Examining Craft Work: Methodological Challenges and Choices

Blundel, Richard; Koomen, Philip and Bell, Emma (2019). Examining Craft Work: Methodological Challenges and Choices. In: 35th EGOS Colloquium, Enlightening the Future: The Challenge for Organizations, 4-6 Jul 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland.

URL: https://www.egosnet.org/2019_edinburgh/colloquium_...


In this paper we examine the options open to organisational researchers who seek to apply social scientific methods to study the work practices of contemporary craft practitioners. We begin by considering two historical precursors to contemporary research on craft practice, whose work serves to illustrate the range of approaches available, and some of the practical challenges that arise when researchers seek to engage closely with craft practitioners. The core of the paper comprises a comparative review of four distinct research strategies, which we label: ‘uncovering and observing’, where researchers explore craft work through the use of archival, ethnographic and visual methods; ‘engaging and taking part’, where they participate directly in craft activities; ‘sharing the experience’, where the reseach is concucted by a reflective practitioner; and ‘interacting across the divide’, where practioners and academics work together to co-produce the research. We consider a variety of empirical studies that have adopted these strategies, and assess their strengths and limitations in relation to the epistemological challenges identified previously. In the concluding discussion, we reflect on the implications for future research on contemporary craft work, and for related fields.

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