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Imitating Uniqueness: How Big Cities Organize Big Events.


This article summarises two studies of how a city organized a big event: the Jubilee of the Third Millennium of Christianity (in Rome) and the Cultural Capital of Europe 1998 (in Stockholm). Despite their differences, the supposed uniqueness of both events and the temporary character of the organizations created for their construction, the studies reveal interesting similarities in how the actors framed the two organizing processes. Both the Jubilee and the Cultural Capital of Europe are, in fact, repetitive events. In both cases, the organizing process adopted was one of first delineating an appropriate organizational field, then choosing multiple models to imitate, whereby hybrid organizations were created, the desirable traits of which could then be translated into a local context. Thus the local context encourages variation, whereas global modelling results in events that are more similar to one another.

Descriptors: organizing big cities, translation, action net, big events, hybrid organization


This article summarizes two studies, [1] each of them dealing with how a city organized a big event: the Jubilee of the Third Millennium of Christianity (in Rome) and the Cultural Capital of Europe 1998 (in Stockholm). Rome and Stockholm are obviously very different, and so are the two events. Nevertheless, the studies revealed interesting similarities in how the actors framed the organizing processes, despite the claims of each that their event was unique. Yet there is both a certain continuity and a discontinuity in these events as the Jubilee takes place once every 25 years at the same location and, for the last 13 years, Cultural Capital has taken place annually. As 25 years is a long time in the life of a city, it could perhaps be claimed that the Jubilee is celebrated in a different place each time. On the other hand, different cultural capitals exchange experiences, maintaining continuity in time, if not in space. This complex frame encouraged us to employ the same theoretical framework to both situati ons in order to illuminate the course and results of this specialised type of organizing.

We will begin with a short description of the two events and their contexts, followed by a discussion of the analytical framework. The two cases are then presented and interpreted, and the article closes with an analysis of similarities and differences in the light of the material presented.

The Big Events Framed

A Short Historical Introduction to the Jubilee

The first Jubilee of Christianity was organized by Pope Bonifacius VIII in 1300, and was the outcome, according to historians (Brezzi 1975; Accattoli 1997; Ronchey 1998), of an increasing desire for popular pilgrimage. Jubilees continued after that date but they were contingent upon particular spatial-temporal configurations. Thus, in the wave of secularization following the French Revolution only one Jubilee was held in the 19th century (1825), but in the 20th century there was a return to regular celebrations -- in 1900, 1925, 1950 and 1975.

Based originally on the institution of indulgence (a deeper absolution of sin than that given at a normal confession), it was suggested after the Second Vatican Council, in 1975, that the event might have exhausted its meaning. Paul VI, who had organized the 1975 event, responded by attempting to reinterpret the Jubilee as 'reconciliation' rather than 'absolution'. More in line with his own personal strategy, John Paul II's redefinition is that the Pope 'forgives and asks forgiveness' -- from the Jews, Luther, Hus, the Indios, the Inquisition, the fundamentalists, Islam, the Mafia and the racists, the heretics and Papacy, slavery, the crusades, dictatorships, women, and religious wars (Riccardi and Meghuagi 1997). By so doing, he has put in place the ritual of forgiveness instead of the ritual of leniency.

John Paul II has designed the Jubilee of 2000 as 'The Advent of the Third Millennium of Christianity', and, as such, it is basically a Vatican event. However, due to the Vatican's spatial location, certain Italian actors are also inevitably involved in its planning. Following the scandal in Italy of 'bribe city', this is the first large public event to be sponsored by public money. The participating actors are the Vatican State, the municipality and province of Rome, the region of Latium, and the Italian government, as represented by the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Finance. Together, they form an action net. As was to be expected, though, both the gestation and the carrying Out of the idea produced different associations and representations, as well as differing general symbolization processes between the religious and lay actors. For the latter, the Jubilee is a local event with the power to transform the identities of the organizations involved. The Vatican, however, perceives it as a universal spiritual event, of importance to humanity, the main recipients of which will be the pilgrims and the faithful of the entire world.

