Walking Towards an Embodied Work Identity

Mak, Connie, Davies, Andrea and Tsaousi, Christiana (2017) Walking Towards an Embodied Work Identity. In: EIASM – Interpretive Consumer Research, 27-28 April 2017, Stockholm, Sweden.

Walking Towards an Embodied Work Identity
Accepted Abstract
Abstract EIASM-ICR - Walking Towards an Embodied Work Identity -submitted.pdf - Abstract

Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


This paper explores the novel 'walking-with' method (Richardson, 2015; Shortell and Brown, 2016) as a complement to the sedentary retrospective narrative interview. Applied to a study of impression management and professional-career identity trajectories, the rather new ‘walking-with’ method seeks out inquisitive conversations with research participants on their walking-to-and-from-work routes through Hong Kong city, and walking-to-lunch routes also.
In social sciences, geography and in particular psychogeography, a small number of studies have used walking methods to understand how people connect with and make sense of, resonate with, and use their physical surroundings (e.g. Carpiano 2009; Richardson, 2015). In consumer research the physical context has been invoked in research and has served to prompt and stimulate insights or consumer narratives in studies using accompanied shopping (e.g. King and Dennis, 2006), retail ethnographies (e.g. Healy et al., 2007) or home-based ethnographies (e.g Coupland, 2005). Likewise, the walking-with approach has been shown as effective to generate richer data through providing additional contextual prompts and probes triggered by the physical contexts (e.g. Evans and Jones 2011). Very few studies in consumer research have walked the pavements and routes to the stores or to work, reserving attention and focus to the main places of retail or home consumption. Perhaps this is understandable given how research studies are constructed and the constraints to meet doctoral panel and ethics reviews expectations, and subscribe to neat study designs where the consumer-participant is the pivotal focus. Yet it is also surprising that routes and the consumer-practices on-route to sites of consumption have been ignored given that taste, distinction and consumption practices are omnipresent on the street, on route to home, to retail store and to places of work.
This paper reports on doctoral fieldwork analysis with 8 senior executives in Hong Kong. They were interviewed about their career biographies to share their account and narrative of career evolution. They were also ‘walked-with’ to and from work, and to lunch. The doctoral research aims to understand the resources and practices that executives use for identity construction through managing impressions at work over their evolving career life. This paper however will focus on the specific methodological innovation of the walking-with method as a complement to the retrospective narrative interview.
The ‘walking-with’ method is found to be much more than simply a physical stimulus to help recount more narrative insights by consumers. Our paper will report on how the ‘routes-to’ are resources of learning through observation of things both in the here-and-now (contemporary), and also in contrast to or evolving from the past, and how things have changed. Career identities are shown to be materially-enmeshed in the routes to and built environment. We will also report on how routes-to and being on-route have rhythms and bodily knowing that are not captured in a sedentary interview. Our findings resonate with Bourdieu’s (1984) observation of cultural capital as embodied; embodied in styles of walking, modes wearing, ways of speaking and gesturing, as well as routes and final destinations. We show how ‘walking-with’ is complementary to narrative interview bringing a more embodied understanding than is possible with narrative interviews alone. Pertinently the walking environment is revealed as a key element of investigation operating in our research as sign-vehicles/ resources for work identity, and our findings serve to encourage other researchers to include these walking environments. We also report on the practical obstacles of the ‘walking with’ approach, including ‘prolonged’ walking that has recently been emphasised in psychogeography.

Keywords:walking-with method, embodiment, cultural capital, career, work identity
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N500 Marketing
Divisions:Professional services
Professional services > Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute
ID Code:45855
Deposited On:03 Aug 2021 11:26

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