The purpose of this paper is to explore the narrative nature of organizational spaces and how these narratives influence human action. The study introduces a notion of “narrating space” that emphasizes a narrative construction of space that is dynamic and performative. The study joins the recent material and spatial turn in organization studies where spaces are not considered merely as a container or a context to organizational action, but as a dynamic and active force.
The study draws on the triadic conception of space of Henry Lefebvre (1991). Lefebvre developed three interconnected dimensions of space: conceived, perceived and lived space. Space can be conceived as an abstract architectural plan or perceived through the practice of space. The dimension that integrates these two is the lived space. Spaces are experienced through emotions, imagination and embodied sensations. Instead of being a passive object, spaces become active and performative through the human engagement. They carry narratives that change their form as time passes by. The study embraces aesthetic, embodied epistemology where sensuous perceptions are considered as valid knowledge.
The study applies an aesthetic and dynamic approach to space and illustrates how spaces carry performative and processual narratives. These narratives are based on lived experience through personal, embodied experience, memories and sensuous perceptions. The illustrations also show that narratives change over time.
A narrating space concept is characterized by being subjective, dynamic and temporal. Furthermore, it is pointed out that space is constructed through sense-based experiences. A metaphor of an amoeba is offered to depict the nature of the phenomenon. The amoeba metaphor points out that space narratives are dynamic and changing. The study adds to a better awareness of space as a sensuous narrative. Beyond being an isolated personal experience, the study and the illustrations enhance a material view to organizational narratives.
The study suggests that managers, architects and designers should take notice of spaces as narratives that involve temporal and sensuous experiences when planning and (re)designing work environments. Due to the subjective and temporal nature of organizational spaces they are manageable only to a limited extent. Therefore, to appreciate an active narrating nature of organizational spaces, employee involvement in planning and (re)designing spaces is encouraged.
First, the paper enhances the awareness of organizational spaces as sensuous narratives. Second, it adds a material aspect to narratives. Third, it advances an aesthetic and embodied approach to narrative organization research.
This paper forms part of a special section. The rhetoric and narratives in management research.
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