AC/DC, the groin and science

The frontman of AC/DC, Brian Jonson, once replied to a journalist’s question about why AC/DC has remained so popular since the 1970s, that their music enters the listener through the groin first – men and women alike. Listening to, playing and recording music we can sort of relate to this groin sensation. But what has this to do with science?

Nothing says the instrumentalists and the purists. Nothing says those who fear conflict and going against the grain. We say that the importance of groin is there, for sure, but it’s almost a taboo-thing to expose and talk about. Doing fieldwork, reading a text or engaging in conversations, is something that the groin is taking part in. It’s not bracketed off from the rest of the body. The groin, however, is not always related to physical attraction and sex, although this sometimes is the case when reading or writing texts, engaging in conversations or observations.

By this we do not mean to downplay reason. There is great danger in following your groin (or your gut feeling or a sudden feel in the heart), in following your senses, without consulting the faculty of reason. But, we have to accept and be open about that our groins (as well as gut feeling and heartaches) sometimes are dead right from the beginning and without which the faculty of reason many times is helplessly left in the dark.

This post could be interpreted as another text seeking to address the problematic abyss between body and soul, mind and body, but it has a twist: the groin, so connected to physical attraction and sex, is an “elephant in the room”. Very rarely do we come across researchers who take in their groinly experience in research and seriously ponder its scientific importance (scientists do spend time and effort trying to understand how, when and why the groin matters for their objects of study, or interviewees, or respondents, or even co-participants). So, the basic point is to bring in the groin to accompany stomach, heart, senses and reason. An example from our Organizing rocks study would perhaps be appropriate here, but we need to come back on this one…

Kiruna LKAB Storyteller

Storyteller #7 – wrong research strategy

We met storyteller #7 for the first time in a hotel lobby in Kiruna. He is an experienced miner, a man, presently working above ground. After talking to us for a while, he concludes that our research strategy is wrong.

– Actually, you’re doing this the wrong way, I have to say. If I were you I’d first go around and observe (inside the gates), first get an understanding (of the context of work) and then start interviewing. Because, here you are, you don’t have a clue about how it is, how it looks, what can happen. So come out, an ordinary day, and see. Then you know about different areas, that’s how it looks, how greasy it can be. With your approach, you have to memorise (what I am telling you) and then realise it when your out-there. It should be the other way around! Interviews seem perfect AFTER you’ve been out running.

Kiruna LKAB Management Storyteller Worker

Storyteller #6 – visibility and organizational change

Storyteller #6 is a man who have worked above ground for 20 years, previously as a worker, now as a manager. His story is one about visibility and organizational change.

– When you change from under ground to above ground … (is that a change from ‘we’ to ‘them’?)

– That there are different practices of work, or?

– ‘We get the stone up, but you…’

– [—] Everybody works together and has different ways of working. You’ve always heard that it’s much freer under ground, and everything that’s tested by management is always tested here (above ground, first). They (under ground) have it better in this sense. They escape everything new that has to be tested.

– How do you mean exactly?

– All these different things, when they’re moving people (new ways of organizing groups) and situational changes, it always ends up last down there, so they avoid this.

– Guineapigs?

– Yes, that might be so, but it’s easier (for them).

– What do you think is the reason for this?

– [—] We’re easier to get at, to see and to test on. When people start to work under ground it seems as if they stay put (with their groups, their tasks). Up here it seems as if they’re shuffled around, people shift with each other, and a lot of other things. [—] At one place, where I worked for ten years, I had at least ten different managers. So, it was kind of an entry point for managers, but we were quite autonomous. For a while we were without a manager for six months. We didn’t need a manager, it worked perfectly.

Kiruna LKAB Management Storyteller Worker

Storyteller #5 – management

This story about management is told by a man who have been working in the mine for a quarter of a century, both under and above ground, previously as a worker, now as a manager.

– I have my own theory: that it’s more trustworthy, for those (workers) who have to change, when a (a leader with experience of working in a mine) comes. ‘He’s one of us, so he knows what it’s all about’. Lately, I’ve learned to listen to those ‘down there’ (as in the hiearchy and as in under ground). Don’t be up here and go down and tell them that ‘now we do it like this’. It’s much better to try to ‘draw the map’, what are our goals, to get them to understand this also, without explicitly telling them (how to do it). Describe the problem, also from their point of view: ‘How shall we do this then?’ Most often, it does not turn out as I would’ve liked to have it, but it gets close enough.

