An enterprising phoenix: materiality, affect and learning



Publication Details

Rooney, D., Manidis, M., Price, O. M. & Scheeres, H. (2018). An enterprising phoenix: materiality, affect and learning. Journal of Workplace Learning: employee counselling today, 30 (4), 262-273.


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore how workers experience planned and unplanned change(s), how the effects of change endure in organizations and the entanglement (Gherardi, 2015) of materiality, affect and learning.

Design/methodology/approach: Research design is ethnographic in nature and draws from 30 semi-structured interviews of workers in an Australian organization. Interviews were designed to elicit narrative accounts (stories) of challenges and change faced by the workers. Desktop research of organizational documents and material artefacts complemented interview data. Analysis is informed by socio-material understandings and, in particular, the ideas of materiality, affect and learning.

Findings: Change, in the form of a fire, triggered spontaneous and surprisingly positive affectual and organizational outcomes that exceeded earlier attempts at restructuring work. In the wake of the material tragedy of the fire in one organization, what emerged was a shift in the workers and the practices of the organization. Their accounts emphasized challenges, excitement and renewal, which prompt reconsideration of learning at work, in particular the entanglement of affect, materiality and learning in times of change.

Originality/value: Much workplace learning research identifies change as conducive to learning. This paper builds on this research by providing new understandings of, and insights into, the enduring effects of change.

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