Archive for the ‘publications’ Category

“Charismatizing the Routine: Storytelling for Meaning and Agency in the Burning Man Organization” now available online and in print at Qualitative Sociology

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

To update a previous post, one of my papers on storytelling and Burning Man is now available online and in print at the peer-reviewed journal Qualitative Sociology. Moreover, a photo of Center Camp Cafe activities at Burning Man appears on the cover of the print copy of that issue!

Charismatizing the Routine: Storytelling for Meaning and Agency in the Burning Man Organization

Katherine K. Chen
Qualitative Sociology
Volume 35, Number 3 (2012), 311-334, DOI: 10.1007/s11133-012-9229-1

Abstract
Expanding organizations face the routinization of charisma dilemma in which rationalization, or everyday organizing activities, drains meaning and depresses agency. Using an ethnographic study of the organization behind the annual Burning Man event, I show how storytelling can combat disenchantment by promoting consideration of agency and meaning-making. This research demonstrates how storytelling infuses organizational rationality with meaning and agency, thereby “charismatizing the routine.” Through storytelling, people can derive meaning from even the most mundane routines and inspire listeners to imagine possibilities not covered by rules or conventions. Stories also stave off bureaucratic ritualism by clarifying the boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate activities, encouraging a range of actions over coercive restrictions.

Keywords Charisma – Charismatizing the routine – Meaning – Organization – Storytelling

You can also download some of my other academic and general publications and view links here.

“Organizing creativity” now available in Sociology Compass journal

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Looking for an overview of social science research on conditions that enhance or constrain creativity in organizations? See my just published Sociology Compass article “Organizing Creativity: Enabling Creative Output, Process, and Organizing Practices.” This article pulls together findings from organizational sociology (including my own research on the organization behind Burning Man), cultural sociology, psychology, and organizational studies.

Here is the abstract:
“Abstract

How individuals can exercise creativity in collectivities is unclear. We thus need to more thoroughly investigate the ‘black box’ of organizational creativity. Future research should consider creativity in a variety of organizations, rather than just those that are known for creative outputs or practices. In addition, we need to examine what I call everyday, relational, and proto-institutional forms of organizational creativity. Intra- and inter-organizational aspects can enhance or depress such organizational creativity: (1) within the organization’s boundary: internal interactions among organizational members and (2) outside the organization’s boundary: the surrounding organizational environment or field, which include competing or supporting organizations, other organizational actors, and the state. These two aspects pose dilemmas about how to organize that can constrain or enhance organizational creativity. In addressing these dilemmas, organizations must mediate between under- and over-organizing extremes. Organizations can enable creativity by incorporating changing interests and conditions. Organizations can eschew convention, increase rank-and-file involvement with corresponding authority, tolerate ambiguity and deviance, encourage improvisation, and support members’ diverse experiences and perspectives.”

“Charismatizing the Routine: Storytelling for Meaning and Agency in the Burning Man Organization” now available online at Qualitative Sociology

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

One of my papers on storytelling and Burning Man is now available online at the peer-reviewed journal Qualitative Sociology. The print version of this article is forthcoming, and hopefully my photo of activities at Burning Man will be on the cover of that issue!

Charismatizing the Routine: Storytelling for Meaning and Agency in the Burning Man Organization

Katherine K. Chen

Qualitative Sociology, Online First™, 6 June 2012

Abstract
Expanding organizations face the routinization of charisma dilemma in which rationalization, or everyday organizing activities, drains meaning and depresses agency. Using an ethnographic study of the organization behind the annual Burning Man event, I show how storytelling can combat disenchantment by promoting consideration of agency and meaning-making. This research demonstrates how storytelling infuses organizational rationality with meaning and agency, thereby “charismatizing the routine.” Through storytelling, people can derive meaning from even the most mundane routines and inspire listeners to imagine possibilities not covered by rules or conventions. Stories also stave off bureaucratic ritualism by clarifying the boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate activities, encouraging a range of actions over coercive restrictions.

Keywords Charisma – Charismatizing the routine – Meaning – Organization – Storytelling

You can also download some of my other academic and general publications and view links here.

Two peer-reviewed articles on (1) artistic prosumption and (2) the development of several departments within the Burning Man organization now available

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Two of my peer-reviewed journal articles about (1) the Burning Man organization and the arts and (2) the development of several Burning Man departments – the Black Rock Rangers, DPW, and the Tech Team – are now available in print and on-line.

You can also download some of my other academic and general publications and view links here. Please email me with a request if you or your institution does not have access to a particular article that is in print.

1. Chen, Katherine K. 2012. “Artistic Prosumption: Cocreative Destruction at Burning Man.” American Behavioral Scientist 56(4): 570-595.

Researchers have called for more studies of how organizations institutionalize the unfamiliar as taken for granted. This study answers this call by examining how an organization has advocated an unfamiliar activity, the prosumption of art. To show how particular means and ends become taken for granted, this research analyzes how the Burning Man organization has promoted a logic advocating the prosumption of art. Using an in-depth ethnographic study of the organization behind Burning Man, a weeklong gathering of 50,000 persons around a ceremonial bonfire of a 40-foot-tall sculpture in the Nevada Black Rock Desert, the author shows how the Burning Man organization codified and advocated what she identifies as an inclusive community logic, a set of beliefs and practices that promote artistic prosumption. Members sought to expand who may produce art by recasting producers and consumers as prosumers, what kind of art is produced by encouraging interactions via prosumption, and how art is consumed by imbuing prosumption with specific meaning via connection. However, conflicts about whether particular actions support or undercut the inclusive community logic have not only challenged the Burning Man organization’s authority to shape prosumption but also forced organizers to clarify the ambiguous contours between appropriate and inappropriate activities. This research makes three contributions: (a) It reveals how an organization can facilitate new conceptions of activities by promulgating a logic that highlights contrasts between not-yet-familiar and conventional means; (b) it delves into how an organization adjudicates among competing conceptions of appropriate activities, illuminating the promotion of prosumption specifically and the emergence of a logic generally; and (c) it synthesizes three separate literatures on the sociology of organizations, prosumption, and art.

2. Chen, Katherine K. 2012. “Laboring for the Man: Augmenting Authority in a Voluntary Association.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations 34:135-164.

Abstract: Drawing on Bourdieu’s field, habitus, and capital, I show how disparate experiences and “dispositions” shaped several departments’ development in the organization behind the annual Burning Man event. Observations and interviews with organizers and members indicated that in departments with hierarchical professional norms or total institution-like conditions, members privileged their capital over others’ capital to enhance their authority and departmental solidarity. For another department, the availability of multiple practices in their field fostered disagreement, forcing members to articulate stances. These comparisons uncover conditions that exacerbate conflicts over authority and show how members use different types of capital to augment their authority.