Visual sociology and work organization

An historical approach

Authored by: Tim Strangleman

The Routledge Companion to Visual Organization

Print publication date:  August  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415783675
eBook ISBN: 9780203725610
Adobe ISBN: 9781135005474


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The sociological approach to the visual understanding of work organizations is a rich, fascinating and, at times, contradictory one. Sociology has a long history of engaging with its subject matter visually but, as a discipline, it has often been reluctant to acknowledge this legacy and achievement. In this chapter, this history is explored in all its complexity and richness. Rather than suggesting that there is a coherent story, one of unfolding logic, it will show the different ways sociology and sociologists have engaged with the visual around the topic of work, workers and organizations. It is important to recognize that some of the material presented here goes beyond sociology, borrowing from disciplines as diverse as anthropology, art history and social policy; this is done to think more deeply about how work has been understood visually and how we might use this legacy in contemporary visual studies of organizations. This chapter aims to provide a number of insights. First, it is a selective account of visual representations of work. Second, it provides an overview of the visual sociology of work. Finally, it is a reflection on the methodological practices of the visual sociology of work and approaches to the types and nature of data in the field.

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