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Studies in Cultures, Organizations and Societies
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Organization as hypertext: A metaphor from visual cultures
Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale, Università di Trento Version of record first published: 21 Jun 2007.
To cite this article: Antonio Strati (1997): Organization as hypertext: A metaphor from visual cultures, Studies in Cultures, Organizations and Societies, 3:2, 307-324 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10245289708523500
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first of all. therefore. however. Vol. On the contrary. 1966). 3. it may be the faces of people. It investigates two metaphors of the organization which have their roots in visual cultures: the metaphor of taking a photograph of the organization. Nonaka and Takeuchi's metaphor of the hypertext organization relates to the creation of knowledge by organizations and to the constant innovation and competitive advantage that derives therefrom. The reader will find neither these nor similar subjects in this article. employ the metaphor of the hypertext found in visual cultures. Universita di Trento Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 This article argues that visual cultures exert a profound influence at the level of the metaphorical conceptions of organizational life. it may be organization charts and diagrams with statistics and production graphs. The topic of visual cultures and the study of organizational cultures induces us to think. It emerges that the metaphor of the photograph highlights the organizational knowledge which is incremental. Orgs..V. views and ideas in organization theories. 1997. These are two very different kinds of book. I refer specifically to the book by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi (1995). Both of them.Studies in Cults. the metaphor of the hypertext shows that organizational knowledge 'always has a subject'. it may be photographs of equipment or personnel. The diversity of these two metaphors in their conceptualisation of organizational life is illustrated. it may the organization's buildings. Published in The Netherlands by Harwood Academic Publishers Printed in India Organization as Hypertext: A Metaphor from Visual Cultures Antonio Strati Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale. 307-324 Reprints available directly from the publisher Photocopying permitted by license only O 1997 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) Amsterdam B. I have preferred to resume a previous proposal of mine that an organization should be considered as a hypertext (Strati 1996a). about what is immediately visible in the daily life of an organization. and that this subject may be conceived as internal to the organization and not as exclusively external to it. and they have done so more or less simultaneously with myself. and Socs. as well as their shared link with the aesthetic understanding of organization. This may be a logo. pp. both in terms of their authors' purpose and in terms of the audiences they address. Such knowledge is both explicit and tacit (Polanyi 1962. in order to reflect on another important aspect of visual cultures in organizations: that of the production of metaphors capable of generating intuitions.. objective and 'subject-less'. Recursively developing in an organization are dynamics which range from tacit to . I came to conceive of the organization as a hypertext while writing a university textbook on the sociology of organization. Other organization scholars have used the metaphor. This reference to a metaphor taken from visual and technological culture might have stemmed from personal inclination and from my research interests in the aesthetic understanding of organizational life (Strati 1997). And they also use it to illustrate a particular manner of viewing organizations. and the metaphor of the organization as a hypertext. But in fact it did not.
The hypertext organization therefore consists of multiple levels of text. tacit knowledge. In this layer the organizational knowledge produced in the top and central layers is re-examined and re-processed. That is. the social scientist must be able to shift the level of his or her research to that of individual human activity. "hypertext organization is made up of interconnected layers or contexts: the business system. technologies to adopt. and the team works to produce organizational knowledge in areas like new product development." write Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995: 167). but set in relation to a classic theme in organizational thought and to an issue still current because it resists solution. The organization as hypertext. as Alfred Schutz points out. the middle managers in various divisions of the formal organization possess specific skills which they can reshape in their capacity as leaders of task forces or project teams. Latour and Woolgar 1979) since this approach emphasizes action and assigns to each actor. s h e must be able to investigate what happens in the mind of the individual whose actions have given rise to the phenomenon considered. thereby enriching the organization with new knowledge. The individual/organization relationship concerns not only those who work in the organization or on its behalf but also those who establish solely temporary contacts at its Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 . discretional capacity and the ability to influence organizational life. these abstractions are nothing but intellectual shorthand. Schutz 1962-1966) and constructionist theory (Knorr Cetina 1981. is proposed as a synthesis between the efficiency and stability of the bureaucratic structure. products to make. assumptions on the productive areas in which to operate. based on interconnecting contexts. although they co-exist within the same organization. the project team. To the extent that. whether individual or collective. and the knowledge base. although much of the work of sociology and the social sciences can be done at the level where abstractions are drawn from everything that happens in the individual actor. This is the pyramid-shaped bureaucratic structure. But what organizational context facilitates the creation of knowledge? Nonaka and Takeuchi suggest the context in which the organization is conceived as a hypertext. My conceptualisation of organization as hypertext differs from Nonaka and Takeuchi's. and the efficacy and the dynamism of the task forces on the other. even though it has been addressed by various disciplines other than sociology . Its members come from different units of the business system." These are three completely different contexts. The knowledge base is the bottom layer and consists of organizational culture. for instance. The business system is the central. and they thus give an entirely unique characterization to a hypertext organization. This valorises middle management and the middle-up-down pattern rather than the top-down or bottom-up one. Strati explicit knowledge. hierarchically organized layer in which routine operations are efficiently carried out. "Like an actual hypertext document. corporate philosophy. This is still a matter of organization knowledge. on the one hand. I use the metaphor to give sufficiently complex and composite illustration to the relation between the individual and the organization. it is not constituted by the text itself. The individual/organization relationship assumes especial importance in constructivist (Berger and Luckmann 1966.308 A.anthropology and psychology. so that knowledge is not the sole responsibility of management but develops from the dynamic relation between project teams or task forces and the bureaucratic structure. The project team constitutes the top layer. Whenever the problem at hand requires it. therefore.
