Filming the organized human

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As long ago as 1968 Dwight Waldo of the UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies drew attention to the contributions that novelists had made to the understanding of organization and administration. Waldo argued that the study of management and administration 2must establish a working relationship with every major province in the realm of human learning”l Czarniawska-Joerges and Guillet de Monthoux (1994) drew on Waldo to argue that good novels can make for better management. Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard educationalist and medic Robert Coles (1989) demonstrated the power of storytelling in developing the “moral imagination” of legal and medical professionals who had to make moral and ethical decisions affecting the lives of others. In 2011, Colby et al, in what has come to be known as the Carnegie 2 Report, pointed out that although the landmark “Carnegie 1” (Pierson 1959) had inaugurated the LERCAT paradigm (logical empiricism, rational choice and agency theory) which has dominated the field ever since, the report itself had argued for greater balance that included the humanities, although this steer was never followed amidst the frenzy of economic physics-envy. As Waldo put it, the point was not just to “increase administrative effectiveness, efficiency and economy – the long accepted criteria – but to extend administrative horizons, sharpen administrative vision, and – dare I say it? – increase administrative wisdom.” (Waldo 1994: ix). Some recent calls for the humanities to be reintegrated into management education have fallen into the trap opened up by Carnegie 1 that the management humanities might be constructed as the conscience of the management sciences, sitting on the manager’s right shoulder to steer his poised finger away from the decision-making button that will consign jobs and lives to the darkness. This, of course, is just as much of a fantasy as LERCAT, or Wall Street’s “Greed is Good”. Waldo, as I read him, expects more integration – more Kierkegaardian willingness to risk being wrong because you feel a decision is morally right. If the humanities are about anything it’s engaging with the mess that it is to be human, which means that the humanities are by definition messy. Humanities in crisis? The humanities are crisis and the mobility it represents: living with it, and in it. Beyond it? Well, maybe, but don’t expect too much. Critically exploring and reinventing the human? Aren’t we in reality in the midst of doing that on an everyday basis – whilst of course being explored and invented at the same time - when we allow the illusion of doing otherwise to slip? The call for this stream echoes Grey’s (2003) call for “license to think freely” in which researchers become “more inclusive and contextually sensitive by engaging with the disciplines of the humanities – history, literature, classics, philosophy, religion, law, ethics, languages, the fine and performing arts”. Interestingly, film isn’t singled out here, perhaps because it already has its own corners of the fine arts, the performing arts and even philosophy (with more than a century of cinematic thought) and has engaged with all of the rest on this list. The visual turn in management studies has included some work on film as a mode of humanistic inquiry (Nesteruk 2015); reflections on how digital technologies are changing the face of management education to be more humanistic (Billsberry, J. 2013; Schultz, P. L. and Quinn, A. S. 2014); and how video methods can help participatory work by including a filmmaker in the research team. Alvarez et al (2004) argued for the utility of bringing movie directors into the classroom, but the development of management researchers and scholars as movie makers themselves remains, at best nascent. Yet if we are serious about bringing the humanities together in our research, this surely is a step we need to take – our students are already taking it anyway. But is it more that some sort of meta-representational medium through which the other humanities speak or express themselves? Can film itself be research? In our field? (Wood et al 2017). In 2018, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the country’s umbrella research funding body, through its arm the Arts and Humanities Research Council, at its annual Research in Film Awards, held at BAFTA, gave its Blue Riband Award of Best Research Film, to a short film made by a Management School academic (Linstead 2017). This was the first time it had happened, which won’t surprise you, although that it happened at all should raise an eyebrow. The film has been featured in dedicated reports in the Times, a double page centre spread in the Daily Mirror, has a BBC Online page, and was covered by BBC TV and ITV news, as well as BBC and Independent Radio, had its own TV run, has been acquired for the British Film