The institutional frame for the lay segment of the action net was made possible by Act 396/1990, 'Ventures To Be Undertaken in Rome, the Capital of the Republic', and by agreements concerning the programming and production of public services as stipulated in Act 241/1990, especially those which simplified the procedures necessary for acquiring legal authority and for transferring the public funds needed for public works and special events, etc. Unlike other capital cities, there had been no previous development plan for Rome and the laws regulating the transfer of public funds from state to city did not apply. Rome is exempted from these laws because of the assumption that it might require extra, unforeseen, public funding. Is is an exceptional situation that is viewed by councillors and officials as detrimental rather than advantageous to Rome. The new laws were designed to create a more systematic financial basis for the city's development and resulted in a permanent project called 'Rome the Capital City', and in the creation of the Office of Rome the Capital City, whose task is, among other things, to approve all decisions relating to the Jubilee. From these, a temporary organization, called the Rome Jubilee Agency, was brought to life.

The Vatican also created a temporary organization, the Technical Committee, whose specific task is to co-ordinate. This temporary organization is connected to the well-established 'Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi', which is an agency within the Vicarship of Rome. The specific objective of this 'religious' segment of the action net is to welcome and take care of pilgrims in such a way as to counter the commercial effects which it is feared the event is bound to generate.

Stockholm as Cultural Capital of Europe 1998

The idea of 'Cultural Capitals of Europe' is linked to the memory of the actress and long-time Greek Minister of culture, Melina Mercouri (1925-1994), who wanted to create a vigorous dialogue among the cultures of Europe. Her aim was to foster respect for cultural differences, and to expose the cultures of all levels of society and their effects on current political, social and economic life.

The decision was made to select a European city each year and to promote that city's particular culture and link it with the rest of Europe. The 13 June 1985 resolution of the Cultural Affairs Ministers of the European Economic Community chose the following cities: Athens 1985, Florence 1986, Amsterdam 1987, Berlin 1988, Paris 1989, Glasgow 1990, Dublin 1991, Madrid 1992, Antwerp 1993, Lisbon 1994, Luxembourg 1995, Copenhagen 1996, Thessaloniki 1997, Stockholm 1998 and Weimar 1999. For the year 2000, nine cities were selected, and for some years thereafter, two cities have been appointed for each year, except for 2003, when only Grasse was chosen.

When Stockholm was selected, Sweden was not yet a member of the European Community. Thus, Stockholm was the first city to be chosen from outside the community. The overall goal for the project 'Cultural Capital 1998' was to improve the long-term position and accessibility of culture in Stockholm and in Sweden generally, as well as to stimulate Stockholm's cultural contacts with the rest of Europe. This was, at least, how the project was presented during the lobbying campaign directed at Swedish politicians, though primarily focused on Brussels and on Swedish membership in the European Union.

To plan and implement the 365-day project, the City of Stockholm set up a company assigned to handle the process leading up to the events in 1998. The company became a legal entity in May 1994 under the name 'Stockholm -- Cultural Capital of Europe 1998' (hereafter referred to as 'Stockholm '98'). The company ceased to exist in April 1999, on completion of the 'year of culture' and when the summing-up had been accomplished.

In October 1994, when the study began, there were seven people working on turning Stockholm into a cultural capital. More employees were taken on in the autumn of 1996, once the budget for the project had been secured and even though actual financing did not materialise until 1997, the entire project depended on it. In October 1996, 'tropical growth' [2] forced the team to move to larger premises to accommodate the increasing number of employees.

What Was Studied and Which Methods Were Used?

Action Nets, Temporary Organizations and Organization Fields

Both studies aimed at capturing the process of organizing (Weick 1979; Czarniawska 1996), rather than describing the organizations as such. Thus they concentrated on actions and activities instead of people and structural forms. Organizing is the act of connecting actions to one another, and if such connections take hold, one can speak of an 'action net'. When an action net survives, it gives the actors identity and stabilises the network, which, in time, may become accepted as an actor network, thereby gaining power (Latour 1986). For example, the Jubilee event means accepting pilgrims, which means, among many other things, disposing of the litter which they are going to produce. Organizing the Jubilee will therefore necessitate connecting the activity of planning central events with the activity of planning street cleaning. The Technical Committee might thus contact the Office for the Environment to establish this connection. Observe, however, that it is not contacts between the actors which are important, but the actions themselves. If the Office for the Environment is unable to undertake the necessary action, the Vatican's Technical Committee might connect with a private entrepreneur instead. This, in time, could become a powerful competitor to the Agency for Environmental Protection, which currently holds a monopoly position in Rome. By looking at how action nets are created, researchers can examine organizational processes without becoming enmeshed in the illusion of solidity and immortality, which successful organizations so often produce. The studies reported here trace the connections between events and actions within the action nets created by these two major events (Czarniawska 1997).

