Sub-theme 44: New sites/sights in organization: Changing orientations in organization studies

Damian O'Doherty
Christian De Cock
Swansea University, UK
Alf Rehn
Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Call for Papers

Whatever happened to 'organization'? The airport, the motorway service station, television soap operas, the dying village store, online role playing games, the system of streets and alleys in metropolitan cities, the abandoned parking lot, the funfairs and theme-parks, the panhandler's sidewalk; what space and time do these 'organizations' inhabit? In a sense these are spaces on the 'side of the road', derelict and deserted, wild and uncontained; but they are also sites of experiment and novelty, of future organization – simulation, media and virtuality. These juxtapositions read like a Borgesian Chinese encyclopedia that proposes a kind of heterotopia suggestive of a new field of enquiry in organization studies that might force changes in the methods and theory to which we have become accustomed. There was a time when researchers would enter recognisable buildings and business corporations operating in simple time and location (Chia, 1996) – state bureaucracries, the Western Electrical Company, the police force, the factory … These organizations seemed to operate on the integration of formal and informal administration. What significance and what relation do these emergent organizations we are mapping out have to more traditional forms of organization and the administrative science that studies them? Are they, perhaps, evidence of the much vaunted virtual organization or the global network organization? Or, do they represent an underside or supplementary 'other' – shifting sands of a vacillating shadow organization – a remainder somewhere both inside and outside the functional, bureaucratic lines and boxes that have come to represent the conventional modern organization. Consider the possibility that by extending organization studies to embrace these phenomena we get the chance to study what we might call ‘event’ organization, viral organization, or organization as spontaneous combustion. How does management rise to the challenge of these kinds of space/times in contemporary and embryonic organization?

In an age when new social networking communities are born, bloom, and wither in a matter of months, and where organization may just as well be a case of media spectacle or temporary assemblage of human and non-human actors, the question of which phenomena we study (or choose to ignore) becomes critical for the field. This sub-theme therefore wants to elicit a new kind of empiricism by inviting participants to explore the "white spaces" of organizing: those regions that are unmapped, unplanned, residing in the absences and interstices of representation. Thus we enjoin potential participants to re-vision organization beyond its predominant disciplinary conceptions, thereby taking organizations theory out to more creative pastures. We want to build upon work and invite papers that develop and advance those recent contributions to organization studies that have identified a whole series of new organizational sites: the city, popular culture, literature, sport and leisure... Alongside those sites/sights of organization mentioned we are interested in papers that explore, inter alia: the media-spectacle, the extra-terrestrial, 'simulated' communities, the mundane, rural desolation, corporate museums, Marc Augé's 'non-places', rose gardens, industrial ruins, red-light districts, penny arcades, the children’s playhouse... Opening up the study of organization to such an eclectic range of phenomena that forms a complex heterotopic space of ‘organizing’ may help to remind us that creativity, passion and innovation cannot take place without a struggle with boredom, ennui, frustration, and even despair. We are interested in the organizational properties of these often overlooked sites of organization but we are also keen to explore the relations they form with one another and with more conventional forms of administrative science and formal organization. How they can help develop, in other words, our 'sense of sight'?

In short, we seek to attract papers that are interested in new sights/sites in organization where the play of absence/presence is generative of complex twists and folds in the fabric of organization. In this context, between and betwixt, we invite papers that, for example:

  • Study spaces normally not seen as organizations but which have organizational properties; those less easily defined marginal territories that are usually forgotten but within which passionate energies conflagrate
  • Explore the interfaces and crossing points between organization studies and "nearby" fields such as urban and rural studies, criminology, cultural anthropology, and so on

  • Find original ways of seeing or representing the 'spirit of capitalism' as we are about to enter the second decade of the 21st century

  • Explore the ways in which 'normality' is constructed in organization studies, and how things are written out of it

  • Open up novel empirical fields in the 'badlands', wastelands and borderlands of organization studies

  • Theorize the future of an extended and reconceived organization studies

Damian O'Doherty 
Christian De Cock 
Alf Rehn