Institute Archive Collection, gathered over 50 selections and awards. A performance based roadshow featuring it has begun touring and played the Edinburgh Fringe, and the roadshow/soundtrack CD has received and is receiving airplay and reviews. As far as can be determined by methods currently available, its various modes have had around 7 million views/reads/listens to date. Film is taken seriously as research by a broad spectrum of consumers. The film Black Snow (Linstead 2017) was an output funded by a grant from the UK Heritage Lottery Fund OH-15-6509 in partnership with the charity People and Mining and the National Union of Mineworkers, the purpose of which was to support a broader commemorative and educational intiative by making a short historical documentary. On December 12/13, 1866, 361 men and boys were killed in an explosion at the Oaks Colliery in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK. Despite being the world's worst industrial loss of life in the 19th century, it remained relatively unremembered until 2015, when a group of ex-miners, trade unionists, and local historians attempted to raise money to erect a memorial for its 150th anniversary. Included in the grant was provision for doctoral-level intern to advise on the diverse range of historical resources the film needed to draw on, including contested accounts of the numbers of dead involved, and the exact cause of the initial explosion. What emerged was a contradictory set of accounts with no definitive version of events – the two official reports laid on Parliament on May 7 1867 largely concurred but favoured different causes, and although Parliament accepted the number of dead as being 361, there was no definitive list of names, and none of the lists that existed documented that total (and those that existed were fraught with error). Remembering the disaster was therefore challenged by a degree of uncertainty as to what exactly was being remembered. This was a practical issue for the memorial,as the volunteers and donors wanted to see a definitive list of names “carved in stone”. But first, they had to find out what happened, and to whom, and whether anybody cared. Access was enabled to a range of sources held in local libraries, private collections and the NUM archive, many of which had not been consulted, and a number of these were made available to the public for the first time as we digitised them in the process of carrying out our research. The film Black Snow emerged from a process that was both organic and disciplined, artistic and technological, narratively both creative and precise, as a 23 minute documentary that tells three interlocking stories: the story of a historical community devastated by the disaster, struggling to survive; the story of a contemporary community, decimated by the loss of industry, rediscovering itself in the struggle to remember; and the story of a sculptor, struggling to make one last masterpiece, finding that he was also caught up in the historical narrative. The film offers an emotional narrative that seeks to explore history as a living phenomenon in the present and givers an account of an extraordinary achievement by ordinary people. Local ex-miners and their families were used to voice historical characters, share their stories, guide us both above and below ground. and even recreate the disaster itself through Virtual Reality footage. Drawing on this experience I propose to present a rather practical show and tell demonstration of some of the principles and techniques of making a high quality research film. Stream participants will have online access to the film (it can be viewed on a variety of devices including a mobile phone) before the conference, and I will therefore focus on the backstory to its making, with shot by shot illustrations of how and why a sequence was put together and the part the elements play in this. General aesthetic compositional principles for critically affective performance texts are discussed in Linstead (2018), and I will refer to these only in passing, focussing more on the experience of writing/directing/editing and, most especially, working with others and embracing their innate creastivity. My training is in ethnographic documentary, but in the film I will discuss there is some displacement and extension of the classic “following people around with a camera” mode. There’s less fly-on-the-wall and fly-in-the soup than fly-talking-to-other-flies-about-soup,fly-trying-to-create-a-world-that-was-real-for-longdead-flies and fly-trying-to-make-a-bit-of-art-for-non-flies. I’ll use and adapt the framework set out by Callahan (2015): Pre-Production: selecting cinematic topics, approaches and sources for engaging the extraordinary everyday; Production: Hospitality-as-method for involving others; Post-production: editing-as-critique for an affective strategy. Throughout this I’ll address my position as what Ruth Behar (1996) calls a “vulnerable