"Take care of this house": affects matter in construction innovation

2017-01-19T10:11:02Z (GMT) by Chloe Vitry Dan Sage Andrew Dainty
The role of emotions and affects is traditionally underplayed within studies of innovation management, not the least in construction. Indeed most innovations studies are prefigured upon a mostly calculative, cognitive, sensibility, wherein the management of innovation is framed as a response to specific competitive market pressures or institutional forces. Thus studies have tended to focus upon the improvement of often liner, abstract processes, such as cost-benefit or risk, decision-making. These studies are notably devoid of emotional, embodied actors. Even as innovation studies have registered socially dynamics humans as involved in meaning making or recognized the embodied presence of human actors in socio-technical networks, these studies still tend to focus upon rather cerebral, abstract or calculative dynamics. Thus the role of emotions and affects remains underplayed in most innovation studies, not least those in construction. In this paper we explore these concerns through the example of sustainable housebuilding. To manage innovation in such a project, to overcome ingrained organizational practices, to take seriously the demands of new technologies, requires emotional commitment from numerous actors (from architects to site managers to contractors), which in itself demands the cultivation, charging and release of a particular affective atmosphere around a building project. We herein examine this network of relations behind the cultivation of this affective atmosphere through empirical, ethnographic, research of a housebuilding project. In so doing we focus upon a particularly affective site manager, not as an exemplar of effective emotional leadership, but in order to glimpse the relations that circulate affective atmospheres, shaping the management of innovation. In our case, nonhumans such as project awards, posters, site displays, as well as more human practices, such as humour and body language, are rendered an integral part of this swirl of potent affects influencing the management of innovation.