Review: Special volume of Human Systems: CMM: Extensions and applications

In 2004, Human Systems published three special issues on “Coordinated Management of Meaning: Extensions and Applications” (Vol. 15, 1-3). At the time, the collection celebrated CMM approaching its 30th birthday and offered a diversity of voices writing about how it had developed and been applied in various contexts, as well pointing to future possibilities. Although it is now 16 years later, the papers published in that issue mark a special collection that are all well worth reading again…and again. We have now posted all these articles in our “Papers and Book” section of the web ( ) so you can all read them (again?).

The introductory article by Kevin Barge and Barnett Pearce, “A reconnaissance of CMM research”, offers an extensive review of over 100 published works using CMM up to the year 2003. The next two papers also offer insight into the different but enlightening ways that CMM can be used. Liliana Castaneda invites us to “Remember the Alamo” and proceeds to offer us a very rich and not necessarily unilaterally shared remembering using the framework of transcendent storytelling. Nalla Sundarajan and Shawn Spano detail a case study of “CMM and the co-construction of domestic violence” reminding us forcibly that even in this very troubled and troubling context, violence is still best understood as being jointly brought about.

The second issue of 2004 contains eight papers addressing extensions of CMM in different contexts. Jeremy Kearney, Kim Pearce and Allan Holmgren all write about CMM in educational contexts. Jeremy is inspired by CMM to make up a Master’s program; Kim uses CMM and a communication perspective to restructure the relationship between teachers and students; and Allan describes his innovative ways of teaching CMM. Two further papers focus on using CMM in community contexts: Saul Fuk draws significantly in the hierarchy of meaning model showing how it allows him to be a craftsman of contexts; and Carey Adams, Charles Berquist, Randy Dillon and Gloria Galanes tell of their work in fostering constructive conversations about the needs of children. The therapeutic context is the topic of 2 further papers: Pietro Barbetta, drawing on Foucault, continues to develop what he calls the “left wing” of CMM and Dora Fried Schnitman uses Bakhtin along with CMM to tell of generative instruments of CMM. Finally, Chris Oliver focuses organisational consultants’ attention on ways that the strange loop tool can be used to create the possibility of reflexive action.

The final issue in this volume presents three papers that extend CMM conceptually. Vern Cronen reflects on the development of CMM’s analytic models and proceeds to show how they can be applied productively in mass communication contexts. Victoria Chen addresses the criticism of critical and cultural studies scholars that CMM neglects the issue of power by showing how the notion of “critical dialogue” can provide the basis for the analysis of power and privilege. Finally, Kevin Barge critically assesses CMM as a practical theory, drawing on Vern Cronen’s criteria for a practical theory.

This is a rich collection of ideas, examples, and innovative applications. It is well worth reading as a collection to appreciate the depth and breadth of CMM then and what is even more possible now.



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