— Cultural Sources of Newness

Archive
November 2011 Monthly archive

Last week I found an article by Madeleine Akrich that was published in 1998, even before I went to University. So I feel like I am really lagging behind. Mais, mieux vaut tard que jamais. In her paper, the Engineer, Sociologist and Director of the Centre for the Sociology of Innovation (CSI) in Paris focuses on users as innovators. These 14 pages on les utilisateurs, acteurs de l’innovation made my day — not only because it took very long to read it in French but also because it offers a good point of departure to think about valorisation practices, the interaction of experts and amateurs or the role of platforms for exchanging experiences and knowledge.

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For an academic like me, reading the reflections of an artistic director on the way to work at the WZB in the morning is both stimulating and threatening. Richard Foreman is the founder and artistic director of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater in New York. He contributed reflections to the collection of essays I have been travelling around with for the past couple of weeks: Culture. Leading scientists explore societies, art, power, and technology (edited by John Brockman). He offers two images of himself as a knowing being:  

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Italy is the seat of the Roman Catholic papacy and of …… aesthetics. Antonio Strati from the University of Trento is essentially the research pope of the field “aesthetics and organizations,” which is “an original and critical European contribution to the study of organizations” (p.889).  Antonio’s most recent article in Sociology Compass takes an inclusive approach to surveying the theoretical development and the methodological state of the art of work in the field.   

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What do we researchers do to overcome the frustrations that affect us at work, after a bad meeting or a negative review, for example? A mini-survey conducted among colleagues reveals a range of strategies: 

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Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner takes many hours, but most of the work is done by the turkey and the oven, leaving me free to read and write. Periodic trips away from my desk to baste, chop and stir give me time to think. The discovery of W. Brian Arthur’s chapter on “Does Technology Evolve” is reason enough to be thankful for today. The chapter grabbed me from the very first lines:

“In my career I have looked at very disparate subjects or areas of interest…. I’m getting to an age now where I can start to look back and think, What on earth was all that about? What was the common thread? I realize there is a common thread and it’s very deep inside me.” (p.219)

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Vor ein paar Tagen konnte ich dabei sein, als die Mitarbeiter des Amts für öffentliche Beleuchtung von Lyon in einem Park Lichtinstallationen ausprobierten – in Vorbereitung auf die Fête des Lumières, das renommierte Lichtfest der Stadt. Dabei fiel immer wieder ein Ausdruck, der mir so gut gefiel, dass ich ihn im Wörterbuch nachgeschlagen habe:

Mettre en valeur: erschließen; nutzbar machen; hervorheben; zur Geltung bringen; arbeiten lassen…

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Vortrag (leicht gekürzt) von Michael Hutter am WZB 18.11.2011

Im Zentrum des Forschungsprogramms unserer Abteilung steht Neuheit. Im Deutschen ist es doppeldeutig – sowohl Objekt als auch Eigenschaft. Im englischen ist das nicht möglich, da müssen wir uns festlegen, und wir haben ‚newness’ gewählt – uns geht es primär um die Eigenschaft der Neuheit, die einem Objekt oder einer Handlung zugesprochen wird. Irgendetwas war bislang nicht da oder wurde zumindest nicht wahrgenommen, jetzt wird es wahrgenommen, und wird für bedeutend genug gehalten, um das Prädikat ‚neu’ zu bekommen.

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During the course on research methods for managers I co-taught at Audencia Nantes yesterday I learned from my colleague, Sandrine Stervinou, that her studies on employee-owned companies (SCOP) in the region are showing that they were more crisis-resistant and had more women in leadership than their competitors with other forms of governance. Any connection? The research continues. Co-teaching with good colleagues is energizing and a great source of learning for me.

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In response to my question in a recent post about integrating arts into business school curricula, Nancy Adler sent me this powerful speech she gave recently in Slovenia at the 25th anniversary celebration of the IEDC Bled School of Management. She honors the school as “the world’s premier business education artists”. Nancy’s numerous recent publications have emphasized the theme of “beautiful leadership” and she develops it further in this speech, introducing new images and exploring the concept of serendipity.

She has kindly permitted us to reproduce the speech in its entirety here–and there is valuable additional information in the endnotes that follow the helpful list of references.

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While listening to the choir rehearse before the morning service today, I read a book published in 1985 and was transported back into the days we used basic typewriters. It is a slim little volume that reports on the experimental use of art-based learning in Ford Germany. The trigger for trying out new approaches to training young people in the company at the time was the recognition that the new work processes increasingly required employees not just to follow instructions but to be capable of “independently recognizing and resolving problems” (selbständiger Problementdeckung und Problemlösung fähig sein” p. 1).

Such experiments were not rare in the 1980s: the authors mention activities in other companies like Voith in Heidenheim, BEA in Düsseldorf, BSH in Krefeld; Barthels-Feldhoff in Wuppertal, Wulf & Co in Bramsche; Philips in Wetzlar. (footnote 7, p. 5). This particular project was supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Science and accompanied by the Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung.

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