Imagined Worlds: the Role of Metaphors and Metaphorical Scenes in Sensemaking Accounts



This study develops the role played by metaphors in professionals’ sensemaking accounts of novel and complex events affecting their organizations. Using data from a sample of thirteen corporate communication professionals, I found that sensemaking accounts involve a specific form of metaphorical language whereby individual metaphors are combined together to form more specific metaphorical ‘scenes’ with actors carrying out certain activities, manipulating objects in a certain manner or moving in a certain direction, as if the event involved such physical acts and movements. The study also points to particular contextual conditions that influence the construction of sensemaking accounts: the magnitude of the perceived break between received cues and prior work experience, the conventionalization of metaphors in a particular professional community, and an individual’s view of his or her professional identity. 

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Pursey Heugens