– You are more reliable, or?

– I’ve seen many managers that have entered, having been assigned management roles (while lacking experience), and then they’ve quickly been ‘dribbled’ away by the personnel.

Kiruna Researcher

Kiruna zones

We were out riding in our rented car when it struck Tommy: Somebody is actually doing something to their house!

The thought came quick and Tommy did not understand at first why this thought emerged so strongly. Then we realized – being in the zones in Kiruna that will be teared down, is being in an area where not much happens in terms of renovation and maintenance of buildings. What is taking place is a gradual wearing down of facades, yards etc. (very visible to visitors) and demolition (as the tearing down of the area Ullspiran). We realize that we’ve done these observations throughout are many stays in Kiruna and that this puzzlement has been going on in our heads for quite some time. But it all makes good sense. If you have a house or an apartment in the area which is to be teared down you do nothing (besides what is absolute necessary). It makes sense to think that it makes sense doing nothing.

Seeing this “nill” activity makes us wonder what effects the LKAB:s plans to move a large part of the city that was announced more than ten years ago have had on the mindsets of the people living in the zones? Might there be other areas in life that are in need of “re-construction” but that have grinded to a halt?

As we’ve started to read interviews that we made last year, we also get reminded of that Kiruna-citizens have talked about this issue in the conversations with us (see also blogposts from May 1 and Feb 16, 2015). So, that’s the loop! We notice something and ask about it, forget about it, observe it again, and then rediscover it in already produced discourse. Is this sloppy and to be cured by a Robert K Yin case-study protocol, or is it a part of a normal back-and-forth process in research? Well, we opt for the latter, not to save our asses, but because our case is rather complex, eluding us again and again in a way that a protocol, no matter how ambitious it is, can handle. We also think that protocols can have the effect of ruling out heterogeneity and that which cannot be sorted in relevance, type, phenomenon etc. soon after being discovered.

Then again, the self-imposed task of feeding our blog, which you’re reading from now, could be a kind of protocol. To tell short stories, most often produced soon after an empirical experience (in Kiruna, or elsewhere), that leaves things open, we think protects us from excluding things that appears as non-relevant at first but that can prove extremely relevant later on.

Kiruna LKAB Management Researcher Worker

Moods in the field

The morale of this story is that any kind of social science research implies going in and out of moods. Being in a mood, and throughout life, in different contexts, going in and out of moods, is a precondition for human lives. And of course, this is a lived experience that is totally left out in social science textbooks, conferences and PhD education. Different moods imply different conversations, different writing, different analysis, different reading, different, well, you name it. So, here follows a rather moody text about different moods in our project – so far.

At first, we passionately ”wrote” the project (i.e. research applications). Passion, then, was the primary mood. Then when entering the field in Kiruna, we fell in love with the project. Love at first sight, actually. Call it “the Kiruna people effect”, all the stories they told, the way they did it. The mine and the people are deeply, historically, connected, and so are our interests in the project, changing power relations and the labour process.

After that we got into a sort of “nitty-gritty” mood; visiting the site, trying to understand the complexities in rather familiar ways (eg. very loose conversations, normally called interviews in the genre of social science) and in unfamiliar ways (eg. shooting film, taking photos, writing blogposts, making music). The prime mood in this stage was joy.

Then all of a sudden, we stumbled upon problems: we were denied entry to the mine. The mood here was a mild shock. The post-shock mood, at first, was of the kind that “this will be solved”, a mood best called pragmatic. Working in this mood for a couple of months, eventually realizing that this will most likely not be sorted out, led to a post-shock sadness (on some days, even a bit anger) mood. The project continued, but was seriously changed as we could no more observe and take part in the daily work in the mine, and also losing out on the top-management perspective.

