Sub-theme 52: Creating Organizational Life: Embodied Art, Aesthetics and Design

Wendelin M. Küpers
School of Management, Massey University, New Zealand
Arja Ropo
School of Management, University of Tampere, Finland
Matt Statler
Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University, USA

Call for Papers


This sub-theme invites papers and contributions that consider how various aspects of organizational life can be approached creatively and imaginatively. From a phenomenological perspective, all people involved in organizational and managerial processes are to be considered first and foremost as embodied sensual beings, embedded in lived situations of their specific 'life-worlds'. In this light, the sub-theme focuses on how pervasive, everyday practices associated with the disciplines of art, aesthetics, and design can shape the structural elements associated with organizational processes as well as provide meaning for the experiences of the people who participate in them.

Possible issues for papers of this sub-theme could include, for example:

  • The role of senses, feelings, emotions and imaginations (and further non-cognitive constituencies) for developing and perceiving design, and for integrating art and aesthetics in organization and management/leader- & followership – including, for example, critiques of the dualism of emotionality and rationality related to art, aesthetics, and design in the context of organization and management/leader- & followership;
  • The contribution of phenomenology and other philosophical approaches to render explicit the 'incorporated' significance of design (as part of) art and aesthetics for practices of organizing and managing;
  • Attempts to develop non-positivistic, a-causal, non-reductionist and non-reifying approaches and methodologies – including, for example, the relevance of sensation, the living body and embodiment for a post-Cartesian understanding of 'living' artful organizational events;
  • The potential of 'serious play' as a design practice for generating knowledge, insights and social formations in organizations through exploration, experimentation, rule bending, limit testing, and levity;
  • The potential of improvisation as an aesthetic competence and artistic performance that involves spontaneity and intution;
  • Phenomenological consideration of an 'aesthetics of imperfection' in designing, enabling the re-configuration of structural foundations of performance and favouring discovery and entrepreneurial action;
  • Dark sides of aesthetics and design – including, for example, critique of dangers and threats of an aestheticization in designing occupied with a functional appropriation and insidious manipulation;
  • Sense-making as giving (aesthetic) sense in design by enlivening and enhancing senses, beyond 'making'.

Possible questions could encompass for example:

  • How do aesthetic aspects and processes related to design structure the acting and interpretation of embodied contextual life in organizations? How do they give form, style, significance and value to design practice?
  • What are the ontological, epistemological, methodological and ethical implications associated with the reflection on and investigation of enacted aesthetics in organizational and managerial contexts?
  • Which artistic categories (e.g., beauty, ugliness, sublime, distaste) and genres are used most compellingly to describe the relationship between phenomena of art, aesthetics, design and other, more widely recognized organizational and managerial phenomena?
  • How do aesthetic perceptions and appreciations or disappreciations of design relate to influential phenomena of management, leader- & followership and organizations?

As sub-theme convenors, we assume that art, aesthetics and design need to be experienced in order to be approached and understood appropriately and creatively. Therefore, it is hoped that this sub-theme will unfold in practice as an experiential forum that allows participants to create meaning, and collectively envision possible worlds of alternative organizational and managerial futures.


Wendelin M. Küpers -
Arja Ropo 
Matt Statler