for example. A 'transaction' of contexts is involved whereby the principal argument is projected onto the ground of the secondary argument and is perceived through the metaphorical expression. This expression denotes both drafting the organization's flow-chart and creating a trajectory through the organization literature. Arrows or histograms are widely employed to give a . on the one hand. since. publicity and collections of photographs. or the construction and reconstruction of corporate images by means of video. come briefly into contact with the organization and are extraneous to its everyday life. I shall illustrate in this essay the impact of visual cultures on the ways in which organizational life is conceived.Organization as Hypertext 309 Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 boundaries. the individual/organization relationship also involves those who. University students. whose meaning results from their interaction. while it makes any comparison between them impossible. There is a wide range of situations in which the individual and organization are interrelated. A metaphor comprises two concepts of two different things embodied in a single word or phrase (Richards 1936). they will eventually break off their relationship with the university organization when they graduate. as Gareth Morgan and Gibson Burrell have done using the notion of sociological paradigm (1979: 24). therefore. for example. and the skills required for their use. while on the other they participate to a certain extent in the university's decisions. and this interaction requires simultaneous awareness of both lines of thought. This is borne out by the fact that the conception of the organization as a hypertext is not the first instance. It was in exploration of this theme that the notion of organization as hypertext was employed as an organization metaphor. Does this mean that the organization differs according to the subjects with whom it stands in relation? Yes and no. its users and its customers. For this purpose I shall describe the wide range of analogies and metaphors that visual cultures provide for the exploration of organizational life.the photograph and the hypertext . It comprises members of the organization. it is equally true that visual cultures influence the ways in which we think and define the organization. Interaction between the two lines of thought produces a further meaning (Black 1962). I shall analyse how two artifacts . as well as those who study it. an organizational metaphor much more common than the hypertext.originating in visual cultures may be employed to create andlor to highlight different visions of the organization. members of other organizations which compete or cooperate with it. A Wide Range of Organizational Metaphors and Analogies There is. The Influence of Visual Cultures on Organizational Views While it is true that the relationship between visual culture and organizational life pivots mainly on visual archives of organizational activities. and nor is it the last to employ visual metaphors in order to describe organizational phenomena. Finally. those belonging to the occupational communities internal to the organization. In continuation of that analysis. that of 'drawing a map' of the organization. find themselves in this situation. like the organization scholar. Do all these actors stand in the same relation to the organization? They certainly do not.
Delineating the causal relations that configure the etiograph of the cognitive map. is one of the most interesting examples. if we consider the metaphors based on drawing. These latter served as an icon of industrial organizations in similar manner to the images of Charlie Chaplin trapped by the cogwheels of large-scale industry in the film Modem Times. whereas some visual cultures are particularly able to furnish metaphors for organizational theory. to the products of an organization: 'that engine looks like a sculpture'. the culture. but again a metaphor drawn from visual culture. although there are a number of analogies which derive from that sector of visual culture and refer. This. I shall do so by briefly referring to Wim Wenders' film Bis Ans Ende Der Welt of 1991. as proposed by Michel Bougon. creating a map is one of the metaphorical operations most frequently present in human reflection (Piattelli Palmarini. Trevor is only a collector of images. the psychic prison. a mysterious collector of images. the theft of opals. the use of industrial settings as museums. For this purpose he uses an electronic apparatus reminiscent of the visor and helmet employed by virtual reality technologies. photographing. the brain. claim that the performing arts are signally capable of providing metaphors with which to understand organizational life. Eugene. and especially the theatre. and it is because he possesses this technology that he is being hunted. In any case. Karl Weick and Din Binkhorst (1977). Claire becomes inured to them. and less as a metaphorical operation which generates new knowledge about organizational life. Claire chases Trevor. Other expressions. I wish to stress the pervasiveness and the influence of visual cultures on ideas and views of organizational life by pointing to the phenomenon of our dependence on visual cultures and our inurement to them.e. as if it were an art work. I am not aware of organizational metaphors taken from sculpture. In fact. the organism. The images that he collects can be seen by the blind. for instance. I see more as an instance of the analogical use of the visual. thereby giving it beauty and well-fonnedness. such as the machine. and Heather Hopfl (1995. can be cited as evidence of a metaphorical way of speaking rooted in the relationship between organizational and visual cultures. In this film. Indeed. at least in Europe: factories and their smokestacks. as opposed to the metaphor of the static and individual act of 'taking a photograph'. for example. and other offences. my impression is that. 1984). At the end of the film. Nor are there organizational metaphors from industrial archaeology. she helps Trevor to collect images and to transmit them to his blind mother using the complex machine designed by his father. for instance 'painting a picture of the organization'. is that of 'making a film' of it. it seems. One should also consider the performing arts. making a hypertext. for instance. Equally widespread. performing a theatrical piece. although this is an area that could be drawn upon to convey the meaning of images of organizational life in the 1960s and '70s. 1996) with Michael Overington (1987). is the metaphor of taking a photograph of the organization. In conclusion. When Claire finds this out. Iain Mangham (1995. others are not. the writer who has followed Claire on her Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 . we note the wide range of visual cultures that provide metaphors for organizational life. 1996). the flow have a clear referent in visual cultures. however. wanted for industrial espionage. Less common. Also. i. The critical approach to the study of organizations proposed by Gareth Morgan (1986) is the one that most closely interprets organizations in terms of metaphors: many of them. Strati visual representation of the aspects that one wishes to understand. filming or making a video.310 A.