However, sadness turned to a need to change plans. We entered into a sort of a strategy mood and started to focus on broader categories of people and society. These had been on our “radar” and in our plans, but now we took time and effort to meet and engage. New meetings, new people, brought back some of the initial passion and love (meeting new people up here always do!), but experiencing difficulties meeting more employees of the company (as we’re always honest with them about how top management approaches us, employees get a bit worried, even though they would like to meet us), there is always a semi-dark cloud of hanging over the project.

This is where we are today, reflecting on our research process in a hotel room in Kiruna (where we are right now). Time has therefore come to start taking stock of what we have, partly in order to start writing up, partly to return to the field with analyses.

Book Researcher Review

Spatial divisions of labour

We think that it is always of great interest to read a so-called classic book. Doreen Massey’s book Spatial Divisions of Labour (social structures and the geography of production) is definitely a social science classic and a relevant one for our project (Palgrave, second edition, 1984/1995). In Tommy’s words:

Massey is for me a rather demanding author; not that the language is tricky, nor the analysis exceptionally complicated. The demanding part is that she, quite frankly, writes rather boringly. But this is of course just a shallow complaint from a reader that is too easily bored. From (finally) reading this book, I take away quite a few gems (you have to discover yourself) and a clearer understanding in what way this intellectual person affected the academic discussion and ways in which to understand capital and capital accumulation and how capitalism ‘works’ with geography and how geography affects capitalism. More specific, I also learned more about economic uneven development, conceptualization of place and time, and also gendered spatial division of labour.

My favorite quote from the book is: “The motif of all these arguments, and one which is repeated in various forms throughout this book, is that the ‘the requirements of accumulation do not arrive raw at the factory gate’.” (p. 309)

Anette Music Researcher

Responsible research: combining sense and sensibility

Below is text on responsible research by guest blogger, Anette Hallin at Mälardalen University, Sweden (read more about Anette by clicking here):

What is our responsibility as researchers? To develop knowledge about the world, most people would answer. But how do we do this in a responsible way?

According to my view, performing responsible research involves issues about the relationship between the researcher and that which she studies; a question addressed in several blogs here (see Jan 29 and March 24). My conviction is that it is necessary for us, if we are claiming to develop knowledge about the world, to engage in all ways possible with that which we study. We need to combine sense and sensibility.

But how to we do this? As researchers we are trained to use our heads; to observe, document, measure, analyze and theorize. We are less skilled at feeling and expressing emotions. It is as if we have ruled out the possibility of knowledge residing also in the parts of the brain where this type experiences are processed. Even though there has been a lot of talk about “embodiment”, “situated practices” and phenomenology-informed research, we seem, also as qualitative researchers, to trust one part of our body the most when developing knowledge about the world: the part of our brain prone to analytical thinking.

Maybe we are not to blame. After all, the moving away from the human body as the source of knowledge about the outside world and the development of logical positivism was developed based on the same set of ideas that led to development of the metric system. Before this, people used their bodies to gain knowledge about things outside their bodies through anthropomorphic measurements like “a foot”. In stratified societies, exact and non-anthropomorphic measures however were symbols of justice and came with time to be seen as a criteria distinguishing civilization from non-civilization. Today, just as the knowledge about how to use the physical body to measure and weigh things has gone out of fashion, we seem to not know how to use all of that which is ourselves when it comes to doing research. We may even have lost our ability to feel with other people, as concepts such as “feelings”, “emotions” and “empathy” seem to belong to a different discourse than that of science.

This is sad because if we are to believe Aristotle and his idea of catharsis, knowledge about the human condition (which we all are interested in understanding better in some way as social scientists), can be developed through the internal process of experiencing a strong emotional experience, which is what fictional tragedy provides us with, according to him. And he is right. How many of us have not been struck with radical insights when reading a piece of fiction, or when watching a film? The notion of catharsis suggests that knowledge can only be developed when we experience strong emotions in relation to something. This is, as we all know, quite far from how we are supposed to perform research.

What would happen if we became better at using all of our selves when performing research; if we combined sense and sensibility? I think that developing a research of sensibility would help us move beyond the dichotomies that we seem to be so fond of creating in our attempts at making sense (sic!) of things. For a long time now, thinkers have argued that dichotomies like subject-object; body-mind; local-global; humans-artifacts; science-art; etc, don’t correspond to reality – in the world there are no dichotomies, only continuity and interaction. At the same time we keep using them, lacking better ways of making sense of what we experience. A research where we combine sense and sensibility would thus provide us with a different understanding of the world.

