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Material Objects, Meaning and Workplace Identity

Betts, Jan (2015) Material Objects, Meaning and Workplace Identity. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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This thesis explores the impact of material objects on people’s identity at work. I address the significance of this question, arguing that materiality, particularly the place it holds in the lives of individuals, has been less considered in relation to people at work than in other disciplines such as consumer studies. My research questions are: to consider how people conceptualise objects at work, to ask how objects and people are mutually implicated at work and to identify how this interactivity impacts on people’s identity at work. I review studies on material objects in organizations and studies on identity, using literature from organization studies and psychology . My data collection uses a qualitative approach based on participant-led photography. The literature review had raised the issue of many studies focusing on people at the same level in an organization. In order to develop this work, the participant group were selected from multiple organizations and different levels of employment. Participants were asked to photograph all objects in their immediate working spaces which had meaning for them. They were then asked about the meaning of the objects and completed a repertory grid analysis exercise. The thesis’ contributions consist in a specific focus on the place of materiality in identity in organizations for a wide range of workers. It draws on psychology in its use of mixed methods. It develops previous work in offering a view of materiality in practice as both representational and performative, affording practices and meeting areas of lack. It indicates that objects act as a collection through their connection to personal values which otherwise have no means of expression in the social and legal ordering of the workplace. It is recommended that organizations take cognizance of, and respect, the place which things seen as personal objects play at work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
Depositing User: Janet Betts
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2016 13:02
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2016 13:02

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