Organization, hollow

This is a short movie, occupying a space somewhere between the experiment and the documentary. It is born out of a long-term research project I’m conducting regarding alternative forms of academic publication and expression, a project that has resulted in the publishing house Dvalin (http://www.dvalin.org) and various other mutations, and thus clearly an idea looking for a home. My interest here has been to adopt new technologies and see how these can be deployed to play around with our notions of academic propriety, but also to mess around in the borderlands of both thinking and seeing.

Particularly this interest is due to a certain frustration I have regarding what I feel is a dangerous aversion towards technology among many organizational researchers. Most scholars still seem stymied by technologies beyond copiers and email, and the field feels poorer due to this. For all our access to computers and digital technology, we still feel most content when we keep to the hard-to-fuck-up word processing program. So I have started to playing around with digital video, finally, and have started to think about the possibilities of documentary film in the field of organization studies. With our stated love of the ethnography, it is odd to note that most academics still seem to find even photography threateningly ‘arty’ and ‘odd’ (cf. Sam Warren’s article on photography in ephemera, 2(3): 224-245). So perhaps this is a methodological comment.

But this piece is also born out of a feeling I have, a sense that we pay far too much interest to the hustle-bustle of modern life, to the extreme activity of contemporary capitalism. I’ve long been interested in the less obvious stasis of modern life, the continuous mundaneity of it all. Whereas most social science seems occupied with documenting the extremes – or even creating it through sensationalism or ideology – the everyday, that which exists in the spaces we do not immediately recognize as interesting, has often not been studied at all. Studies of violent oppression and extraordinary strategies abound, but the mundane, which after all is the most common form of life (or non-life) is seen as uninteresting. Why is this? So I walked through an abandoned office, with my digital videocam, thinking about the traces and the absences of organizational behavior. I realized I was inspired by Marc Augé’s Non-places. Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (New York: Verso Books, 1995), in that I wanted to look to the ways in which we try to imbue places with meaning that may not be there. The lounge in Stockholm looks like the lounge in New York, which looks like the one in Sydney. But so do the offices of the academics, jetting from conference to conference.

Somewhere behind the mad activity of the contemporary world, behind our cramped attempts to write meaning into everything we see around us, there is a stillness, a hiss, a mundaneity that we fail to acknowledge and engage with. I do not know how this should be inquired into, if we can even reach it, but I do think we should attempt to. So I wanted to see if the image of an empty corridor would jolt something in me. I’m still pondering this. It should be noted that the film plays around with this, and that it is intentionally constructed in a way that at times may feel boring or uncomfortable. Just as an organization, the film at times jolts from the mind-numbingly slow to the hectic pace of the supermodern.

Note that this is not art, nor do I make any claims to be an artist. That would be foolish. This is a documentation, a case study, a question. It tries to provoke some form of reaction, but it is not a provocation. It may be urging organizational scholars to explore the medium of digital film and the documentary, and can thus be viewed as a methodological note, but I want to leave a space for the viewer to make her own sense of it. Length – 12 min, 46 sec. Encoded in MPEG4 and saved as a Quicktime-movie, use Quicktime to view.

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