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Ethnographic Perspectives on Work Systems (Arbeitssysteme aus ethnologischer Perspektive)



#50752 / #2

SS 2019 - WS 2019/20

Fakultät V

MAR 3-2

Institut für Psychologie und Arbeitswissenschaft

35321500 FG Arbeitswissenschaft

Feufel, Markus

Mörike, Frauke

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POS-Nummer PORD-Nummer Modultitel
2347857 39303 Ethnographic Perspectives on Work Systems
2348855 41160 Ethnographic Perspectives on Work Systems

Learning Outcomes

Have you ever started a new job and realized within the first few moments upon your entry that your new organization seems to „tick“ differently than others you might have got to know before? What initially bubbles up into your mind as a diffuse, often unreflected notion is not visible in organizational charts or process descriptions. These notions are the „hidden rules“ of organizational functioning which stand in the focus of the Seminar „Office-clans, desk-artefacts and Consulting Rituals: Ethnographic Perspectives on Work-Systems”. In the course oft he semester we will follow the question, how such hidden rules might look like and how we could trace their manifestations through the use of ethnographic research methods. Each seminar session is directly followed by a practical work unit/ lab (Übung), during which the opportunity is given to deepen the topics covered in the seminar or to plan the methodological exercises under supervision and advice. This module is designed to enable students to analyze work systerm from the perpectives of the different actors within them. A central aim ist to convey an understanding of the „emic perspective“, i.e. the perspective of the personnel working within the respective systems, and the ability to apply relevant ethnographic research methods in this context. Knowledge and Skills: Upon completion oft he module, students will have learnt - about different perspectives from social sciences on work systems; - to read relevant ethnographic studies in the field and to discuss them; - to apply selected theoretical frameworks to case studies; - to collect qualitative data with ethnographic research methods; - to use an array of different data collection methods in individual practical research exercises; - to analyze ethnographic data; - how to prepare and present qualitative research findings.


Topics: - „The Corporate Jungle“: Introduction to organizational Anthropology - What’s Ethnography? Selected studies from work and organizational contexts. - Changing paradigms: the emic perspective - Ethical guidelines and challenges of ethnographic research. - Ethnographic research methods: - „being there“: participant observation/ focused observation and shadowing - writing field notes - Interviews („the art of hearing data“): semi-struktured / narrative / informal - extending the toolbox: participative and cognitive methods - data analysis and supporting software solutions - Data interpretation & triangulation - presenting research findings

Module Components


All Courses are mandatory.

Course Name Type Number Cycle Language SWS VZ
Office-Clans, Desk-Artefacts and Consulting-Rituals: ethnographic perspectives on work systems UE 0532 L 004 SS English 2
Office-Clans, Desk-Artefacts and Consulting-Rituals: ethnographic perspectives on work systems SEM 0532 L 003 SS English 2

Workload and Credit Points

Office-Clans, Desk-Artefacts and Consulting-Rituals: ethnographic perspectives on work systems (UE):

Workload description Multiplier Hours Total
No information 15.0 4.0h 60.0h
Attendance 15.0 2.0h 30.0h
90.0h(~3 LP)

Office-Clans, Desk-Artefacts and Consulting-Rituals: ethnographic perspectives on work systems (SEM):

Workload description Multiplier Hours Total
No information 15.0 4.0h 60.0h
Attendance 15.0 2.0h 30.0h
90.0h(~3 LP)
The Workload of the module sums up to 180.0 Hours. Therefore the module contains 6 Credits.

Description of Teaching and Learning Methods

The knowledge and skillset is acquired in a two-tiered approach, including compulsory preparatory reading as input for the topics that will be discussed during the seminar sessions. A toolbox of ethnographic data collection techniques is provided along with numerous practical exercises for illustration. In support of the theoretical backgrounds covered, relevant ethnographic studies are given as concrete use cases. Starting with a historical sketch on the origins of the method and its application in both academic and applied human factors research settings, the course topics are structured along the research cycle from initial method decision criteria, to research design, data collection, data analysis and interpretation.

Requirements for participation and examination

Desirable prerequisites for participation in the courses:


Mandatory requirements for the module test application:

No information

Module completion



Type of exam

Portfolio examination

Type of portfolio examination

100 points in total



Test elements

Name Points Categorie Duration/Extent
weekly commentary on compulsory reading tasks (min 80%) 25 written 1 page/ week
Execution and documentation of three ethnographic methods exercises (focused observation sequence (3x 20 min) - Shadowing (1/2 day) - 2x semi-structured Interviews on a specific topic) 25 practical 4-5 pages documentation per exercise
Data analysis documentation 25 practical 2 pages
Presentation of your findings 25 oral 15 minutes

Grading scale

At least 60 points in total needed to pass.

Test description (Module completion)

No information

Duration of the Module

The following number of semesters is estimated for taking and completing the module:
1 Semester.

This module may be commenced in the following semesters:

Maximum Number of Participants

The maximum capacity of students is 25.

Registration Procedures

Registration: via Email upfront ( or in the first session of the semester.

Recommended reading, Lecture notes

Lecture notes

Availability:  unavailable

Electronical lecture notes

Availability:  unavailable


Recommended literature
Augustynek, M. (2010). Arbeitskulturen im Großkonzern: eine kulturanthropologische Analyse organisatorischer Transformationsdynamik in Mitarbeiterperspektive. Berlin: Waxmann.
Czarniawska, B. (2007). Shadowing and other techniques for doing fieldwork in modern societies. Malmö, Liber.
Garsten, C. (1999). Betwixt and between: temporary employees as liminal subjects in flexible organizations, Organization studies, 20(4): 601-17.
Kitner, K. (2014). The good Anthropologist: Questioning Ethics in the Workplace. In: Denny, R. M. T., & Sunderland, P. L. (Eds.). Handbook of anthropology in business. Left Coast Press, 309-320.
Madden, R. (2010). Being ethnographic: a guide to the theory and practice of ethnography. Los Angeles, SAGE.
McDonald, S. (2005). Studying actions in context: a qualitative shadowing method for organizational research. Qualitative Research, 5(4): 455-73.
Rubin, H. J. and Rubin, I. S. 2011: Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data. Sage.
Urban, G. and Koh, K.-N. (2013). Ethnographic Research on Modern Business Corporations, Annual Review of Anthropology, 42(1): 139-58.
Ybema, S. , Yanow, D., Wels, H. and F. Kamsteeg (Eds.) (2009). Organizational ethnography: Studying the complexity of everyday life. Los Angeles, Sage.

Assigned Degree Programs

This moduleversion is used in the following modulelists:

Verwendungen (3)
Studiengänge: 1 Stupos: 2 Erstes Semester: SS 2019 Letztes Semester: WS 2019/20

Students of other degrees can participate in this module without capacity testing.


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