Date of Award

12-2013

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Laura Lindenfeld

Second Committee Member

Linda Silka

Third Committee Member

Kathleen P. Bell

Abstract

How does communication connect with and shape resilience and sustainability? I understand communication as a dynamic and context dependent concept. I draw my understanding of communication from systems, materiality, and discourse theories. I employ a mix of quantitative, qualitative, and critical approaches in three discrete projects focused on collaboration, social-ecological systems, and discourse.

In the first project, my collaborators and I ask: how does an understanding of complex communication dynamics help identify ways to improve participation for intended collaboration outcomes across scales? We explore this question through a two-year mixed methods study of interdisciplinary collaboration and stakeholder engagement in Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative. Our results demonstrate that decision making, collective communication competencies, participant identities and motivations, and social learning influence mutual understanding, inclusion of diverse ideas, and progress towards sustainability-related goals. Attending to how interactions recursively structure individuals, teams, and organizations may foster intentional transformation across scales.

In the second project, we ask: how does communication influence conservation planning and the realization of resilience as organizational mission? We address this question through an ethnography using participant observations, focus groups, and interviews to study and inform Frenchman Bay Partners’ collaboration. In this project, we identify core process characteristics that help us collectively work the tides. In our efforts to promote resilience and sustainability we recognize that difference is necessary and productive. By maintaining process commitments such as checking the tide charts, creating intentional interventions, and by continually coming back to find ways to work together we promote sustainability.

The third project is a discourse analysis of resilience using Foucauldian archaeology in which I ask: how does resilience become a thing to be known? I identify two primary problems with resilience discourse, namely the lack of attention to how language creates the conditions what becomes possible and how this limits creative and transformative insights for working with the world. The artifacts I investigate include resilience’s origins in ecology, systems ontologies and attractor models, and dialectics as ordering strategies. I seek transformation of the discourse and conclude by proposing a shift to materialist, vibrant assemblages for enhanced resilience and sustainability.

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