Affective Organizational Space: An Ethnographic Study of a Nordic Startup Incubator

Ari Kuismin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


This dissertation examines the relationship between space and organizing practices. It argues that developing a better understanding of this relationship requires studying the affective quality of space, namely the potential of space to generate affective responses in the people who encounter it and to increase or decrease people's bodily capacity to act. Building on an ethnographic study of a Nordic startup incubator, the dissertation focuses on how the affective quality of a collaborative workspace emerges and influences participants' capacity to engage with the day-to-day practices of the incubator. The findings are reported in four papers. The first paper lays the groundwork for the empirical chapters by examining the existing literature on organizational space. It shows how authors have recently theorized space as a processual and constitutive part of organizations and organizing. The paper identifies five different process orientations and four key constructs that underpin knowledge creation regarding organizational space. The second paper develops a concept of affecto-rhythmic order to capture how rhythms and affects interrelate in the flow of spatial organizational practices. The paper demonstrates how incubator participants learn and embody a contextual affecto-rhythmic order of "upbeat" and how this enhances their capacity to engage with the incubator practices. The third paper explores how the affective quality of a collaborative workspace emerges and develops over a period of three years. It highlights how the affective space creates possibilities to problematize dominant (masculine, controlled, rational) modes of being but also fosters tendencies towards their reproduction. The study highlights how the affective quality of organizational space may produce unintended consequences at any given moment. The fourth paper studies the types of ethnographic approaches employed in organizational space research. It identifies three types of approaches, shows how they privilege different forms of space, and highlights their tendency towards representational epistemology. Against this background, it illustrates how affective ethnography can help organizational space researchers move towards more-than-representational analysis of space and affect. The dissertation makes three main contributions to organizational research. It (1) theorizes and empirically shows how the affective quality of organizational space emerges and contributes to power and politics in organizing, (2) demonstrates how different forms of process theorizing can advance the understanding of organizational space, and (3) illustrates and further develops affective ethnography as a research approach to organizational studies.
Translated title of the contributionAffective Organizational Space: An Ethnographic Study of a Nordic Startup Incubator
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Moisander, Johanna, Supervising Professor
  • Katila, Saija, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8923-2
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8924-9
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • organizational space
  • affect
  • ethnography
  • entrepreneurship
  • incubator


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