The influence of informal communication on learning in a political party: an integrated approach utilising information behaviour and organisational learning perspectives

Hanlon, Susannah Micaela (2019) The influence of informal communication on learning in a political party: an integrated approach utilising information behaviour and organisational learning perspectives. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Recently, the political landscape in Europe has been dominated by the growth of populism and the proliferation of smaller political parties, including those of the far right. Pressures are exacerbated by difficulties in discernment of truth amid the prolific dissemination of ‘fake news’; alongside exploitation by politicians of technology induced changes in pace and volume of information. At no other time in the history of politics has there been greater need for rapid learning, particularly for established political parties, in order for them to be able to adapt, keep up and remain relevant on today’s political stage. This research, utilising interpretivist methodology, aimed to critically explore and analyse informal communication activities within a centre-left political party in a country of the European Union (EU).

The research used a qualitative case study approach to investigate how informal communication influences learning in a political party. An in-depth contextual approach was taken, which involved exploring, through interviews, the perceptions of five participants, identified by using purposive sampling. These were firstly about relevant organisational contexts and secondly, two weeks later, about specific examples of ‘informal conversation’; the latter term being the participants’ agreed working definition of informal communication. Nine conversation cases emerged from the participants’ examples for more focused exploration. The research design was developed through integrating information behaviour and organisational learning perspectives. Template analysis was applied to the findings. Two existing information behaviour models by Wilson (1999) were modified into new models, incorporating elements of organisational theory. The new working model of human information communication in conversation was applied to the findings to enrich and enhance their interpretation, surfacing additional information such as motivation for knowledge sharing as well as for information seeking in conversation. Findings showed boundaries between the formal and informal can be blurred. Many of the revealed aspects of informal communication reflected the nature of the organisation. The participants identified that a key contextual challenge for learning was the party having to rediscover its identity and place, in today’s climate, without compromising its integrity. Self-efficacy regarding influence in the party through informal communication was only expressed by very active participants. The likelihood of follow-up activity from informal communication depended on the issues discussed. The research design has potential for expansion to comparative studies as well as application in other types of organisations.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Human information behaviour, conversation, qualitative, social democracy
Subjects: G400 Computer Science
L200 Politics
L300 Sociology
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Computer and Information Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2020 16:00
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2022 08:00

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