LKAB Mikael H Music Researcher

At a conference

On October 20-21, we participated at the annual conference for business studies in Sweden, FEKIS, at Uppsala University.

During the day, our project was one out of three examples of scholars in business studies researching societies; a session built on the idea of research challenging the predominant focus on formal organizations. Besides Organizing rocks, there were Caroline Wigren’s study of Gnosjö and Mikael Holmqvist’s study of Djursholm. Our project, however, does not aim at studying Kiruna as such (although it is hard to avoid), but definitely aimed at challenging a lot of formal organizational boundaries, given that an understanding of the labour process cannot be confined to such boundaries. The crowd was large and although difficult to say, interest also seemed to be high.

Some of the questions asked during the session were: how do you know you have the theories needed, how do you present yourself in the field, why did LKAB stop you from going inside the gates etc.

After the sessions ended and people were mingling before dinner, we played live outside the lecture halls, in total four songs from our upcoming Swedish album on the Kiruna mine. The songs were: Regn över berget, Den svenska malmen, Stänger alla kranar and Vackert. This was the first time we played together (photo by Mikael Holmqvist):


Mikael H Researcher

In and out of ethnography

In a guest post from December 1, Mikael Holmqvist asks whether Organizing rocks is a study in or of ethnography. Below is our pondering to Mikaels inquiry. Hopefully it will fuel and further a conversation on ethnography (and that all feel invited to!).

The project is about power relations and labour processes in the mining industry so it is an ethnography in. But as Mikael points out, if that’s the case then “I’d like to see more about the research project as such; its aims goals and potentials, that would clearly provide a helpful context for the observations, notes, videos etc.” Point taken. Too seldom perhaps, we reflect upon and communicate about what we’ve actually supposed to do. We will therefore try to provide more context to this project.

At our page “About our study” on the blog, we write the following related to the third research question: to “help actors involved to better articulate (put into words) their role, situation and possibility to act (discretion) related to the changes in the labour processes”. The related research aim is normative – we would like to help workers as well as managers achieving this. One way of doing this is to constantly make our observations and thoughts public (instead of gathering empirical material over a couple of years and then start to write). If we want to expose our thoughts and observations as they emerge then a blog, Facebook, Twitter, i.e. social media, might be relevant ways of doing it. And then we started to shoot film, do music, take pictures. A cross- and multimedia project emerged. This is a mix of trial and error in combination with previous skills and a large portion of curiosity. It is also a reaction to feelings of boredom and fear. It is boring performing the same methodologies year after year and we fear that we’ll turn dogmatic by following the same pathways when doing case studies. Anyway, we strive to expose everything we think is worth exposing and this sometimes include what we’re doing and how we’re doing it (more of ethnography perhaps).

Turning to Mikael’s question if this is a study of ethnography then, nowadays we would probably admit that Organizing Rocks could be seen as a study of ethnography. If so, Mikael highlights, we have yet to engage with ”existing conversations” of ethnography. We are engaged, trust us, but not explicitly. Our ethnographical confidence hasn’t been high, but it is growing. Being heavily inspired by academic traditions, particularly in the genres of Actor-Network Theory, the second wave of the Chicago School (Howard Becker, Erving Goffman, etc.) and as those in labour process studies by Michael Burawoy, such benchmarks put our project in – well – perspective. We haven’t really dared to talk about our project as an ethnography (although we have used the term previously, no wonder Mikael reacts). We haven’t really thought about ourselves as ethnographers. We should perhaps re-think this and more openly engage with existing conversations of ethnography. Guestblogger Monika Kostera also use the term when making wonderful poetry of our project.

So, an answer, in the project we are concerned with trying to be present in the field (at least for two years) to be able to digest the Kiruna case (to less extent the Canadian case), to gather different types of empirical material at different places and times, in different ways, and to continuously communicate our project. For us then, the project is not one of either/or (in or of ethnography) but of both/and (in and of).

Mikael H Researcher

Is this a study in or of ethnography?

Meet Mikael Holmqvist, an invited academic guest blogger.

Organizing Rocks offers a beautiful and interesting website, full of notes and pictures. You get glimpses from Johan and Tommy’s visits and reflections that are really fascinating. In my view, I’d like to see more about the research project as such; its aims goals and potentials, that would clearly provide a helpful context for the observations, notes, videos etc. That could, of course rather easily be fixed. However, the most interesting aspect of this project so far is the methods used and the questions they advance; is this a study in ethnography aiming to further a discussion on, e.g., labour and capital in today’s society? Or is it a study of ethnography, where Johan and Tommy are testing out new ways of carrying out sociological research? From what I see, I believe it’s a study of the latter. If so, what are the potentials and problems of “Visual methods” and why is it a relevant strategy? Why can’t you just “wait” and do your stuff literally speaking “in the mine”, without resorting to this “transparency” through social media? If this is a study of ethnography, I think this approach is great, but needs to be better explained in reference to the existing conversation on ethnographic methods. On the other hand, if this is a study in ethnography of something else, I would be less concerned with the web-page and more concerned about doing the study, “in the mine”.

Mikael Holmqvist is PhD, professor, at Stockholm Business School and has recently (2015) published an ethnographic work on an Executive Community (Djursholm).