Affective atmospheres of sensemaking and learning: workplace meetings as aesthetic and anaesthetic

2019-11-21T09:21:36Z (GMT) by Chloe Vitry Dan Sage Andrew Dainty
The aim of this paper is to explore sensemaking and learning processes with and through affective atmospheres. We engage with recent research within the ‘affective turn’ across the social sciences and humanities to conceptualize the significance of quasi-autonomous affective atmospheres that emanate from and also condition collectives of humans and non-humans. Drawing on this atmospheric scholarship, we propose and elaborate an atmospheric analysis of sensemaking and learning processes to examine how such atmospheres aesthetically transform and anaesthetically constrain the potential of bodies, including our own as researchers to affect and be affected to sense and learn. Through empirical engagement with workplace meetings in a UK housebuilding firm, our analysis contributes by explaining how such atmospheres condition sensemaking that both registers the disorganising novelty of events and reduces such ambiguity and equivocality to enable purposeful action. While extant research has suggested how the interplay of these two dimensions of sensemaking enables learning, our analysis contributes by drawing attention to how the production, maintenance and transformation of specific atmospheres in workplace meetings imbues affects that condition these two dimensions of sensemaking. Such atmospheres thus constitute vital, yet seldom discussed, phenomena in conditioning learning within organisational life.