Capturing the Experience of Living Forward through ‘Withness’

Frithjof Wegener, Rebecca Price, Giulia Calabretta

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientific


In this chapter, we explore a methodology for ‘process as withness’ (Fachin & Langley 2018) to study the experience of ‘living forward’ and creating ‘narratives of prospect’ (Weick 1999). We build on the work of Shotter (2006, 2009) on Withness and operationalize it through the pragmatic concept of inquiry (Farjoun, Ansell & Boin, 2015; Martela, 2015). For this, we propose to build on the existing links between withness and pragmatism through the work of James, Dewey, and Mead, but extending these to incorporate withness in pragmatic inquiry. Withness up until now had remained philosophical and theoretical with few vignettes of dialogical interaction by Shotter (2006; 2009). We operationalize withness through embedding it within pragmatic inquiry. Through this, we operationalize withness as a methodology by building on the collective inquiry process of pragmatism that takes withness beyond individual situations, but proceeds through a whole process of inquiry. We illustrate our proposed methodology through an example of interacting with a colleague facing a situation where she temporarily did not know how to go on. We show how dialogical interaction leads to a novel concept as a metaphor to describe a new idea that emerged and was visualized. In this chapter we reflect on our experience. Withness is promising for understanding the struggles of living forward of practitioners and researchers alike, especially during long-term studies that allow continuous engagement with a community of inquiry. We end with a call for action for other researchers to learn from our attempts, to criticize them and to build on them. The main challenges are the dialogical nature of withness, finding research participants in doubtful situations, and keeping the prospective nature alive when communicating ‘process as withness’ research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication10th International Symposium on Process Organization Studies
Subtitle of host publicationAbout Time: Temporality and History in Organization Studies
Number of pages78
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event10th International Symposium on Process Organization Studies - Halkidiki, Thessalonika, Greece
Duration: 20 Jun 201823 Jun 2019
Conference number: 10th


Conference10th International Symposium on Process Organization Studies

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