But how would such research be performed in practice? And how would scientific criteria be challenged – and met – with such a research agenda of combining sense and sensibility? There have been some suggestions as to how this could be done, often based on a phenomenological understanding of the world, for example by learning from the work of artists. And I hold good hopes there will be more. As human beings we are equipped with the ability to feel, not only to think. So in order to combine sense with sensibility we, the researchers, need to develop the ways we work with feelings and emotions in addition to our work with (visual) observations and analytics in all phases of research work. This way, the research we perform will be “thick” and will draw upon all kinds experiences we have when studying a phenomenon.

The exploration by the Organizing Rocks-team, of how to express their research in music is such an example. Music can in a special way express emotions and capture feelings, thus relating to a different sphere than the sphere of analytical logics that we so commonly use as researchers. Therefore, music has the ability, together with other forms of expression – also the traditional ones such as papers in journals and presentations at conferences – to constitute a “thick” description such as the one argued for here.

As researchers and intellectuals we organize, direct, lead and educate others, which means that we inevitably exercise cultural hegemony as Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci put it, also when aiming at making our informants active participants. I think that our position as researchers involves a responsibility to aim at a nuanced understanding – to the extent that this is possible – about the life-worlds and practices that we aim at saying something about. In order to do so we need to make research a matter not only of sense, but of sensibility.


Theoretical saturation

There is a golden rule in research that you can stop a case study when you have theoretical saturation, that is, when you sense that what you hear, observe and see are same-same-but-not-too-different. As all golden rules this one is doubtful. Can there be an end to a case study for this reason?

So far, we have managed to equip ourselves with new questions and issues – and the very reason for this is all the insightful and reflecting storytellers that we meet in Kiruna and elsewhere. We ”only” have to engage in dialogues, to listen, to ask, to discuss. Nothing more, nothing less. If theoretical saturation occurs, it is rather a sign of that the researcher(s) have locked themselves in to a certain framework, and certain questions, and therefore are unable to sense anything ”new”.

Yes, a research project has an end – it has a financial start and stop, and it has a pre-planned time period. Researchers can also show signs of fatigue because of the tremendous mental weight interesting empirical material carries with it, and as a consequence the field is fled from. These are practical reasons. Theoretical saturation, so commonly referred to, we don’t believe in it!


Kiruna Music

The first day

The story of how young people imagine a future in Kiruna continues, this time in a song (in Swedish). During our last trip to Kiruna, in our conversations with (broadly defined:-) grown-ups we heard echoes of our previous conversations with a group of young girls. This short dialogue came to mind:

Girl 1 (19 years young): There is nothing in Kiruna.

Girl 2 (19 years young): There is everything in Kiruna.

Girl 1: I will leave on the first day!

In a later interview with girl 2, she explains why “everything” is in Kiruna, why she will stay, but also why she thinks LKAB is a too strong voice for youngsters growing up in Kiruna (one example is when staff from LKAB visits schools and telling young pupils why the only way forward is a career in the mine). But we also ask about her friend, why she will leave “on the first day” she has the chance to do so. That is basically the first part of the song below.

The other part of the song is a common story among the people we talk to, about when you’re young and want to study at a university, to explore, to seek out opportunities in the world (another story is reverse, that young people find the jobs at LKAB so well-paid that they don’t seek to explore new horizons). So, young people leave town, but when they grow older they come back to where they were brought up. This is the latter part of the song.

The link to the song “På första dan” (The first day) is below (you might have to reload the page for it to show!). The lyrics are in Swedish.

På första dan

Music, lyrics, instruments and song: Tommy Jensen


Dom säger, att Luossa varit gruva

Dom säger, att Börje hänger i hallen

Dom säger, att Kiruna har två lag

Dom säger, att jag ska ha tålamod


Dom säger, att ni är unga och smarta

Dom säger, att ni stannar här

Dom säger, att gruvan är enda vägen

Dom tror att, sina ord är min lag


Men jag tar flyget

På första dan

Ta mig härifrån

Och aldrig titta bakåt


Jag tänker, varför ska jag fatta?

