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Title: Identity and interpretation of the built environment : a case study of interpretation of symbolic artefacts in the organisational built environment and it's effect on the identity forming process
Author: Collins, Hilary J.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3560 6123
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 2007
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Much of the organizational behaviour literature examines the way actors behave in organizations and much of architectural spatial design literature discusses aesthetics, design and construction of buildings. Organizational behaviour literature tends to emphasize the relationships between members of an organization and how these relationships affect management of change. Architectural spatial design literature tends to emphasize the project management aspect of managing physical change to buildings. But very little is known about how changes to organisational spatial design are perceived or understood by organizational actors. These bodies of literature have remained apart; which is surprising considering that buildings are designed for people. This thesis begins to examine the overlapping area between organizational behaviour and spatial design by addressing why, how and with what effect a strategic change process within three case studies was interpreted by the organizational actors interpreting symbolic physical artefacts in their built environment. These three organizations were of the same industry type and under the same management structure, but with distinctly different management of change processes. The participants, who were organizational actors, interpreted physical symbolic artefacts, which they identified as being central to 24 change incidents. The research techniques used to understand these interpretations and their role in identity formation within a change process were interviews with the participants over four phases, participant observation and photographic ethnography over a 36 month period. This gave the opportunity for an in-depth ethnographic experience in the context of place and over time which elicited micro level details on the processes involved in interpretation and consequent identity formation processes. The models also demonstrates how and through which processes we interpret physical artefacts using their aesthetic, instrumental and symbolic dimensions and how these interpretations are used to affirm/influence and/or create our workplace identities. The main factors affecting interpretation and identity formation within the case studies were found to be issues of respect, legitimisation, power and status and these were accentuated by the different management of change processes used in the three case studies. Overall, the research shows that we interpret physical symbolic artefacts in the organizational built environment, using different dimensions of the artefact and these interpretations are used to inform and alter our self, group, organizational or workplace identities. My research confirmed Rafaeli & Vilnai - Yavetz (2004) findings that participants interpreted artefacts through the aesthetic, instrumental and symbolic dimensions. My research extended these findings by establishing how and to what extent the various dimensions are used and that the resulting interpretation is used to form or influence various aspects of organizational identity therefore linking the findings to Hatch & Schultz's (2002) process model of organizational identity. Hatch & Schultz (2002) provided a useful framework for differentiating the concepts of organizational culture, identity and image and how they are interlinked and mentioned the role of physical symbolic artefacts in that process specifically stating that corporate architecture is used to express identity and also that by building corporate facilities identity is projected to others. However, they did not research the precise role, extent and context of physical symbolic artefacts. I found that we use symbolic physical artefacts within all four of the processes of identity formation proposed by Hatch & Schultz (2002) namely, mirroring, reflecting expressing, and impressing and that as a consequence the role the built environment plays in identity formation is more significant than previously envisaged. Understanding the use of physical symbolic artefacts in the formation of workplace identity links the two fields of identity and symbols. This thesis develops the constructs of workplace identity and image and uses them to link ideas for examining changing organizational relationships and the impact of the organizational built environment on its occupants and stakeholders. The literature has previously suggested a limited use of physical symbolic artefacts within formation of identity but my research suggests that physical symbolic artefacts in the built environment are used more extensively than previously suggested therefore taking a step further towards explaining the roles of artefacts in the identity process.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral