How come that we believe that material objects will promote innovation in our dematerializing knowledge and service society? Our basic assumption is that objects – especially when appearing in unusual contexts or with unclear meaning – may facilitate new access points, views and insights exactly by their material bulkyness and their sensual appeal. This assumption is based in an empirical observation of a past research project (see http://www.reflexivitaet.de/forschung/iirlicht).
In the context of an organization-development project, a group of co-workers built a reversed pyramid and a related game in order to symbolize and reenact the situation of the organizational unit which suffered from the perception of an internal split. Both the pyramid and the game sought to demonstrate that the internal differences were not so much a problem but the strength of the unit: several people had to maneuver the pyramid to to top of a ramp by pulling elastic bands (always having to keep in up and in movement). Instead of »pulling together«, each individual had to pull in a different direction, but just as much as necessary. The object and the game kept very present in the collective memory of the unit and changed the mutual perception in a reflexive way so that differences could be kept. And we got the impression that obejcts could probably play a crutial »intermediatin« role in the context of reflexivity. We can to thoroughly investigate this role in our current project.
Our specific research questions are:
- Which is the constructive role of symbolical objects in problem solving and the reorganization of thought in general?
- How can objects contribute to the emergence of new perspectives (and practices)?
- How can the practical and sensual and the aesthetic and interpretative dealing with objects be conceptualized as a process that creates new perspectives?
- And how those concepts be applied in a way that they support reflexive innovation in the life-world, in culture and in economy?
- Which kinds/classes of objects are particularly suitable to initiate reflexive processes?
- Which are the environmental effects of objects that were shifted in context?
- Which conditions will further and which conditions will limit the unfolding of difference (as a promoter of reflexivity)?
- What individual preconditions must be met on the side of the individuals and how can these be boosted?
- What cultural and structural requirements are needed on the side of the organizations?