Capitalization: A Cultural Guide

Capitalization: A Cultural Guide (2017, Presses des Mines) is out! This coauthored work stands as the key achievement of the collective inquiry initiated with PERFORMABUSINESS:

What does it mean to turn something into capital? What does considering things as assets entail? What does the prevalence of an investor’s viewpoint require? What is this culture of valuation that asks that we capitalize on everything? How can we make sense of the traits, necessities and upshots of this pervasive cultural condition? This book takes the reader to an ethnographic stroll down the trail of capitalization. Start-up companies, research centers, consulting firms, state enterprises, investment banks, public administrations: the territory can certainly prove strange and disorienting at first sight, with its blurred boundaries between private appropriation and public interest, economic sanity and moral breakdown, the literal and the metaphorical, the practical and the ideological. The traveler certainly requires a resolutely pragmatist attitude, and a taste for the meanders of signification. But in all the sites in which we set foot in this inquiry we recognize a recurring semiotic complex: a scenario of valuation in which things signify by virtue of their capacity to become assets in the eye of an imagined investor.

The authorial collective is composed of Fabian Muniesa, Liliana Doganova, Horacio Ortiz, Álvaro Pina-Stranger, Florence Paterson, Alaric Bourgoin, Véra Ehrenstein, Pierre-André Juven, David Pontille, Başak Saraç-Lesavre and Guillaume Yon, contributing research carried out at the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation (CSI) of the École des Mines de Paris.

Available from the publisher and from online and offline bookstores.

Management Consulting, Performativity and the PowerPoint Syndrome

The fact that an interest on the performative condition in and of business needs to translate into an investigation on management consulting has been part of PERFORMABUSINESS since the start of the project. We are happy to communicate that one key deliverable on that front is now out from Management Communication Quarterly‘s OnlineFirst: in “Building a Rock-Solid Slide: Management Consulting, PowerPoint, and the Craft of Signification”, Alaric Bourgoin and Fabian Muniesa tackle this through a semiotic look at the power of PowerPoint. From the abstract:

The diagrammatic slideshow constitutes a crucial communicational instrument in management consulting. However, its semiotic implications remain poorly understood. How do consultants create slides that they deem significant? How do they recognize a good slide or an effective diagram? What practical criteria do they use? To tackle these questions, we develop a pragmatist approach based on the theory of signs of Charles S. Peirce. Drawing from data collected through ethnographic participant observation, our study analyzes how a team of consultants drafts a single slide intended to represent the problems of a client organization and assesses the evolving strength of the document. We identify three recurrent conditions of robustness—impact, accuracy, and layout—and discuss them in the light of Peirce’s distinction of iconic, indexical, and symbolic capacities in signification.