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Silvia Gherardi

This chapter illustrates how a working practice may be analysed approaching it as an ongoing accomplishment. The simple practice of an express delivery courier illustrates work in the gig economy. An ethnomethodological sensibility transpires through it and opens to the paradigm of situated action introducing the concept of knowing-in-practice.

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Silvia Gherardi

This chapter extends the concept of knowing-in-practice, arguing that a practice can be read as a collective knowledgeable doing, in which the key activity is constituted by the capacity to maintain a common understanding of the situation while being engaged in individual tasks. Control rooms of coordination centres best illustrate this aspect of practising, together with the capacity to perform ‘presence’, to scaffold the learning process of younger colleagues, and mobilizing border resources into the practice at hand.

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Silvia Gherardi

This chapter focuses on one of the most important reasons for a practice-based approach, that is, how to investigate the elusive forms of knowledge that are kept within a practice. Knowing through the senses – aesthetic knowledge – brings to the fore bodies, embodiment and gendered bodies/practices. It stresses the pre-verbal, the carnal and the affective in developing a professional vision of practising.

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Silvia Gherardi

In this chapter the sociality of the material and the materiality of the social are entangled in the concept of sociomateriality, but this time not in relation to bodies, as in the previous chapter, rather in relation to technologies, tools and objects. Practices are portrayed as taking place in an equipped environment that facilitates its recursive practising and that become ‘equipped’ through improvisational choreography. The message of the chapter is that practice rests on a relational technological infrastructure.

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Silvia Gherardi

The focus of the chapter is turned on what rules ‘do’ in sustaining or hampering a practice, and how practitioners ‘do’ rules by negotiating the ambiguity of rules and dwelling in relays of ordinary prescription informed by attention rules. The normative infrastructuring of a practice is thus illustrated.

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Silvia Gherardi

Talking while working is a specific practical activity, forming a practice and its institutional environment. Discursive practices are entangled and sociomaterial activities that perform several goals: creating identity and professional competence, performing mutual understanding, overcoming absence and distance and building a community by sharing stories. Discursive practices form the discursive infrastructure of a practice.

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Silvia Gherardi

Practices are facilitated and sustained by a technological, normative and discursive process of infrastructuring that is accountable to a sense of what is possible/allowed/appropriated within a practice and what is not. In other words, practices are socially sustained by aesthetic, ethical and affective judgements. Practising may be conceived as a process of knowing that, in doing, invents the way of doing. It is then formativeness that is the concept that expresses both how practices are changed and how they persist.

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Silvia Gherardi

Another strong reason for choosing a practice-based study is connected to the possibility to move freely from fine-grained details of one practice to its interconnections and interdependences with other practices and the other way around. The metaphor of a texture of practices allows the micro/macro dichotomy to be dismantled and the weaving of practices to be followed, tracking their traces in all directions. The chapter introduces the concept of agencement to interpret a practice as a process of establishing connections among its elements or among practices and seeing how agency emerges in timespace horizons. A methodological suggestion – the spiral case study – is illustrated.

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Silvia Gherardi

The main message of the chapter is that methodology can be conceived as bricolage, as experimentation, and as a process of transformative knowing. I focus on those ‘tricks’ that in my experience worked better in practice-based studies. I illustrate three methods: the interview with the double, the ethnography of the object, and affective ethnography. I end the chapter discussing how most practice-based studies are conducted with the explicit aim to change the practices in a participative engagement with the practitioners.

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Silvia Gherardi

The final chapter is about theorizing practice from a posthumanist positioning that displaces the human subject as the centre seat of agency for an agencement of elements that achieve agency in their being connected. Thus, the re-turn to practice anew is part of the wider movement towards a relational and sociomaterial epistemology because practice makes it possible to see and to represent a mode of ordering the social in which doing and knowing are not separated and the knowing subject and the known object emerge in their ongoing intra-action.