Congratulations to Kim de Laat, who recently graduated with her PhD and began a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Gender + the Economy (GATE) in the University of Toronto. Kim’s dissertation title is The Shape Of Music To Come: Organizational, Ideational, And Creative Change In The North American Music Industry, 1990-2009. She completed her doctorate under the supervision of Shyon Baumann (chair), Vanina Leschziner, Damon Phillips and Judith Taylor. Her dissertation abstract is as follows.
This dissertation examines the relationship between occupational roles, and creativity, uncertainty, and change in cultural industries. Over the course of three chapters, it uses regression, discourse, and content analysis, as well as in-depth interviews with professional songwriters and music industry personnel to analyze collaborative dynamics and collective sensemaking throughout the transition to digital production in the North American music industry. The first chapter develops meaning-centric measures of creativity to analyze how collaborative strategies shifted throughout the transition to digital production. It demonstrates empirically that musical diversity and innovation operate as countervailing forces – innovative forms can be devoid of diverse content – and calls attention to how limited examinations of cultural production are if the outcomes of interest are misspecified. Failing to attend to artistic form and content renders cultural objects no different from non-cultural phenomena, and leads to impoverished interpretations of institutional dynamics. Chapter 2 identifies how discourse is used to assess new technology and make sense of one’s place within a changing organizational landscape. It demonstrates that the patterned use of analogies and metaphors inform sensemaking and sensegiving efforts based on one’s occupational role. Moreover, a focus on the constraints posed by occupational membership on discursive framing elucidates the conditions under which exploitative or exploratory searches for solutions to organizational change are pursued. While the music industry has undergone massive change, creative labourers are accustomed to working under conditions of uncertainty since such industries experience high rates of failure. To this end, Chapter 3 examines how professional songwriters manage routinized uncertainty in post-bureaucratic work settings. It identifies two conventions that help manage ongoing uncertainties. Namely, equal authorship and professional conciliation mediate tensions between present-day conflict and desires for future success. They allow jurisdictional challenges and varying productivity to be accommodated, and rewards to be distributed in a manner deemed fair. This chapter challenges the notion that post-bureaucratic forms of work organization can be characterized wholesale as either cooperative or conflict-driven. In effect, conflict and cooperation are mutually constitutive within such organizational forms. Collectively, the dissertation chapters advance our understanding of endogenous cultural processes that occur within creative and institutional fields undergoing technological change.
At the Institute for Gender + the Economy, Kim is extending her interest in how actors make sense of change to include a consideration of gender inequality in the workplace. She is conducting a comparative organizational ethnography in order to examine how changing cultural beliefs about parenthood within workplace cultures inform employees’ perceptions and use of family-friendly practices, such as flextime and parental leave.