Jag vägrar, i sten malmen och turisten

Min lust, är fägring stor

Bort härifrån, neonstan väntar


Men jag tar flyget

På första dan

Ta mig härifrån

Och aldrig titta bakåt


Men kanske kommer, kommer jag tillbaks

När medellivets ålder ropar mitt namn

Vem vill ha barn, barn med asfalterat DNA

Vem vill ha ett cementerat liv


Vi flyger norrut

Säger till ungarna

Det finns malm överallt

Och Kiruna har två lag

Iron Kiruna LKAB Music Nature Politician

Blast (gotta move)

“Blast (gotta move)” is a song about the anxiety of knowing what you have but not what you get, of trying to act collectively but faced with separate negotiations, with not knowing whether or not to afford what the market-conditions dictate, with up-rooting children if leaving Kiruna town is the only viable solution, about having to leave the beautiful scenery appearing outside the kitchen window, about the state withdrawing, leaving movement of a great part of a small town to the Company and to local politicians.

This story we have come across during interviews and the “analytical mood” of the song stems from Ferdinand Tönnies, a sociologist who at the end of 19th century studied the current transition of society. In his view, the tightly knitted community (where people stay together despite differences) is dying out, being replaced by the large scale society (in which people stay separate despite what connects them). Ferdinand Tönnies concepts Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are classic but still important and useful today. Kiruna, it could be argued, is in the intersection of Gemeinschaft and Gesellshaft, but this time around the transformation occurring seems to have different traits, dynamics and stakes. We suspect that organizing rocks, the labour process and changing power relations, play an essential part in the ongoing struggle between “the forces” of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, and for the struggle of the citizens of Kiruna town. The detective work continues, but click on the audiofile below to listen to the song (you might have to reload the page in order for the file to show):

Blast (gotta move)

Music, lyrics, instruments and vocals: Tommy Jensen


Blasts in the past
Blasts in the future
Below tunnels are expanding
Aftershocks are widening

The city is moving
Were will I go?
Blast – gotta move

Every time they assess my
Value go down
We want to act together
They negotiate us separately

The city is moving
Were will I go?
Blast – gotta move

It takes more than one for a society
It takes mutual togetherness
Together yet apart
Separated by powers that be
Large scale society are here
Community we’re are you?

Staying in Kiruna?
A flat for a flat
Market in-between
Lonely I must compete

The city is moving
Were will I go?
Blast – gotta move

From: Lossavara and Kebnekaise
Chimneys and windmills
To: Death Valley
Trees and hills

The city is moving
Were will I go?
Blast – gotta move
Silently angry
Drinking helps
The state withdraws
Dumping all at The Company’s feet

Kiruna LKAB Researcher Worker

Racial structures in the labour process

Visiting Kiruna means several hotel nights. Hanging out at the hotel, it becomes quite obvious that Kiruna, although very unique, is a familiar site in that: immigrant labour is very visible in the service part of society. Hence, at the hotel, the cleaners we meet and greet are immigrants, the breakfast staff is more mixed.

So what? Besides an observation, most likely relevant to many other service institutions in our society, what does this have to do with organizing rocks? Remember that we are in Kiruna with the purpose to grasp the labour process and changing power relations, and that we explicitly attempt to be open to what can account for as being part of the labour process. Hotels in Kiruna, as we see them, are to a large extent ‘infrastructural hubs’ for people that are in a work relation with LKAB and the Kirunamine, including us, although not paid by the company. So, the answer is that it has something to do with organizing rocks as the – racially structured – labour process at the hotel functions as a support structure to the labour process of the mine. Separate, yet together.

Talking about this also sparked our thoughts about race and the mine. We’ve learned that the racial structure is prevalent in the mine as well. Immigrants have service positions, especially cleaning service below and above ground. If native cleaning staff is to be found, we were told by a manager, we probably need to visit Förvaltningskontoret (FK; the admin house at the gates) where clerks and administrators work. We have yet to meet an immigrant worker inside the gates (if someone reading this could help us get in contact with one, or several, we’d be very grateful).