observer” – only ethnography that gets to you is likely to produce film that might get to others, and what to do when your vulnerable others reach their hierophanic spaces (Poulos 2009). I’ll also discuss my inherently Deleuzian rhizomatic position (Stewart 2007) in terms of what art educators have come to call A/R/Tography and show what that means in practice (Irwin 2013; Irwin et al 2006). As Irwin et al put it: A/r/tography is a research methodology that entangles and performs what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987) refer to as a rhizome. A rhizome is an assemblage that moves and flows in dynamic momentum. The rhizome operates by variation, perverse mutation, and flows of intensities that penetrate meaning, […] It is an interstitial space, open and vulnerable where meanings and understandings are interrogated and ruptured. Building on the concept of the rhizome, a/r/tography radically transforms the idea of theory as an abstract system. So although it might not appear so, especially from a LERCAT perspective in making film in the way that I do, I consider myself to be doing theory, and I think that this offers enormous scope for the integration of a range of humanities into management and organizational thought, without the risk of foreclosing moral or intellectual outcomes. References Alvarez, J. L., Miller, P., Levy, J., & Svejenova, S. (2004). Journeys to the self: Using movie directors in the classroom. Journal of Management Education, 28, 335-355. Behar, R. (1996) The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart New York, NY: Beacon Billsberry, J. (2013) From Persona Non Grata to Mainstream: The Use of Film in Management Teaching as an Example of How the Discipline of Management Education Is Changing Journal of Management Education 37(3) 299–304 Callahan, W. A. (2015) The Visual Turn in IR: Documentary Filmmaking as a Critical Method Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 43(3) 891–910. Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., Sullivan, B., & Dolle, J. (2011). Rethinking undergraduate business education: Liberal learning for the profession. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Coles, R. (1989) The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination. Boston, MA Houghton Mifflin. Czarniawska, B and Gagliardi, P (1994) Good Novels, Better Management: Reading Organizational Realities in Fiction London: Routledge Czarniawska, B and Gagliardi, P (2006) Management Education and Humanities London: Edward Elgar Hassard, J. Burns, D. Paula Hyde, P and Burns J-P (2018) A Visual Turn for Organizational Ethnography: Embodying the Subject in Video-Based Research Organization Studies, 39(10) 1403–1424 Irwin, R. L. (2013) Becoming A/r/tography, Studies in Art Education, 54:3, 198-215 Irwin, R. L. Ruth Beer, R. Springgay, S. Grauer, K. Xiong, G. & Bickel, B. (2006) The Rhizomatic Relations of A/r/tography, Studies in Art Education, 48:1, 70-88 Linstead, S. A. (2017) Black Snow. Director. Barnsley:b ellebete productions. Documentary film. Linstead, S. A. “Feeling the Reel of the ‘Real’: Framing the Play of Critically Affective Organizational Research between Art and the Everyday” Special Issue on Organizational Creativity, Play and Entrepreneurship, Organization Studies 39, 2-3, pp. 319–344 Nesteruk, J. (2015) Digital Storytelling: Bringing Humanistic Inquiry to Management Studies Journal of Management Education, 39(1) 141–152 Pierson, F. (1959). The education of American businessmen: A study of university-college programs in business administration. New York: McGraw-Hill. Poulos, C. (2009) Accidental Ethnography: An Inquiry into Family Secrecy Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Schultz, P. L. and Quinn, A. S. (2014) Lights, Camera, Action! Learning About Management With Student-Produced Video Assignments Journal of Management Education 38(2) 234–258. Statler M. and Guillet de Monthoux, P. (2015) Humanities and Arts in Management Education: The Emerging Carnegie Paradigm Journal of Management Education 39,1:3-15. Stewart, K. (2007) Ordinary Affects Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Waldo, D. (1968) The Novelist on Organization and Administration Berkeley CA: Institute of Government Studies. Wood, M. Salovaara, P. and Marti,L. (2018) Manifesto for filmmaking as organisational research Organization 25:6, 825-835
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2019
Event35th European Group for Organization Studies Colloquium: Enlightening the Future: The Challenge for Organizations - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jul 20196 Jul 2019
Conference number: Sub-Theme 26


Conference35th European Group for Organization Studies Colloquium
Abbreviated titleEGOS 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Film
  • Documentary
  • Organization studies
  • Pre-production
  • Post-production
  • Ethnogrpahy
  • Practice

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