1996. The aesthetic quality assigns the sense of unity between the vital process and the environment to human experience in all its forms. Guillet de Montoux 1996. Ramirez 1991. on the reception side. These other worlds are not the antithesis to reality. reception and communication. node in organizational knowledge. Aesthetics relate to both art and to the extra-artistic. ignoring the attitude of the subject involved. Until the mid-1980s. postmodern thought has extended aesthetics beyond the confines of these domains to invest every aspect of society. In the case of art. He points out that. and the phenomena of everyday life on the other. the distinctive feature of aesthetic experiences compared with other experiences is that they help us to see things anew. the aesthetic side of organizational life was regarded as ineligible to form part of organization theory. Jauss's main concern is with the reception and communication of aesthetics. comments offscreen: "I did not know of any cure for addiction to images. Visual cultures are imbued with aesthetic quality. they do not constitute another world. organizations included. aesthetics constitute a crucial feature of organizational metaphors rooted in the visual cultures.as both an area of organizational knowledge and a form of knowledge. Aesthetics bring to light the special dynamics that link together what is fact and what is fiction in organization. Aesthetics bring out. . if little explored. the aesthetic of everyday experience is laid bare. Strati 1990. This arouses a sense of enjoyment of a replete present and leads us into other worlds of the imagination. Claire eventually finds herself in thrall to wanting to see in order to know. These cannot be read. the demise of the rationalist paradigm in organizational theories at the end of the 1970s wrought profound change: there are no organizational phenomena already defined as pre-eminent and whose study is mandatory for those wishing to understand organization. I only knew how to write. they can only be seen. The machine constructed by Trevor's father not only brought light to the blind. Their study contributes to development of the aesthetic approach to organizations (Strati 1992) . 1996. Hence organizational aesthetics can also be used to gain insight into everyday organizational life (Gagliardi 1990. Images intoxicate and they create addiction. intensify and idealize. here. It draws no sharp distinction between the artistic activities of production. John Dewey in Art as Experience (1934) called 'esthetic quality' the moment of passage from turmoil to harmony brought about by form. Jones 1996. at least according to mainstream modernist thought. on the one hand. experience which. order and intensity. Following reinterpretation of the classical writers on aesthetics. is organizational life. In doing so. and legitimate both as plausible ways to socially construct and reconstruct the organizational 'reality'. photography or computer graphics. Visual cultures constitute an important. it enabled them to see dreams. intensified and idealised. However. Hans Robert Jauss (1982) has criticised Dewey for viewing of every kind experience as the source of aesthetics. they are revelatory. Visual Cultures and Aesthetic Experience Visual cultures are ambits allocated to aesthetics. I believed in magic and in the thaumaturgy of words and stories". they give completeness and unity to everyday experience.~ Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 Organization as Hypertext 3 11 wanderings from Europe to Australia in search of the mysterious Trevor. though. whether one is considering the theatre.
