2.1 Research Tasks and Aims
The aim of this study is to progress the theoretical and empirical
knowledge on the discursive dimensions of place marketing collaboration in a regional context, and their relation to the broader socio-cultural and spatial environment where the collaboration is being carried out. Research questions are grounded on the discursive model of collaboration offered by Lawrence et al., (1999) which examines the antecedents, dynamics and outcomes of the collaboration. This study focuses on the antecedents and the dynamics of the collaboration, which are elaborated below.
First, a precondition for any attempt to collaborate is that the participants of the collaboration are willing to participate in the
collaboration. This means that the organization in charge of coordinating the collaboration needs to evoke an acceptance towards the collaborative action. In terms of organizational literature, organizations need ‘legitimacy’
to create acceptance towards their activities, for example, in order to gain resources such as funding from stakeholders (Deephouse and Suchman, 2008). This is also valid for organizations carrying out place marketing practices. Indeed, it has been pointed out that legitimacy is a key element for fruitful collaborations with stakeholders and their mobilisation (Eshuis and Edwards, 2013; Elbe and Emmoth, 2014). In this sense, the ways of evoking legitimacy can be considered as a key antecedent of the collaboration.
Second, from the discursive perspective (Lawrence et al., 1999), there are three key dimensions which the actors of the collaboration need to have at least a working level common understanding, in order for the relationship to be constituted as a collaboration. These are: 1) the issues involved (i.e. the problematic aspects of the world which require action); 2) the interests that attach actors to these issues; and 3) the representation of actors. In place marketing literature, the relevance of the communicative processes between stakeholders has been associated to constructing
common ground and meanings, and managing conflicts between
participants (Kavaratzis, 2010; Beritelli, 2011; Atorough and Martin, 2012;
Kavaratzis and Hatch, 2013; Kasabov and Sundaram, 2013; Stubbs and Warnaby, 2015). Third dimension of ‘representation’ means the discursive construction of roles that the actors fill in the collaboration. This process is essentially political, because the ability to construct roles is subject to the power dynamics that exist between participants (Lawrence et al., 1999).
The relationship between role-like elements and power dynamics have been addressed in the positioning theory of Van Langenhove and Harré (1999), who instead of static ‘roles’ use a more fluid concept of ‘positions’, i.e. sets of rights and duties which are attributed to the participants in a social event such as a collaboration. While the relation between
communication and power has been taken into account in place marketing literature, the linguistic aspects have not yet been sufficiently elaborated.
For example, Kasabov and Sundaram (2013) have urged for research on the types of power which legitimizes the voice of certain groups in place marketing and branding practices.
The objective of this dissertation is to study the stakeholder collaboration in regional level place marketing projects by looking into these discursive processes. For this purpose, the study applies a conceptual framework which covers the discursive legitimation of place marketing practice (Article I), discursive dynamics of the collaboration (Article II), and the positioning process between participating stakeholders (Article III).
The overarching research question of the study is: How are the dynamics of place marketing collaboration constituted through broader societal discourses underpinning the collaboration?
The empirical part of the study is based on two regional level place marketing projects based in Eastern Finland, which are studied using three theoretical lenses, grounded on the discursive model of collaboration (Lawrence et al., 1999). These are presented in three respective research articles. This dissertation presents a summary of the overall work, and discusses intersections between the empirical findings and theoretical ideas presented in these articles. The articles set out to
answer the following research questions, which constitute different facets of the main research question:
1. How is place marketing practice discursively legitimated at the strate-gic level of the place marketing activity?
2. How is the common ground and the conflicts between participants constructed as part of the discursive dynamics of the collaboration?
3. How are the power dynamics of the collaboration constructed as posi-tioning acts between the participants?
These questions frame regional place marketing collaboration in a broader socio-cultural environment, and give insight to the links between them.
The discursive model of collaboration grounds this analysis to the key discursive dynamics of the collaboration. Methodologically, this study combines discourse and content analytic frameworks, which facilitate the study of the communicative processes of the collaboration.
2.2 Structure of the Dissertation
The common thread that spans the study is its social constructivist
orientation. Hence, the focus of the analysis is on an interpretation of the interactive processes though which social reality is produced. This covers the socially constructed legitimation strategies which are used to legitimate the place marketing activity, and the interactive processes between
stakeholders who participate in the collaborations. To operationalize social constructivist theory, the study adopts a conceptual framework which addresses the socially constructed nature of the collaborative activity, and how this activity is constituted though pre-existing discourses.
Chapter 3 presents the first part of the theoretical framework of the study. It begins with a brief review the history of place marketing practice, and continues to discuss regional level place marketing as a trend in
European regional development. The final part of the chapter concentrates
on stakeholder participation in place marketing activities, and the different challenges it presents.
Chapter 4 presents the second part of the theoretical framework, which frames place marketing as a collaborative process, and reviews previous literature. The chapter begins with a discussion on the general increase of partnerships in the regional development context. Next, the chapter moves on to discuss the communicative dynamics of collaboration from a discursive perspective, and describes the discursive model of collaboration of Lawrence et al., (1999). The final part of the chapter discusses
collaboration as a positioning process, and how this reflects the power dynamics of the collaboration.
Chapter 5 introduces the research context, research materials and methodology of the study. The first part of the chapter describes the geographical, historical and organizational context of the cases of North Karelia and Northern Savonia, and the interview and document data collected from these cases. Then the chapter describes the methodological approach, and data analysis method applied to analyze the research materials. The chapter concludes with considerations on the reliability and validity of the chosen methodological approach.
Chapter 6 presents the findings of the three articles. The chapter begins with a presentation of the findings on the discursive legitimation strategies that were found from key strategic documents of the place marketing project of North Karelia. The chapter proceeds to describe identified problematic issues which the steering group representatives considered to be involved with the place marketing project, the interests they had towards these issues, and the discursive struggles which emerged in the negotiation processes. The chapter closes with a discussion of how the positioning process between representatives reflects the power dynamics in the projects.
Chapter 7 presents the concluding remarks on the study, and focuses on generalising its findings and framing directions for future studies.
2.3 Situating the Articles
The themes of the articles are structured around the discursive model of collaboration by Lawrence et al., (1999), focusing on the antecedents and dynamics of collaborative processes. The outcomes of the collaboration (which constitute the third part of the model) fall outside the scope of this study, but findings from articles II and III do give some insight as to the outcomes of the collaborations.
Article I “Discursive construction of the legitimacy of a place marketing project: the case of North Karelia” looks into the antecedents of
collaboration, while Article II “Constructing Consensus and Conflicts:
Discursive Dynamics in Regional Place Marketing Collaboration” and Article III “Representation and power – Discursive constructions of stakeholder positions in regional place marketing collaboration” both focus on the dynamics of collaboration. Article II looks into the dynamics of the collaboration regarding negotiation on the issues which the place marketing project intends to address, and the interests the participants have towards these issues. Article III continues to study the dynamics of the collaboration, and focuses on how the representatives of the steering groups position their organizations and other participating stakeholders within the collaborations. Table 1 presents the key points of the articles.
Table 1. Article overview
Questions How is the legitimacy of a place marketing mem-bers of the 2 projects (part 1 of 3)
24 Semi-structured interviews for the steering group mem-bers of the 2 projects (part 2 of 3)