Sub-theme 09: (SWG) Artifacts in Art, Design, and Organization

Stefan Meisiek
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Daved Barry
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Roberto Verganti
Politecnico de Milan, Italy

Call for Papers


Artifacts – their making, presence, and interpretation – play a critical role in how art, design and organization come together. Exploratory sketches, tangible models, prototypes, side productions, tools, analogues, and a variety of boundary objects focus variously and decenter attention, enrich and strip meaning, organize and disperse social structures. They foster conversations and conceptualizing, confirm professional identities, defamiliarize habituated understandings, and connect knowledge across domains.

Earlier studies have provided evidence for the central role of artifacts, for example, as epistemic objects in architectural work (Ewenstein & Whyte, 2009), as cultural prototypes that embody a meaning in product and service design (Verganti, 2009), as analogous artifacts in the workarts (Barry & Meisiek, 2010), or as boundary objects in the organizational designs of open source projects (O'Mahony & Bechky, 2008). Alessi and Philips, to mention two cases, use a combination of prototypes, scenarios, websites, videos, books, and storyboards to develop their businesses. Further, scholars have examined the material affordances of artifacts (Krippendorf, 2006; Taylor & Statler, 2010), and the aesthetic properties of artifacts that were involved in art or design-inspired work (Barry & Meisiek, 2010). All of these streams of research have evolved rather independently of one another, and all are still in their infancy. They look at different mixes of art, design, and organization, they draw on different methods, and they are based on very different theoretical assumptions.

A key difference is around whether one adopts a more hermeneutical-interpretive perspective or a practice-based view on artifacts. Scholars of practice usually follow the thinking of Bourdieu, Giddens, and DeCerteau, and look at what people do around their artifacts and how they interact with one another along a number of artifact-invoked practices. In contrast, scholars who regard objects as symbols that need interpretation are mostly interested in the imagination, divergence, and change-potential that surround artifact-making.

Where do all of these diverse approaches and the artifacts under scrutiny lead us?

What sets them apart, where could they converse fruitfully with one another, and what could a research agenda for the coming years that enriches organization studies look like? What epistemological difficulties and possibilities arise in the study of artifacts in art, design, and organization?


To begin answering these questions, we invite submissions that deal with artifacts in art, design and organization. We propose running the sub-theme in a studio environment where we can explore the ideas contributed by participants using a method more aligned with art and design than with organization studies. This will bring interested participants together in an interactive format.

Topics appropriate to our track include, but are not restricted to:

  • Tools and playthings as evocative objects in organizations
  • The interelationship between boundary objects, imagination, and creativity in organizational processes
  • Analogous artifacts in the workarts
  • Cultural prototypes in product and service design
  • Epistemic artifacts in designing and design practice
  • Representations and presentations of work, strategic thinking, and business processes
  • Tangible business modeling
  • Tools of the trade, and their role in organizing
  • Artifacts in networked organizations
  • Artifacts in collaborative innovation processes


Interested? If so, please submit a short paper (maximum 3,000 words) summarizing what you are doing in this area and/or thinking of doing. Please feel free to propose activities for the group in its studio context, or to offer more traditional forms of thinking appropriate to our themes.


Stefan Meisiek 
Daved Barry 
Roberto Verganti