starting with the researcher's modes of seeing. on the one hand. both metaphors shed significant light on the changing relationship between the individual and organization. Both artifacts. Artifacts from Visual Cultures as Metaphors to Explore Organization Visual cultures are pervasive and they invade human experience and the production of knowledge. on the other. (b) how this pervasiveness is matched by forms of organizational knowledge embodying the resistance of people against the univocal and other-directed definition of organizational life. while the metaphor of the hypertext. Among the various artifacts that derive from visual cultures. In this way the two metaphors seem able to highlight the profound changes that have taken place since the Second World War both between the individual and organization and between organization and society. in fact. and from the relationship of such technology with computer graphics in particular. thereby belying the tacit assumption of organizational theories and studies that watching and looking is only preliminary to access to the inner workings of an organization. Strati 1995. moreover. focuses on the ineluctable interactivity between them. because it is possible to compare the photograph and the hypertext without overcontrivance. one may prioritize the visual dimension in studying organizations. Their use in organizational studies acquires even more importance if they are compared and contrasted. Finally.312 A. Their use. their 'time' is that which characterizes industrialized society. and the electronic machine of the hypertext corresponds to the machine that gave rise to photography. highlights the certitude of the boundaries between the individual and the organization. these metaphors signal the crucial change that has occurred in Western industrialised societies: the spread of Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 . and the visual cultures that gave rise to them are more similar than would be the case if a hypertext was compared to a map or the performance of a tragedy in the theatre. like the theatrical performance or the map. What do I observe of organizational life when I conceive it as if it were this or that artifact pertaining to visual cultures? I chose to begin with the artifact of the hypertext. highlights: (a) The pervasiveness of organizations in the everyday lives of those who live in the most industrialized areas of contemporary societies. More specifically. perceiving and reflecting on organizational knowledge. Both artifacts stand in relation to machinery. 1996b. are relatively recent products of visual cultures. I have selected two in order to explore what they enable us to see in organizations and their management. although photography was born a century and a half ago. Together. because this first prompted me to think about the impact of visual cultures on organizational conceptions. while the other stresses the pervasiveness of organizations in the everyday life. One indicates that the organization is a reality 'out there'. The second artifact that I chose was the photograph. The metaphor of the photograph. White 1996). The hypertext results from recent developments in electronics. whereas the hypertext belongs to the last few decades. In other words.
on the range of colours generated by its video card. nor to follow an identical path through the hypertext. The metaphor rooted in visual cultures. Thus. Technology is not considered in and of itself. Familiarity with the Technology and Aesthetics of the Visual All these visual cultures. for its part. Before developing these themes further. Why not? The metaphor of taking a photograph of an organization is not based on knowledge about cameras. this is an appropriate moment to specify the extent to which the use of the metaphors of the hypertext and the photograph require a specific literacy and skills. to the aspects of the shared viewpoint of the photographer and the person who looks at it later. is a metaphor for initiates. but rather as constantly interweaving with the aesthetic quality that distinguishes visual cultures. Which brings us. has no bearing on the metaphor of photographing the organization. if they are to be fully appreciated. if we fail to understand the cognitive revolution wrought by the mechanical reproduction of photography and by the multi-level interactivity of the hypertext. thus. The importance of considering the technological features of the visual cultures resides in the fact that technology. or about the various grades of photographic paper. these metaphors convey much less than they are capable of. as we will see. The metaphor of the hypertext.indeed. have their specific technologies.Organization as Hypertext 3 13 organizations through society . will not accomplish the "epistemological breakthrough that Winograd and Flores (1986) deem crucial if we are not to persist in applying a pre-existing interpretative framework to what seems set to constitute a new basis for knowledge. who rarely use hypertexts. and who have only heard of them indirectly as a cultural and social phenomenon. that those who have scant familiarity with computers. the hypertext user realizes that s h e can become part of the process of text construction and not remain extraneous to it. whether they are the performing arts. But they do not require any specialized skill. as Charles Perrow (1991) provocatively claims. whether or not it has any other characteristic. on the size of its RAM or ROM. does not depend on the capacity of the computer. and so on. on its operating speed. The key point is that the observer is free to assume any standpoint internally to the computer and is not obliged merely to sit in front of it. their absorption of society. and so on. It may happen. generates the collective imagery of the society in which it is developed. or about acids for developing films and prints. It depends on the fact that the hypertext breaks with sequential reading. And the metaphors of the photograph and the hypertext require. It is the photograph that counts. the photograph's reproducibility ad infiniturn. and likewise computer graphics. rather than being a real instrument. You press the shutter and the photograph is taken. It does not oblige the reader to adopt the same point of view as the author. it is a text made up of other texts. Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 . if the theatre is able to furnish organizational metaphors. the range of technologies able to generate organizational metaphors is greater than one might think. In other words. initiation into the photographic medium and into computer graphics. whether it is as large as a room or as small as the palm of your hand. Whether or not the camera has a particular lens. books or films. in fact. Accordingly.