We have been traveling to Kiruna for more than a year now and this thought came to us now. So easy to see, yes to see, but so easy to neglect. So, even if racial structures sometime are rather easy to see, they are at constant risk of being suppressed by researchers such as us (and others) and thus remain uncharted territory.

Music Worker

Resistance: A tit for a butt

A small story – but so strong! A girl meets boys, in a boyzone, and their pin-up calendars in the coffee room under ground.

What to do, except for complaining to the boys and the organization? Well, after some attempts, this girl decided to have her own calendars at display down the mine. Male, naked, hunks (we assume, haven’t seem them). A sort of resistance. If this is a good story we can think twice about (a better story would be that the boyzone realized that a boyzone is not a boys zone only, and maybe the organization could have done more). But it shows a young person’s character.

This story was told in an interview, almost in passing, and it is a story that is so easily lost because:

  1. It is about hegemony
  2. It is about gender
  3. It is about every day resistance that at the end of the day concerns naked and exploited bodies

Then music is a beauty; by writing a song we can take this smallish story, one of so many other interesting stories, and make it the sole story, and also include other smallish observations. The song format allows us to be rather explicit, the storytelling in this song is direct, but it is not vulgar and sensation-seeking in any way. This is how it is. Body and soul, flesh and bones – hanging on a wall. Most certainly it would be labeled with “explicit language” if ever streamed through a commercial music channel (or being on a CD record). But we are not on a commercial channel. With utmost certainly publishing houses and reviewers would probably react strongly: Words like butt, pussy, dick, tit does not easily make its way to printed academic texts. At least not publishing houses and journals that deal with management.

Enjoy the song and upfront lyrics by clicking on the file below (you might have to reload the page for the audio file to show!).


Lyrics: Johan Sandström and Tommy Jensen

Music: Tommy Jensen

Instruments and vocals: Tommy Jensen

A tit for a butt
A pussy for a dick
On a wall, not allowed
In a meeting, well okay!

Ape and society
Men and their caves
Girls and big tires
In a mindful mine

The true story of doggy style
Is a story of unwillingness, of exclusion, of inequality

A pose for a pose
Sexuality and taste
We have gay people
We are an okay mine

Norms and society
People and their caves
We like your beard
But we’re not gay

The true story of the commons
is a story of assymmetry, of suppression, of depression

The true story of common style
is above all a story of oppression

A tit for a butt
Sexuality and taste
Come work for us
Tell us how it is

Management Music Worker


“No hands in the mine” – a Utopian tale driven by technological advances, but also very much a real thing, something that is happening in the world of mining. It is thus not something that only belongs to the visionary, it is also very strategic and concrete. Over time, there are less hands in the mine as miners are replaced by machines or moved to control rooms above ground, joysticking the machines.

A research group at Johan’s university in Luleå estimates that we might see the first fully automated mine in about twenty years and Sweden is in the forefront. Click here for a news flash of their research (unfortunately in Swedish).

It is also, of course, a story of tensions, well-covered in social history in general and management history in particular. Technology development, and technological processes, and their relations to manual labour have many facets. And indeed, many facets have been revealed by social scientists and arts. Automation might make work less hard and risky, but it might also make it less humane, more mundane, and even play a part in the deskilling of labour.

In the song below, a few different perspectives of this story is covered. The song itself is meant to be moving (different chord structures for the same basics) while also being rather monotone. Iggy Pop’s “Mass production” was a great inspiring peace. Enjoy the song by clicking on the file just below (you might have to reload this page for the audiofile to show!):


Lyrics: Johan Sandström
Music: Tommy Jensen
Instruments and vocals: Tommy Jensen

Science says hey
Twenty years from now
The underground workers
Are call-center miners

Company says hey
Twenty years from now
The hands to control
Are holding the stick

The operator says hey
But can’t be seen
A whisper in the dark
A cyber voice

The manager says hey
It’s safety first
From stones on head
To the paper-cut miner

”Proximity detection” in a global mine
Manual labour in an automated mine
Facing the unknown in a standardized mine

”Proximity detection” in a global mine

The mine says hey
More human flexibility
More human adaptability
Too much technology

Automation, automation
No hands in the mine
Automation, automation
No minds in the mine
Automation, automation
No mine without hands
Automation, automation
No mine without minds

Automation, automation, automation