Fools are everywhere: The role of the court jester in the 21st century
This time, Daniel Pargman, an associate professor in media technology at KTH Stockholm, visit us to talk about his research.
Abstract: We all know that in the early 21st century, all professions have been taken hostage by the four horsemen of the administrapocalypse: New Public Management, bureaucracy, internal audits, external evaluations and funny-mirror batshit crazy email requests to fill out surveys from people who have professional functions that shouldn’t even exist in the first place (Graeber 2018, "Bullshit jobs"). But what can we academics do besides writing snide opinion pieces, articles and books (Alvesson, Paulsson, Bornemark etc.), formulating elegant definitions of admin sufficiency (”as much admin as necessary, but as little admin as possible”) or by obliquely speaking truth to power by including clever formulations in our docent applications ("I lean towards believing that KTH and Swedish higher education currently is over-regulated and over-administered […] It sometimes seems like we have perfected our processes at KTH to such a degree that they become nearly unworkable”)?
Prof. Dr. Pargman’s will take as a starting point that humor ”enables members to deal with the ambiguous, uncertain, and political character of organizations as well as the tensions that arise from their engagement in alienating organizational systems” (McMaster et al. 2005, ”Fooling around") and that a 21st century version of the medieval court jester could be a way to destabilize and ”unfreeze” the status quo of the old institutional order, since the jester uses ”humor, satire and absurdity to perform a systematic challenging of organizational Doxa, the taken-for-granted, unquestioned truths underpinning the functioning of an organization” (Clegg et al. 2021).
Suggested reading: Clegg, S., Cunha, M. P. E., Rego, A., & Berti, M. (2021). Speaking truth to power: The academic as jester stimulating management learning. Management Learning, 13505076211038080.