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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access June 29, 2019

Walk-Through Corporate Aesthetics: Design Affordances in Tech Workspaces

  • Stefan Werning EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Cultural Studies


The article at hand analyses the aesthetic dimension of contemporary “tech companies,” particularly how their characteristic rhetoric of creativity, collaboration and disruption is built into the aesthetics of the physical work environments. For that purpose, proceduralist reading and environmental storytelling, usually applied to analyse meaning-making in digital game spaces, are adapted to conduct a comparative spatial affordance analysis on material from Officesnapshots, one of the largest online repositories for workspace documentation. Expanding upon earlier definitions of spatial affordances as quasi-textual features, the article defines the design elements of tech offices as a continuation of verbal and (audio-)visual corporate rhetoric employed by companies like Google, Facebook or Etsy. It thereby contributes a material-semiotic dimension to current debates about the epistemic implications of these software platforms, which José van Dijck summarises using the term “platform society.” Besides game and play studies, elements of architectural semiotics and cultural analyses of support spaces (e.g. Kracauer 1999 and Moran 2005) as well as broader concepts such as the politics of theming (Freitag 2017) or the embedding of digital technologies into physical spaces (Kitchin and Dodge 2011) complement the theoretical framework.

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Received: 2018-06-06
Accepted: 2019-03-05
Published Online: 2019-06-29
Published in Print: 2019-01-01

© 2019 Stefan Werning, published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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