Aaron Scharf (1968) tells us. Popper 1993). was alien to art.visual sociology (Wagner 1979). Gombrich 1982). according to Boccioni. mechanical and value-free documentation of such life. Everything is possible: everything can . objective and incremental knowledge of organizational life. Strati 1995. The collage provides an emblematic example: the aesthetic of a hypertext consists of an assembly of spurious images. Photography. whether the photograph is taken for subsequent verbal interpretation. The issue of whether photography spelled the demise of art and bred a new era of mechanical reproduction ad infiniturn has always been central to debate on photographic aesthetics (Benjamin 1936. that study and elucidate visual cultures. more simply. Umberto Boccioni replied to accusations that the futurist artists were photographers. The hypertext was instead born within the context of the aestheticization of everyday social life and of widespread awareness of the pervasiveness of aesthetic pleasure. Goldberg 1981. of the grotesque and the paradoxical. these disciplines have essentially only one contribution to make: including visual cultures in social research in general. to illustrate a written text. of the fantastic and the contradictory. This applies equally to those various disciplines. Here. the material. As 'subject-less' knowledge. what is meant by the photographic image and its texture.314 A. and possessed the sole merit of having relieved the artist of the task of exact reproduction and imitation. by means of excessive enlargement or photographic painting. Kreps 1986). In the case just discussed of the metaphorical use of visual culture in order to shed light on organizational life. Knowledge 'Subject-Less' and Knowledge which 'Always has its Subject' The photograph is a metaphor for the detailed. from semiotics to the history of art (Calabrese 1985. Gombrich. These are skills that belong elsewhere: framing the shot. by virtue of its aesthetic quality.can make to understanding metaphors of organization based on visual cultures. 1991) and organizational communication (Ketrow 1988. Whereas a great photographer like Edward Weston realised that the inner tension of a photographic image was destroyed by photographic or manual manipulation. In 1913. constantly amenable to manipulation. introspection. photography is therefore emblematic of the universalistic knowledge of the organization. It is the precise. visual anthropology (Chalfen 1987. The aesthetics of virtual visual cultures are those of the artistic forms of the electronic age (Druckrey 1993. taking a photograph of an organization does not require specialised technical knowledge or artistic talent. Strati Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 The point I have stressed concerning the photograph and hypertext as artifacts also applies to the contribution that certain disciplines . and so too should the findings of researchers into non-verbal communication in organizations. the research results of visual sociology and visual anthropology should be developed further. Burgin 1982. Hochberg and Black 1970. the digital image constituting the two-dimensional interface of the hypertext is. of unlikely perspectives. for example . or in order to denounce social injustice or. anti-artists and cinematographers by rejecting even the most distant kinship between them with scorn and disgust. and in organizational research in particular. Sullivan 1987). self-analysis. Hutcheon 1989. Mitchell 1992. And this because it is the death of art. or for the purpose of re-experience. Metaphorically. cutting.
Of the visual metaphors examined here. a hypertext 'always has a subject'. It is no longer based on the page but on the architectures that incorporate the individual text modules. its existence as symbolic space . Fausto Colombo and Ruggero Eugeni (1966: 100-102) observe. From the pictogram to the ideogram to phonetic script. as evidenced.as a fictitious world in which the game is played among the points of view that regulate access by the user. we are conducted through the rooms of a house or led across a city square or shown a close-up of a painting. so that the text is written in a logical space where strategies to assemble the various segments of the text are pursued. evokes the diverse relations that arise between subject and organization in the creation of specific and situated organizational cultures. nothing is more difficult. a photograph is 'subjectless' knowledge. 'icons'. the technology of the written word has evolved with the page as support for the sign both physical and graphic. Photography does not involve such a linear comprehension of its components: a photograph is decoded according to canons specific to visual codes. It isolates fragments of surrounding reality and reproduces them with their particular visual language. Reading a sentence or listening to a piece of music is a process which proceeds step by step. indeed. visualised and reproduced in collages which are rigorously constructed according to the standpoint adopted. therefore. which is its particular mode of representation. Pagination has become virtual. is closer to us than such technology . Indeed. there is no photograph unless there is some sort of reality before the camera lens. Hence a hypertext. that is. If. The metaphor of the hypertext. It extends its roots into information technology. Hence derives the specificity of the photographic icon: its distinctive quality of reconstituting reality in an objective and universal manner. hypertext users are involved in an allembracing reality which constitutes their identities. conversely. and this also concerns those that derive from visual cultures. therefore.Organization as Hypertext 3 15 Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 be imagined.although. we witness the demise of the text as a physical element and. for example. since nothing. for that matter. There is . An icon communicates meanings while it selects windows on the world and modes of looking at it. The two-dimensional graphics of the interface on the monitor and the fictitious three-dimensional world underlying it reveal the invisible structures of logical space so that. in contrast to a photograph. unlike that of the photograph. But note that in the case of the hypertext there is no user who is not simultaneously an author. is a universal feature of the relationship between a text and its author. The Photograph and the Representation of Organizational Life The value of metaphors resides in the holistic reading that they propose. note by note. A photograph conveys more information than a thousand words. being so congenial to our minds. while at the same time it signifies the notion of objectivity. for example. Consequently the strategic paths followed among the logical architectures are options which highlight both the standpoint of the user and textual visibility. as Michael Heim (1993: 79) points out. is a metaphor for the particularist knowledge of the organization. With the hypertext. word by word. Which. Internally to this logical and symbolic space. It is here that visual culture and technological culture interweave. the photograph is already in itself a holistic reading of reality. in such commonplace expressions as "a photograph is worth a thousand words".
