Future making and visual artefacts: an ethnographic study of a design project

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Title: Future making and visual artefacts: an ethnographic study of a design project
Authors: Comi, A
Whyte, J
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Current research on strategizing and organizing has explored how practitioners make sense of an uncertain future, but provides limited explanations of how they actually make a realizable course of action for the future. A focus on making rather than sensemaking brings into view the visual artefacts that practitioners use in giving form to what is ‘not yet’ – drawings, models and sketches. We explore how visual artefacts are used in making a realizable course of action, by analysing ethnographic data from an architectural studio designing a development strategy for their client. We document how visual artefacts become enrolled in practices of imagining, testing, stabilizing and reifying, through which abstract imaginings of the future are turned into a realizable course of action. We then elaborate on higher-order findings that are generalizable to a wide range of organizational settings, and discuss their implications for future research in strategizing and organizing. This paper contributes in two ways: first, it offers future making as an alternative perspective on how practitioners orient themselves towards the future (different from current perspectives such as foreseeing, future perfect thinking and wayfinding). Second, it advances our understanding of visual artefacts and their performativity in the making of organizational futures.
Issue Date: 1-Aug-2018
Date of Acceptance: 27-Apr-2017
ISSN: 1741-3044
Publisher: SAGE Publications (UK and US)
Start Page: 1055
End Page: 1083
Journal / Book Title: Organization Studies
Volume: 39
Issue: 8
Copyright Statement: © The Author(s) 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Sponsor/Funder: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Funder's Grant Number: EP/H02204X/1
Keywords: 1503 Business And Management
Business & Management
Publication Status: Published
Open Access location:
Online Publication Date: 2017-07-30
Appears in Collections:Faculty of Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering

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