously unnoticed phenomena do multimodal methods render accessible? How do multimodal methods help scholars understand known organizational phenomena in new ways?

  • Which aspects of organizing do multimodal methods not render accessible? How can scholars reduce such blind spots?

  • What are the specific benefits and drawbacks of different types of multimodal data? Are there interesting but underutilized types of multimodal data?

  • How can/should organization scholars gain access to and use multimodal data in light of ethical, technical, and other issues and concerns?

  • How do specific recording procedures and choices enable and constrain research outcomes that are based on multimodal data?

  • How do established ways of analyzing (qualitative and quantitative) data help scholars make sense of multimodal data, and what are their constraints when applied to multimodal data?

  • How can scholars analyze multimodal data in new, more innovative ways?

  • How can scholars present the outcomes of their analyses in journal formats without losing (too much of) the richness of their multimodal data?



  • Ariño, A., LeBaron, C., & Milliken, F.J. (2016): “Publishing qualitative research in Academy of Management Discoveries.” Academy of Management Discoveries, 2, 109–113.
  • Balogun, J., Best, K., & Lê, J. (2015): “Selling the object of strategy: How frontline workers realize strategy through their daily work.” Organization Studies, 36, 1285–1313.
  • Christianson, M.K. (2016): “Mapping the Terrain. The Use of Video-Based Research in Top-Tier Organizational Journals.” Organizational Research Methods, first published online: September 12, 2016:
  • Gylfe, P., Franck, H., LeBaron, C., & Mantere, S. (2016): “Video methods in strategy research: Focusing on embodied cognition.” Strategic Management Journal, 37, 133–148.
  • Hindmarsh, J., & Llewellyn, N. (2016): “Video in sociomaterial investigations: A solution to the problem of relevance for organizational research.” Organizational Research Methods, first published online: July 4, 2016:
  • Jarzabkowski, P., Burke, G., & Spee, P. (2015): “Constructing spaces for strategy work: A multimodal perspective.” British Journal of Management, 26, S26–S47.
  • Jarzabkowski, P. & Kaplan, S. (2015): “Strategy tools-in-use: A framework for understanding ‘technologies of rationality’ in practice.” Strategic Management Journal, 36, 537–558.
  • LeBaron, C., Christianson, M.K., Garrett, L., & Ilan, R. (2016): “Coordinating flexible performance during everyday work: An ethnomethodological study of handoff routines.” Organization Science, 27, 514–534.
  • LeBaron, C., Jarzabkowski, P., Pratt, M., & Fetzer, G. (2017): “An introduction to video-based research methods.” Organization Research Methods.
  • Liu, F., & Maitlis, S. (2014): “Emotional dynamics and strategizing processes: A study of strategic conversations in top team meetings.” Journal of Management Studies, 51, 202–234.
  • Mengis, J., Nicolini, D., & Gorli, M. (2017): “The video production of space: How different recording practices matter.” Organizational Research Methods.
  • Streeck, J., Goodwin, C., & LeBaron, C. (2011): Embodied Interaction: Language and Body in the Material World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wenzel, M., & Koch, J. (2017): “Strategy as staged performance: A critical discursive perspective on keynote speeches as a genre of strategic communication.” Strategic Management Journal, June.
  • Vesa, M., & Vaara, E. (2014): “Strategic ethnography 2.0: Four methods for advancing strategy process and practice research.” Strategic Organization, 12, 288–298.
  • Zundel, M., Holt, R., & Cornelissen, J. (2013): “Institutional work in The Wire: An ethological investigation of flexibility in organizational adaptation.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 22, 102–120.


Joep P. Cornelissen is Professor of Corporate Communication and Management at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands. He researches the role of corporate and managerial communication in the context of innovation, entrepreneurship and change, and uses different ethnographic and video-based methods for this purpose. He has used video for both micro-ethnographic and experimental research. His work has been published in the ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Organization Science,’ and ‘Organization Studies’. He is an Associate Editor for the ‘Academy of Management Review’, a Council member of the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies, a former General Editor of the ‘Journal of Management Studies’ (2006–2012) and serves on the editorial boards of the ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Management’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, and ‘Organization Studies’.
Curtis LeBaron is an Associate Professor and Warren Jones Fellow of Organizational Leadership & Strategy at Marriott School, Brigham Young University, USA. Curtis conducts video-based research on human behavior within organizational settings, focusing on topics such as interaction and identity, knowledge and innovation, organizational routines, and strategy activities and practices. He has publications in academic books and journals, including ‘Organization Science’, ‘Strategic Management Journal’, ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’, ‘Journal of Pragmatics’, ‘Computer Supported Cooperative Work’, ‘Research on Language and Social Interaction’, ‘Journal of Communication’, and ‘Cognition and Instruction’. He has also published two books: “Studies in Language and Social Interaction” (Erlbaum, co-editors P. Glenn & J. Mandelbaum) and “Embodied Interaction: Language and Body in the Material World§ (Cambridge University Press, co-editors J. W. Streeck & C. Goodwin).
Matthias Wenzel is a post-doctoral researcher at the European University Viadrina, Germany. His current research centers on discourse and communication, disruptive innovation, and organizational creativity and frequently relies on video data. He has published in journals such as ‘Journal of Business Research’, ‘Organization Studies’, and ‘Strategic Management Journal’.
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