s h e can successfully repeat the operation using the same equipment and in the same conditions. however personal the point of view of the photographer of the organization may be. What emerges from the metaphor of photographing the organization? There is an external social object which can be represented by means of a photographic frame which both author and non-author must share. These photographs produce 'objective' knowledge of the lunar landscape. and as far as possible objective. is a semiotic activity: it has the metaphoric capacity to produce understanding of collective and social life. Consider photographs of the craters on the moon. photographs and films or videos place those looking at or watching them in a position where their interaction with the taker of the image and the organization concerned is rather restricted. Seeing. and in sharp and static detail. The organization is represented in its pastness. however imperfect and manipulated such knowledge may be. regard it from the same standpoint. It is also because technology has been socially constructed in such a way that cameras have become part of everyday domestic use. anyone can take a photograph of this kind. either in the literature or in the organizational press.principally that of staticity . and by so doing constitutes non-modified fragments of organizational memory. Taking a photograph of an organization therefore signifies producing knowledge of it as accurately as is humanly possible. With the additional . Given the equipment. that is. and so too does that of the representation of a social phenomenon from the past. This is due to the century and a half of history that the photograph possesses and which the hypertext certainly does not. anyone looking at the photograph of the organization must necessarily share its author's point of view that is. the photograph depicts the moment that just passed. A photograph. that what we have here is an "adequate analogue model". This is one of the essential characteristics of the icon: it is not based solely on mimesis but also on the cultural elaboration of meanings in the sphere of symbolic relations (Goodman 1986). without distinctions by civilisation. of which nothing was previously known apart from the contents of our imaginations. Furthermore. gender or ethnicity. But most of the previous points concerning photography of the situation also apply to film or video: there is still the coincidence between the points of view of the author and the non-author.a faithful. therefore.3 16 A. in the act of photographing. as well as being instruments employed by specialists. however. The metaphor of the photograph is apparently more comprehensible than that of the hypertext metaphor. 1 The Metaphor of Photographing the Organization The term 'photographing' is usually used to refer to the endeavour to obtain as sharp and detailed a description as is possible of an organization . the theme of representation in itself still applies. The film or the video are able to overcome some of these problems . is that icon which communicates the art of creating . We are therefore provided with a universally valid document. following Max Black (1962: 221-3).a document because it selects. representation of it.although they are much more rarely used to describe organizations. Moreover. it freezes that moment. Moreover. a model "iconic of its original". Strati Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 such a "point-by-point correspondence" between the elements that make up the photographic image and the original that we may state. isolates and reproduces. a certain aptitude and some practice. Finally.
on the interpretation of which it has two important repercussions. since its invention. it continues to be connoted as accurate knowledge of organizational life. that is. therefore. authenticity. the sound and the text reproduced on the screen and by the loudspeakers are generated by a matrix of numbers. because to simulate is to pretend that something exists that does not: the simulacrum (Baudrillard 1978). in fact. yielding more detailed knowledge of it and shedding light on previously unseen or neglected aspects. the photograph yields the image of the organization as finite knowledge which. For the moment. It belongs. This is done to find out more about organizational life and. and with improved technology it grows increasingly difficult to botch one. Simulation. This has further confirmed and spread the conception of mechanical reproducibility which. artificiality. constitutes a single entity which is shared by all those who come into contact with it. although it is made up of multiple points of view. the virtual and the hyper-real often possess ambiguous and poorly defined boundaries. The image. This is important for the metaphor of the organization as hypertext. an 'original'. via technological culture. The hypertext is conceived in a special setting. and even when they reproduce an external subject or event. they are not both icons. On the one side stand naturalness. that of cyberspace. like a face. rules out the existence of a truth. is neither truth nor falsehood. a hypertext is not representation: it is simulation. to a visual culture which proposes. This metaphor is likely to undergo profound changes with the spread of digital photography. on the other. Graziella Mazzoli (Mazzoli and Boccia Artieri 1994: 31) writes that it is the emancipation of the sign from the real that differentiates simulation from representation. . Representation maintains a distinction between image and reality. They are the function of numerical values. Unlike a photograph. by contrast. between falsehood and truth. bereft of an original model and unable indeed to assume one. The Hypertext and the Simulation of Organizational Life Although both the photograph and the hypertext originate from visual cultures. the real. or the sound of a flute. taken to the extreme. a conception of knowledge which differs from photographic knowledge. (2) the image or the sound produced by the model only show one aspect of it. because it emphasizes that: (1) the model is present in its entirety. appearance. however. to know everything about it. a magazine cover. Instead there is deferment to an absence. they stem solely from a model which describes in terms of numbers. This latter is an artificial construct.Organization as Hypertext 3 17 Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 feature shared by both photography and the hypertext that they are 'user friendly'. or to conceive a faulty photograph and take it. Organizational knowledge can be enriched and updated by re-taking the photograph on later occasions. In cyberspace. illusion. has contraposed photography to poetry or painting: anybody is able to take a photography. albeit only in the memory of the computer or of the workstation. Fiction. As a metaphor. substance. A photograph can be taken of an organization from several standpoints.
