Ethnographic findings in the organizational theatre

Authors

  • JACOB BUUR,

    1. [Papers] is professor of user-centred design and research director of the SPIRE centre of participatory innovation research at the University of Southern Denmark.
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  • ROSA TORGUET

    1. [Papers] recently graduated from the IT Product Design graduate programme at the University of Southern Denmark.
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Abstract

In the quest for engaging ethnographic insight in organizations on a more fundamental level than mere ‘innovation drivers’, theatre offers ways of triggering a change in conversations through emotional engagement. This paper discusses the impact of using theatre with professional actors to convey the outcome of ethnographic ‘user studies’ to industry and academia. In a project on indoor climate control with five company partners, the field studies brought about controversial findings, like ‘Indoor comfort is what people make’– as opposed to something fully controlled by technology and ‘provided’ to inhabitants. We explore how theatre improvisation can convey such findings and thus support the provoking role that ethnography may play in organizations. Based on the study of two theatre sessions, we will articulate the importance of balance between playful and serious, of explorative discussion, and of supportive event planning and space layout to achieve audience engagement.

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