Constituting Shared Workspaces and the Moral Order: Analysis of Workers’ Practice in a Japanese Animation Studio

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Shintaro MATSUNAGA, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training, Japan
This presentation presents a research on moral order in office by empirically analyzing the case of a Japanese animation studio.
In the Japanese animation industry, many animators work as freelancers on a piece-rate wage system; however, approximately 90% of them work for animation studios. This causes tensions because animators need to spend their time with different members in the same studio, despite freelance work having the advantage of allowing discretion. For example, they need to communicate with the managerial staff to arrange production schedules. In this session, I reveal how studio members treat and solve this tension in the course of their actions.
For this purpose, I conducted fieldwork in an animation studio (Studio X) in Tokyo for three months, which involved participant observations, interviews, and video recordings. As an analytical concept, I used Lucy Suchman’s “constitution of shared workspaces (CSW),” which indicates that spatial order in a workplace is constituted through the various activities of workers using verbal/nonverbal actions, tools, and physical environments.
From this perspective, it was discovered that members in Studio X engage in some practices in order to preserve their autonomy. For example, animators’ drawing desks are designed as personal spaces with partitions and shelves, members avoid talking to others around the animators’ desks, and when they need to talk to someone sitting at their desk, they try to minimize the duration of interaction by leaving their desk as soon as they finish talking. In sum, these practices make a space a personal workspace and maintain the moral order in Studio X, indicating office ethics in the sense of respecting individual workers’ autonomy. In this way, spatial order and workers’ practices are significant analytical topics for studying the moral order of various workshops, workplaces, and offices.