The metaphor of organization as hypertext not only breaches the above-discussed limits on the photograph and film. (4) also the standpoint from which one watches or listens can be altered by changing a parameter of the numerical model. we are in movement. The metaphor of the hypertext draws on this conception on the basis of the process of simulation discussed earlier. and it is constructed by an activity which expresses subjective meanings. Both the subject and the individual emerge modified because the process of social construction involves both of them . The concept of simulation sums up an epoch in which all referentiality is eradicated and artificially resurrected in the sign system. The concept of simulation stresses that the subject is not seated in front of the computer but is instead positioned within the model. does indeed possess an objective factuality. scripts. flexible. write Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (1966). Strati (3) neither the image nor the sound are a definite and immutable reality: alter one parameter and the numerical model delivers the same image but in different proportions. A hypertext reverses the direction of the individual/organization relationship depicted by the photograph or the film. It locates the individual within the process of the social construction of reality.as the intellectual branch of social constructionism and critics of constructivist sociology have emphasised (Knorr Cetina 1994).as the theoretician of cybernetics Heinz von Foerster (1985) pointed out . The metaphor of the hypertext rests . Neither the image. given that this point of view is internal. of biology. as well as psychology. Society. organizational life in an ongoing interactive process. it exists only in simulated space (Bettetini 1991). And this is consonant with the fact that many studies of mathematics. possess referential dependence on the world external to cyberspace. anthropology and sociology itself. and yield information about.on the fact that when we observe we are not stationary subjects. of second-order cybernetics. either as regards space or as regards time. . and there is no reason why the points of view of whoever records the image and of those who look at it or watch it should coincide. and constantly changing. The detachment from the analogue technologies characteristic of photography.3 18 A. ramified. to the model. They exist in a space extraneous to both of them. the same sound but with different pitch. The organization as hypertext is constructed by subjects who employ images. Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 The Organization as Hypertext At this point the question is whether there exists 'the' organization or only an infinite series of organizations constructed and reconstructed by subjects through the specific dynamics of their relationships with the organization. have urged the adoption of a new epistemology which includes the observer within the reality that s h e is observing. paradoxical. sounds and whatever else is available to give meaning to. It also restores the idea itself of organization as complex. Such is the extraneousness of the numerical model which constitutes our conception of the reality of the organization in the hypertext metaphor. not external. We have now entered the era of the substitution of signs of the real for reality itself. of physical theory. film and video is especially evident and important in this latter feature: the eye is simulated. nor its counterfeits generated by digital information technologies from the numerical model. corporeal.
by giving form to beliefs. but nonmaterial. bogus images of its routine. just as much as pictorial depiction is. It is the product of the ways in which we see the organization. It is also possible to use three-dimensional animation created with computer graphics. subjective ways of perceiving it on the one hand. which is thus made both artfully and artistically. music and sounds. because . Let us see what this means. Each individual letter is a small work of art. to the rules of the organization. indeed. These are all elements that highlight the extent to which information technology is congenial to us. feel it. In conclusion. drawings and photographs. The scholar may move in one direction or the other according to personal inclination. The latter certainly inform a hypertext. think it. It operates on those sensory premises of the subject which. Organizations are the social reality that people construct in the interactions and connections that they establish internally and externally to organizational boundaries. seek to profit from it or to get away with it. to social norms. hate it. and true. And it is precisely for this reason that they should not be confused with the visual culture of audiovisual media. A hypertext is a text. It is an outcome of action which exists independently of its creator or creators. is a central concern of any educational system. they provide the most faithful portrait of its cultural identity. to cultural values. made up of lines and colours. while sensory perception is odourless and non-tactile and comes about virtually. that share organizational knowledge. according to the constructivist and constructionist sociological tradition. as well as being the specific activity of organizations which design. is to investigate how this reality is constructed and to reflect on how it influences his or her methods of analysis. it is unlike a text. although here the artifact is not tangible. It is made up of script. Artifacts create the landscape of the organization. but his or her task. And they do so in the case of the hypertext as well. try to change it according to ideals of civilisation or of efficiency. It establishes the organizational premises at the level of perception. It is paginated and comprises written matter. to the aesthetics. influence his or her choices and organizational action. influences the subject's perception. As such. The artifact. It resembles the Bibles transcribed by the medieval amanuenses. It does so subtly. appreciate it aesthetically. Teaching people how to write letters. the spoken instead of written words. the use of the hypertext metaphor to investigate the individual1 organization enables account to be taken of the plurality of the ways in which organizations can be conceived and rationalized without losing sight of the crucial meaning of this relationship. Organizational Knowledge without the Aura of Sacredness A hypertext consists of multiple levels of text rather than only one. video clips and films. like cognitive ones. which is constituted by itself. This reality is only one aspect of quotidian organizational life.Organization as Hypertext 3 19 Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 The subject constructs his or her hypertext of the organization. real organizations with a distinct and solid structure on the other. This latter point highlights the other aspect of the interaction between individual and hypertext. There are no true images of the organization. and so too are its illustrations. A hypertext is not only paginated using letters and static images. writes Pasquale Gagliardi (1990). decorations and illustrations. and to the collective lifestyles that make up everyday organizational life. produce and market typefaces for the printing industry or fonts for word processors: this is a visual culture.
