Sub-theme 58: Space and Materiality in Organizations

Perttu Salovaara
New York University, USA, & University of Tampere, Finland
Arja Ropo
University of Tampere, Finland
Donatella De Paoli
BI Norwegian School of Business, Norway

Call for Papers

"Space was treated as the dead, the fixed, the undialectical, the immobile." (Foucault, 1980: 70)

Space and materiality have in organizations studies been long taken for granted as something as an inevitable, neutral background. But leaving physical materiality of workplace and organizing unexamined has led organization studies to a situation where it's understanding and conceptualizations of organizing remain restricted (Orlikowski, 2007).

Recently one can observe a new interest in materiality and space in organization theories – both themes echoed in sessions at the EGOS Colloquia 2012 in Helsinki and 2013 in Montréal, and the material and spatial turn (e.g. van Marrewijk & Yanow, 2010; Clegg & Kornberger, 2006; Dale & Burrell, 2008) has evolved into studies in sociomaterial conceptualizations, too (e.g. Orlikowski, 2007; Carlile et al., 2013). Inspired partly by Lefebvre's (1991) notion of three-foldedness of space as conceived, perceived and lived space (cf. Taylor & Spicer, 2007), new approaches conceptualize space as a sociomaterial, performative process (Beyes & Steyaert, 2012) and as a mutual constitution (Hernes et al., 2006; Yanow, 2010).

This sub-theme is based on a notion that our experience of spaces, places, cityscapes, artefacts and materiality is a lived experience in a relation between the social (human) and the material condition. Spatial aesthetics refers to different kinds of "sensory knowledge and felt meaning" (Hansen et al., 2007) and to sensory knowledge as an embodied experience (Strati, 1999; 2007). We experience spaces, places, artefacts, materials, and physicality through our bodies – by seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting –, and our embodied experiences, traditions, memories and intuitive knowledge affect that experience (e.g. Bachelard, 1994; Martin, 2002; Ropo et al., 2013; Tuan, 1977).

The empirical materials to this sub-theme can relate to, but are not limited to symbols, workspace, creative spaces, virtual spaces, mythical spaces, buildings, home, city, nation, nature, leadership, technology, and physical or deserted constructions. As sociomateriality and aesthetic, embodied knowledge represent relatively unexamined approaches, we encourage the use of various media, ranging from pictures, film/video, and social media to artistic forms (theatre, music, dance, …).

We offer an interactive sub-theme that we wish to combine theory and practice, thus to reveal unexamined issues in organizations can even ethically (Carlile et al., 2013) add to an understanding of our fields of study. Additionally, we will include extracts of two documentary films to inspire the discussion and considerations about methodology.




  • Bachelard, G. (1994): The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Beyes, T., & Steyaert, C. (2012): "Spacing organization: non-representational theory and performing organizational space." Organization, 19 (1), 45–61.
  • Carlile, P.R., Nicolini, D., Langley, A., & Tsoukas, H. (eds.) (2013): How Matter Matters. Objects, Artifacts, and Materality in Organization Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Clegg, S., & Kornberger, M. (eds.) (2006): Space, Organizations and Management Theory. Copenhagen: Liber & Copenhagen Business School Press.
  • Dale, K., & Burrell, G. (2008): Spaces of Organization and the Organization of Space. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Foucault, M. (1980): Power/Knowledge. Selected Interviews & Other Writings, 1972–77. Edited by C. Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books.
  • Hansen, H., Ropo, A., & Sauer, E. (2007): "Aesthetic leadership." Leadership Quarterly, 18 (6), 544–560.
  • Lefebvre, H. (1991): The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Martin, Y. (2002): "Sensations, bodies, and the spirit of a place: Aesthetics in residential organizations for the elderly." Human Relations, 55 (7), 861–885.
  • Orlikowski, W.J. (2007): "Sociomaterial practices: Exploring technology at work." Organization Studies, 28 (9), 1435–1448.
  • Ropo, A., Sauer, E., & Salovaara, P. (2013): "Embodiment of leadership through material place." Leadership, 9 (3), 378–395.
  • Taylor, S., & Spicer, A. (2007): "Time for space: A narrative review of research on organizational spaces." International Journal of Management Reviews, 9 (4), 325–346.
  • Tuan, Y.-F. (1977): Space and Place. The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Van Marrewijk, A., & Yanow, D. (eds.) (2010): Organizational Spaces. Rematerializing the Workaday World. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.


Perttu Salovaara is Adjunct Associate Professor at New York University, Stern School of Business, USA, and Research Fellow at University of Tampere, School of Management, Finland. His current research interests include plural forms of leadership, spatial leadership, coworking movement, and sociomateriality.
Arja Ropo is Professor of Management and Organization at the University of Tampere, School of Management, Finland. Her current research interests involve spatial leadership, embodiment of leadership, organizational aesthetics and visual methods.
Donatella De Paoli is Associate Professor in Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway. Having researched arts and cultural management, her current main research interests are about how leadership gets constructed in different places and spaces, leadership in virtual space and open-plan offices, and symbolics of creative workspaces.