— Cultural Sources of Newness

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Tag "EGOS"

The theme for the 2018 Annual conference of the European Group for Organization Studies EGOS, “Surprise in and around organizations: Journeys to the unexpected”,  immediately intrigued me because it resonated with my current research on paths into and out of academia. And the location was tantalizing: Tallinn, Estonia. So I joined forces with two adventurous colleagues—André Sobczak (Audencia Business School, Nantes, France) and Anna Svirina (Kazan National Research Technical University, Russia)—to invite submissions for a subtheme entitled “Journeys into the unexpected: Paths and identities in academia” .

However, as convenors we faced a significant challenge because “unexpected journey—academic conference” is an oxymoron. Academic conferences are highly ritualized and structured events.

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Under the theme of “Organizing in the shadow of power,” the 32nd EGOS conference  in Naples, Italy, July 7-9, 2016 offered multiple opportunities to consider the conditions under which occupied spaces can be sources of newness. More than 2,400 conference participants from around the world occupied essentially the entire Monte S. Angelo campus of the University of Naples Federico II. And during precisely those same days the fashion giant, Dolce & Gabanna,  occupied much of the seafront and the old town–with the help of innumerable police and security guards. The Arts, Design and Organizations  (ADO) track of EGOS continued its tradition of connecting to the host city, by visiting two very different cultural centers, one of which started when artists occupied a former monastery. What did we experience, and what can we learn from these various ways of occupying spaces?

Occupying spaces with arts and crafts in Naples

Discovering spaces to occupy with arts and crafts in Naples: LANIFICIO

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Conferences are interesting places for checking out how newness is generated. The professional purpose of these events is to share new research ideas and collect feedback in the hopes of getting their value recognized in the academic community. In other words, it is about establishing the newness of our work as scholars. The interactions between participants and with our materials in this process various kinds of moves between new and old. The EGOS 2014 symposium in Rotterdam this week, specifically in the track “Art, Design, and Organization” (ADO) offered a fruitful platform for observing and contributing to these moves.

Every year a new team of three ADO stream conveners develop a different approach to get us to walk the talk of combining art, design and organization in our process. As usual, all the participants had written and distributed our papers in advance, as required by EGOS. The conveners had sent us two kinds of instructions and one warning about the process they had designed for the 2.5 days: we were a) to prepare comments on the 4-5 papers in our subgroups and to look at the other papers in the track; b) to bring elements (e.g., image, object, recording) with which to introduce our paper in the opening session; and c) NOT to use Powerpoint presentation mode. Furthermore, they told us that the afternoon of the first day would be spent off-site at an arts school.

Pierre's Chair Installation

Pierre’s Chair Installation

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Conferences have such formatted spaces that just attending them becomes a burden.”

Two big themes officially set my agenda in Montréal these past few days, and I ensured I had the energy to work with them by making space and taking time for meaningful conversations inside as well as outside the program. The overall theme for this year’s EGOS conference was “Bridging Continents, Cultures and Worldviews, and the theme for the track I co-organized with Stefan Meisiek and Steve Taylor was “Identity in Art, Design, and Organization (ADO).”  In the ADO track we found various ways to break out of the burdensome conference format referred to above in an email I received from a colleague (who did not attend the conference). We interrupted our process a couple of times to listen to keynote speakers who addressed the overall conference theme.  

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