now you don't. those taking the photographs. imagined. This I have emphasised with the metaphors of the photograph and the hypertext of the organization. the traffic signals. particularist and 'pagan' organizational knowledge. 96) defines this as "nonsequential writing with free user movement". no longer physical contiguity with a book but position and distribution in logical architectures . the trash cans. three-dimensional and temporary context.in the sense that it is not a book to which one can return for further and different re-readings. It is not the immortal book but its ephemeral counterpart: never-completed. like the camera settings. the telephone booths. the body of organizational knowledge that it yields is incremental. then. plural. Different aspects of the same phenomenon are highlighted because complete knowledge about it is lacking. the traffic. coherence. i. so that knowledge of it . the shops. analogue knowledge of the organization to mind. However. as well as looking at them and reading them. incremental organizational knowledge accumulated shot by shot.e.320 A. may be highly diverse. declares Thomas Nelson. with their aesthetics and their technologies. In certain respects the visual culture is the same. is both a text and it is not . the best definition takes account of the wide variety of hypertext types and defines it as a text structure that cannot be printed properly because it lacks completeness. writing a hypertext. and so on. Now you see them. who coined the term in 1964. In discussing the metaphor of the organization photograph. reading and writing which "supports the intuitive leap over the traditional step-by-step logical chain. A hypertext is not a book of knowledge and it does not possess a book's aura of sacredness. Nyce and Kahn 1991. in a fictitious three-dimensional world. A hypertext. but they are submerged by the passing crowds. interactive.that is to say. because one is based on simulation while the other is founded on representation. the electricity wires. universal. The jump. But it is the artifact that constitutes the core of the metaphorical operation: (1) The photograph calls objective. but considering a hypertext as an audiovisual medium is to commit an error similar to considering a page written using a word processor as if it were a typewritten page. seem to have influenced organizational thought primarily in terms of how the organization is perceived. Nielsen 1990) is a generic term. I stressed that although the points of view. Yet the organizational phenomenon is always the same." Perhaps the visual culture best able to convey the image of the hypertext is that of graffiti. not the step. adopt different points of view. Michael Heim (1993: 33. since complex text with a tree structure or text with a graph structure could equally well be used. and because the knowing subjects. is the characteristic movement in hypertext. These are daubed on the walls and public transport vehicles of the city. paginated as they are in a familiar visual. and placed in relation to the scholar. Conclusions Visual cultures. totality and universal validity. but in other respects it is not. This is a modified context which involves. 'Hypertext' (Nelson 1972. Strati Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 of its multimedia nature. documenting our' interpretation of it with carefully selected quotations. For both I have stressed action: taking a photograph.
And this. without producing a finite text. In many respects. And this must be done without establishing a hierarchy in the organization of the text. These two metaphors give rise to very different ways of viewing the organization. Instead. A hypertext is oriented to the presentness of organizational life. its daily routine. Everyone can investigate further by taking another photograph and showing it to others. texts must be organized by association and their reading and construction must be non-linear. and it can be reproduced to infinity by means of jumps. The value of the hypertext metaphor lies in the fact that it presumes a relationship between individual and organization which is by its very nature interactive: neither the individual nor the organization is static. Such knowledge is a shared heritage which is not only verifiable and reproducible but constitutes the organizational memory. hypothetically speaking. its very ideals. their aesthetics. the conceptions of the organization and its management generated by the metaphors of the photograph and the hypertext are antithetical. Downloaded by [Central U Library of Bucharest] at 20:59 27 March 2013 A hypertext is therefore a personal construct which requires action by the person who designs and creates it. Everyone has access to the shared heritage of organizational knowledge. its development and change. This organizational knowledge is: (a) (b) (c) (d) spurious compared with the purity of the photograph. (2) With the metaphor of the hypertext matters change radically in respect to the metaphor of photographing the organization. constantly interactive compared with the photograph's detached and neutral observation. not within the one by now outmoded and unable to account for their new conceptual bases. The hypertext thus brings to mind the continuous construction of knowledge based on intuition and personal associations. Only thus will visual metaphors be able to generate insights into organizational life. They may that is. The crucial feature that distinguishes a hypertext from any other text. to put it in Jauss's terms (1982). grows more complex. ephemeral and volatile compared with century-old photographic knowledge. and everyone can agree on its meaning. particularist and 'digital' knowledge of the organization in which the times of writing and viewing are simultaneous. links and loops. The text must be constructed on the basis of a network of associations among different texts or among fragments of them. The organizational knowledge yielded by the metaphors of the photograph and the hypertext does not entail possession of specific skills regarding visual cultures. photograph or film is that it can be created. and their technologies. so that they can be understood within the framework appropriate to them. The assumption is that views of the organization can be shared. subjective. therefore. indeed. without proceeding linearly. constitute the seeing that knows and the recognizing through seeing that are the fundamental features of aesthetic pleasure that the word aisthesis denotes also in organizational life. highlights the importance . But it does require initiation into these cultures. without distorting or violating the complex of texts that form its body and basis. flexible and approximate compared with the sharp definition of the photograph. Items information accrue to form a collage or a sequence.Organization as Hypertext 321 increases. Everyone can see everyone else's point of view.
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