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Technocratic and design stances toward communication expertise: how GDSS facilitators understand their work

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Abstract:

This study investigates the shared, and often unstated, premises that frame the expert communication servicing of meeting facilitators who implement group decision support systems (GDSS). Nine premises about facilitating communication were reconstructed from the way practitioners use the concept "process" to describe the expert servicing they perform. The premises reveal how the facilitators treat an analytic distinction between process and content to be a natural fact about communication. This factual presumption entails a nascent philosophy of practice--"process management"--that facilitators use to persuade clients, and practitioners, about the trustworthiness and credibility of their servicing. The ironic consequence of this philosophy is the denial of the very influence and expert judgment they exercise in their professional action. This is not only problematic for individual practitioners and consumers of facilitation services but for the development of facilitation practice itself. The implications of this analysis for facilitation practice and applied communication research are discussed in terms of a "design stance" toward communication expertise which is an alternative to the "technocratic stance" that currently frames practitioner, consumer, and research interests in GDSS facilitators.

Keywords: Communication Professionals; Distributed Cognition; Expertise; Facilitation; GDSS; Practical Reasoning

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00909880128113

Affiliations: Department of Communication, School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Publication date: November 1, 2001

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