Many existing organizations (some, like the Vatican State, established long ago) are involved in the organizational processes in the two cases studied, but new organizations have also been produced, the main characteristic of which is that they are temporary. Lundin and Soderholm (1995) argue that, in order to understand the phenomenon of temporary organizations, it is necessary to highlight their four characteristics: time, task, team and transition. Time is the most important, as it defines the limit of any temporary organization's existence. Task is important because it is immediately visible, and though it may be infinitesimally complex, it is presented as a singular task (in contrast to 'normal' organizations, which, even if small, have many different tasks). Team here does not represent a hierarchy, since temporary organizations usually do not have time to develop a proper power structure, and their task-oriented character favours the employment of people at the same level. Last but not least, transitio n is a landmark of temporary organizations because, again, unlike the 'usual' ones, they are intended to undergo one, if not several, transformations from non-existence to existence and back, and from one stage in the task accomplishment to another, etc.

Action nets stabilize into networks and organizations, temporary and permanent, which become connected to one another, thus forming organization fields (DiMaggio 1983). The Jubilee 2000 and Cultural City 1998 events created their own unique action nets and formed their own networks and organizations, but they are not the only big events ever organized. Thus one can distinguish an organization field as being, for example, 'management of big events', where knowledge and experience accumulates, contacts are formed and dissolved, and where people, groups and organizations imitate, compete, and in other ways relate to one another. Organization fields, however, are not delineated a priori by a researcher. Defining a relevant field and establishing contact with other actors in that field are important elements of organizing, which will be reported here.

Imitation as Translation

How do actors know which actions should be connected together and how those connections should be built? What should a temporary organization look like? Imitation provides a commonsensical solution to these questions, in other words, a way forward can be found by looking at how such action nets and organizations have been formed on previous occasions. However, Rome in 2000 is a very different place from Rome in 1975, not to mention Rome in 1300; and to what extent can Stockholm imitate Glasgow, the hero among cultural capitals? The experiences of similar events can be useful, but they must be translated into the local context. Therefore, while imitation is an obvious way of organizing, it must not be understood as mechanical copying.

Understanding imitation in this way has, in fact, been suggested by many researchers. Traditionally, the concept of diffusion has been used for describing the reproduction and transmission of a given product, idea or innovation from one context to another (see e.g. DiMaggio and Powell 1991; Levitt and March 1988). This process can be seen as movement across time and space, followed by mechanical reproduction.

An alternative perspective would be that of translation (Latour 1986), where actors encounter ideas which they then change to fit their own frame of reference. Imitation can thus be seen as a process of translation where 'something is created and transformed by a chain of translators' (Sev[acute{o}]n 1996: 51). Sev[acute{o}]n sees this as a three-stage process. First, the situation is defined (in Lundin and S[ddot{o}]derholm's 1995 terms -- defining the task and team), by asking who the actors are and what the situation is. This amounts to delimiting an organization field, asking, for example, whether we are dealing with 'management of big events' or 'construction of a creative city'. The second is what Sev[acute{o}]n, inspired by Ren[acute{e}] Girard, calls the construction of desire: our aspirations, given the field and its heroes. The third stage concentrates on institutionalized ways of fulfilling these desires where, having established that we want to be like X, we identify accessible ways to achieve tha t goal.

