Putting Power in its Place: The Centrality of Edgelands
journal contributionposted on 2023-08-30, 16:56 authored by Alison Hirst, Michael Humphreys
Many organizations use spatial reconfiguration as an attempt to transform and modernize their work practices and external image. While most studies have focused on the way high status new offices are used to showcase putatively changed organizational practices, less attention has been paid to the peripheral sites which service them. Drawing on a longitudinal ethnographic study of an initiative to modernize a UK local authority via spatial redesign, we analyse the relationship between a new strategic centre office building and a paper storage unit situated in an ‘edgeland’. Edgelands are interfacial areas between town and country and are sites where essential but despised functions are located (Shoard, 1992). Based on an understanding of power as something that is created through relationships with nonhuman actors, we foreground the spatial and temporal agency of buildings, artefacts and places. We show how ‘modernization’ involves attempts to create a purified space constructed only from human and material actors deemed ‘modern’, and expel that which is designated as outdated. In our study, the edgeland site functioned to maintain the centre as a pristine environment in which fluid networking could flourish, and preserve the external image of the organization as transformed and modernized. Thus, we illustrate the dependence of high status workplaces on functions, objects and people which contradict projected desired images.
Publication titleOrganization Studies
- Accepted version