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Connections in Action: Keeping Track of Large Social Phenomena using Relational and ‘Micro-sociological’ approaches

An international workshop at the University of Warwick, Coventry on 5 & 6 December 2016
Theme of the Workshop

One of the challenges that process, practice and organizational routine studies share with other micro-sociological approaches (Collins, 1981) is how to deal with some of the ‘big issues’ or ‘grand challenges’ of our times. Examples of such issues include the nature and functioning of financial markets, the rise and fall of large institutional arrangements, the global travel of idea and ideologies, inequality, the bureaucracy and its failures, climate change and the future of the planet.

While work in this direction starts to emerge (see for example work on financial markets by Jarzabkowski, Bednarek, & Spee, 2015; on climate change by Howard-Grenville, Buckle, Hoskins, & George, 2014; Wittneben, Okereke, Banerjee, & Levy, 2012; on globalization by Drori, Höllerer, & Walgenbach, 2014; and on big data by George, Haas, & Pentland, 2014), current theoretical and methodological approaches appear to be generally ill-equipped to grasp social phenomena that are increasingly “complex, dynamic, distributed, mobile, transient, and unprecedented” (Feldman & Orlikowski, 2011: 1240). As a consequence studies primarily concerned with understanding local situated action have been accused of ‘micro-isolationism’ (Seidl & Whittington, 2014) and therefore of little relevance outside academic circles. In contrast, studies describing large phenomena by focusing on macro-level dynamics and processes are accused of lacking practice relevance as practitioners struggle to grasp the relevance of these abstract ideas to their local practices and everyday work. Thus, scholarly attempts of grasping large social phenomena through their local enactments are also closely related to what can be done about them.

Aims

In this international workshop we aim to bring together scholars who explore how we can account for and keep track of large phenomena utilising existing and new ‘micro-sociological’ and relational approaches in organisation studies. Our aim is to (1) advance theorizing about large social phenomena, (2) re-imagine our methods of inquiry in a way that they are more productive in dealing with the complexity of contemporary organizing, (3) exchange about the challenges in doing this kind of research and (4) develop exemplary studies that pave the way for a new stream of research. The workshop will be speculative in character with the intent to learn from each other and generate new ideas through dialogue and listening.

Program

The program will include a mix of keynote presentations, interactive sessions in which participants can discuss their projects in small groups and a networking event. Confirmed keynote speakers are Paula Jarzabkowski, Barbara Czarniawska and Jennifer Howard-Grenville. The closing panel will include David Seidl, the three keynote speakers and the organizers. The workshop will be deliberately designed to be highly interactive, explorative and speculative.

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Workshop flyer (PDF Document)

For more information on the workshop please contact katharina.dittrich@uzh.ch or dawn.coton@wbs.ac.uk

Please submit your application to dawn.coton@wbs.ac.uk

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The workshop is partially supported by the generous contribution of the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies (SAMS)