How to Conduct a Practice-based Study
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How to Conduct a Practice-based Study

Problems and Methods

Silvia Gherardi

The practice-based approach to the study of work and organizing has been widely adopted in recent years, yet its theoretical and methodological systematization has only just begun. Silvia Gherardi expertly provides an overview on the topics and issues addressed by practice-based studies. By means of a series of examples drawn from the best-known analyses using this approach, the book provides methodological guidance on how to conduct empirical research on practices, and how to interpret them from three perspectives: practices ‘from outside’ practices ‘from inside’, and the social effects produced by practices.
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Chapter 7: Representing the texture of practices

Silvia Gherardi


Going to the cinema is an example of a social practice familiar to us, and which we perform with greater or lesser frequency. Let us use Garfinkel’s (1967) technique to defamiliarize this practice by asking ourselves: when does the practice ‘going to the cinema’ begin? When we enter the cinema, when we buy the ticket, when we arrange with our friend to go and see the film? And does it finish with watching the film? Or is talking about the film afterwards over a beer, or some time later with a group of friends, part of the practice of ‘going to the cinema’? The pleasure of going to the cinema continues and is renewed through discussion of films that we have seen. Going to the cinema is therefore connected with other sociability practices which form the texture of ‘being together’ and link with identity practices to show others that we are ‘abreast with the facts of the world’. Talking about the films that we have loved or hated, discussing the reasons and the aesthetic categories that account for our cinematic tastes, associating ourselves ideally or materially with others who express appreciation similar to our own, becoming collectors of a certain genre of film and calling ourselves ‘amateurs’ of a cinematic genre, are all activities that we recognize as being part of the same social practice. This social practice is founded on a set of activities, on the processing of an individual aesthetic experience, on its discursive sharing within social settings – and therefore on the development of aesthetic categories that enable its communication. It produces specific subjectivities (for instance ‘fans of police thrillers’) within a broader community of ‘film buffs’. We can continue our reasoning on the institutional and organizational level to stress how film clubs are organized, film libraries are formed and university courses on cinematography are institutionalized. From the individual aesthetic experience to the institutionalization of cinematographic representation as a socially legitimated form of production of knowledge about society, there extends a field of practices connected together and sustained by connections in action.

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