NINA WAKEFORD

Contributed Articles

Power Point and the Crafting of Social Data

NINA WAKEFORD In this paper I suggest that we should take a closer look at how we use PowerPoint. Authoring and presenting via PowerPoint is an invisible yet pervasive part of the work involved in corporate ethnography. Rather than being a pointer to a text elsewhere PowerPoint both produces the evidence of having done the ethnographic work as well as being expected to constitute the ethnographic analysis. The challenge of such software is not that it offers the wrong cognitive style, but that presentations are ‘thick’ social events, rather than ‘thin’ devices for knowledge transfer. Drawing on recent writing in Science and Technology Studies, these thick events can be thought of as continually creating hybrids or co(a)gents. In order to maintain a critical and reflexive practice we need to develop ways of keeping open the relationship between the researcher and the PowerPoint, such as leaving traces of our own relationship to the participants within the slides, or experimenting with different kinds of time-based media....

Craft, Value, and The Fetishism of Method

NINA WAKEFORD In order to set the scene for the panel on methods, I will be drawing on C Wright Mills’ injunction to avoid the fetishism of method. Mills urges us to think about our methods in terms of a process of craft production. I want to explore what key elements of this craft might be, beyond the usual focus on actual techniques such as interviewing or ethnographically informed data collection. Foregrounding the papers in the session, I will examine ideas of value, temporality and transformation (and perhaps even transgression)....

Replacing the Network Society with Social Foam: A Revolution for Corporate Ethnography?

NINA WAKEFORD What would it mean for corporate ethnography to think of society not as a network, but rather as an agglomeration of bubbles that constitute foam? The article offers a comparison of the metaphors of network and foam and their implications for the analysis of contemporary sociality. It draws on the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s theory that we live not in one mono-spherical society but rather in apluralityofmicro-spherestobedescribedassocialfoam. Anemphasisonatmospheres,affectand contagiousness follows from this conceptualization of the social world. These consequences are discussed, and some suggestions offered of how Sloterdijk’s ideas might shift the focus of corporate ethnography. Although primarily a conceptual intervention, the article also describes how organizational theory has started to deploy the concept of social foam. It concludes with a reexamination, through a focus on atmospheres, of a previous study undertaken at Intel, which shifts the emphasis of the analysis....