This kind of reasoning is indeed applicable to all organizations, but it is especially interesting in cases such as Cultural Capital and the Jubilee, where there are no ready-made models, and where it is not even clear to which organization field that kind of organizing belongs. This does not mean that the organizers of those two events are free to do as they please. The iron cage of institutional order, which serves both to enable and limit, is always present. The reason why such cases are particularly interesting for organization researchers is not that they are different from 'typical' cases of organizing but that, because of their temporary character, they make visible organizing processes which are usually taken for granted, and which are therefore normally opaque to both the actors and observers. [3]

Between Mercury and St. Peter: Translations in Networks

The study of organizing the grand Jubilee of 2000, seen as an action net, revealed two networks created during the process, one 'lay' and one 'religious' network. The actors in the two networks perceived their effort as belonging to the field of 'the management of big events', but the boundaries of this organization field were under construction. The goals, problems and world views of the two networks were different. At the beginning, neither of these networks had a clear structure, but both tried to structure themselves. In general, there was a certain symmetry in the way the two networks operated. Both created temporary organizations to deal with the event, which could, and should be constructing one action net, but which are closely related to other structures, firmly located in the traditional institutional order of the two respective spheres.

Translations in the Lay Network

'In May 1995, the Mayor of Rome organized a large conference at which he presented the design for Rome in the year 2000. It was a project design of the Pharaohs, as it included a construction of the third subway line, of an underground passage to Castle Sant' Angelo, the doubling of Rome Fiumicino airport, the construction of a third lane in the city ring, a series of railway infrastructures, the restoration of large mansions within the city, the construction of an underground passage to Via Appia...' (Lay Network)

The lay version of the Jubilee came into being as a result of the publication of the Pope's letter on the Third Millennium of Christianity. Indeed its logo, intentionally or otherwise, suggests that the Vatican plays a central role in the project:

By the time of the lay presentation in 1995, the overall project had already taken on pharaonic proportions. As we could see, above, the programme of works to be undertaken in connection with the Jubilee originally included very many enterprises. It was anticipated that this would affect various aspects of city life, from the rehabilitation of open spaces by reorganizing access roads to big churches and specific cultural events, to ventures concerned with receiving tourists, and ventures building new infrastructure for public transport. Some of these never got off the ground, while others received substantial cutbacks. As early as November 1996, the grand project presented by the Mayor began to crumble. By the beginning of 1999, 300 works had been completed, with another 300 planned for completion within a year.

Throughout most of the first stage, between 1994 and the beginning of 1997, the lay group operated virtually without funds, since the finances for the projects were only released in March 1997. For this group, the Jubilee has become a project defined by the legal system of the 'Capital City of Rome' which uses an existing set of procedures. This is a 3-year project that does not require new administrative practices. The Capital City of Rome therefore created an interorganizational structure, the Rome Jubilee Agency, a company consisting of the Municipality of Rome, the Province of Rome, the Region of Latium, the Italian State and the Chamber of Commerce. Its task is to design, programme and manage the Jubilee. The Mayor's intention had been for this Agency to be a strong actor, dealing with finances and having decision-malting powers, but he was opposed by other actors, who feared that the Agency would encroach on their authority. Thus, instead, it quickly became an arena in which the actors representing the municipality, the state, various professions and interest groups, expressed and negotiated their interests.

The first task of the new organization was to manage the preparatory phase of the operations, which, in time, was to be replaced by the actual management of the event. Its form was described by one respondent as a hybrid. The Agency does not perceive itself as a sum of the properties of public administration and private organizations, but rather as a new organizational form, that of an integrated public system, with a team philosophy and a variety of control instruments at its disposal. It carefully avoids presenting itself as either a political or an economic organization. Nevertheless, the company is its own ideal model, but translated to the needs of its specific task and its short-term existence.

This company-ization is an element of a new strategy for administering the collective good, in contrast to the old-style administration, which is seen as slow and inefficient (Brunsson 1994; Battistelli 1998). With this strategy, they hope to achieve regulation and standardization by introducing a new culture of integration into the public sector. Although this strategy is global, it always has to be translated into a local political context.

When the group of municipal officials who entered office in November 1993 began their mandate, they found themselves in a very difficult situation, because the municipality of Rome had been put under rule by commission on two occasions and many officials had been arrested for embezzlement. This situation put a halt to all public works, not just in Rome, but throughout Italy. It was not until recently that the situation became more normal and the state resumed responsibility for financing public works, both large and small. This 'normalization', however, did not relieve officials from feeling that they were still working 'in the eye of the hurricane'.

