Historicizing Routines Conference

27 10 2011

When were hear the word “routine”, we normally think of “boring”. But the study of how routines have changed over time is actually a pretty interesting subject. I therefore noted with interest this CFP for a conference on the history of routines.  See below:

Call for Paper Proposals

Historicizing Routines, November 1-2, 2012

Hagley Museum and Library and the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

For a conference on November 1-2, 2012, the Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia invite empirical and historically focused papers that explore the development, devolution, destruction, and re-creation of routines in 20th century organizations and bounded communities.

Routines are central to much human behavior, both within organizations and more broadly, because they facilitate the navigation of complex social, economic, and ecological environments. Too often, however, they are simplistically equated with stasis and adaptation, and unfairly counter-posed to innovation or transformation. In reality, routines can be dynamic, as the organizations and individuals that follow them encounter and respond to new situations or conditions that disrupt established behaviors. Indeed, well-designed routines can anticipate novel complications and can help manage and channel change, thereby reinforcing or enhancing traditional and vernacular practices and relationships rather than undermining them. Historically, both those routines that fail in the face of challenge and environmental shifts, and those which reflexively embrace disruption and reordering are of especial interest. While the presence of routines is most obvious in business firms, governments, militaries, labor unions, and other bureaucracies, they also are embedded in emergency response structures, research protocols, religious organizations, and settled communities. Hence exploring routines, especially their development, devolution, and transformation, can generate new insights to our understanding of the past.

Papers may be framed at any geographical scale (local, regional, national, transnational), but should detail what constitutes particular routines, how they came into being, how well adapted they may have been to environments and opportunities, how amenable they were to change, and what dynamics such changes actually provoked. We are especially interested in historical studies and ethnographies that explore how routines influence fluidity and stasis, how they organize and shape innovation, as well as how they interfere with or facilitate adaptation to new conditions. Failures often generate a search for new and more effective routines, another important process. Papers also may address the relationship between routines and “success”, e.g. how routine practices by firms or bureaucracies impede or assist an organization achieve its objectives and/or do better than others.

The deadline for receipt of paper proposals is March 31, 2012. Please send a 500 word description of your paper and the sources on which it is based along with a brief c.v. to Carol Lockman, clockman@Hagley.org. Travel funding will be available for presenters.

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