The political landscape on all levels seemed to be dominated by technocrats, but Berlusconi's government, followed by that of Dini, plunged into crises. Prodi's new government, however, was political, rather than technocratic, and its coming to power caused the action-prone attitude of the lay network to collapse, forcing the actors once again to busy themselves fighting to preserve their spheres of authority, identity and visibility -- all in complete contrast to the official rhetoric which stressed the need for integration in public administration. As the time frame was too short to pass any legislative acts, the Municipality attempted to launch a true 'process of organizing'. This meant, though, that the Jubilee had to be organized in a 'state of emergency', instead of from the legal base that acted as a main frame for 'normal' administrative activity. This was fostered, if not necessitated, by the fact that the finances to cover the event were not handed over to the city of Rome until March 1997.

This exceptional state of affairs justified exceptional measures. Thus, the Mayor was appointed by the central government to be the highest and sole decision-making authority in matters involving the Jubilee (the Commissary for the Jubilee), even though this was in conflict with the 'culture of negotiation' that the 'process of organizing' was supposed to foster. In addition, some new organizations were created, before it was clear what they were supposed to do.

The lay network's main obsession is that industrial relations are currently in such a turmoil that there is a real possibility of the city being paralysed by a wave of strikes during the Jubilee event. The fact that the Left is in power does not make any difference to the situation. Citizens are not really prepared to cooperate and suffer, since city traffic is already congested by various ongoing public works. It took quite some effort on the part of lay actors to convince the Vatican of the necessity of forbidding tourist coaches from entering the Vatican State, and of operating a system of shuttles instead.

Thus, special attention must be given to managing the interface between citizens and pilgrims. The number of people expected to participate in the Jubilee is 25 million, most of whom will spend between one and three days in Rome. To work on the numerous problems already created by this knowledge, a joint committee of the states of Italy and the Vatican has been formed. Citizens will be exposed to three years of chaos. As a result, it has been deemed necessary to mobilize civic responsibility, and not merely by circulating information about the event. The task will be to convince citizens that this is all being done for them, and that any benefits to pilgrims will be incidental. The slogan that has been coined says 'undertakings for Rome' and 'with Rome', not 'to Rome'. Any works carried out in connection with the Jubilee will remain intact after the celebration. They will be durable, not ephemeral. Nevertheless, the relationship between citizens and the city administration remains, as ever, far from unproblem atic (Pipan 1995, 1996). This situation will not facilitate tranquil encounters between citizens and pilgrims, nor will it encourage the development of a culture of mutual acceptance and exchange between the two.

One way of softening citizen hostility has been to present the Jubilee as an opportunity to re-launch the city economy after years of recession. The tourist sector, those small and medium-sized companies specializing in handicrafts, souvenirs and clothing, will undoubtedly profit from the event. There is a plan to open a 'service counter' which, managed in collaboration with the unions, will help to co-ordinate the demand and supply of additional labour during the Jubilee event, in addition to organizing educational activities to cover the areas of competance required. Thus, as the head of the Mayor's Office put it, for the lay action net, the Jubilee will be 'a market event' not just a spiritual one.

Apart from marketing efforts aimed at convincing the local community to adopt a positive attitude towards the event, some thought has also been given, despite the anticipated number of visitors, to the marketing campaign to attract those from outside the city. This marketing effort will probably allude to various images of the city, beginning with an idyllic, spiritual image, presenting Rome as a seat of reflection over the coming millennium. Other images may include the idea of Rome as a cultural capital of the West, as well as the image of the city as a product, or, more precisely, as a unique physical site in the landscape of cities that are organizing celebrations for the year 2000 (Jerusalem, Sydney, Hannover). For it to stand out above these other events, the Jubilee will have to be presented as a unique product.

Translations in the Religious Action Net

The Technical Committee is a temporary Vatican organization set up just for the Jubilee. There is also a permanent organization dealing with the ever-present problems -- of varying intensity -- of pilgrimage in Rome. The Technical Committee handles contacts with the Vatican State, and administers the Solidarity Fund and the Administrative Fund. Committee personnel who deal with the mass-media take care of information and communication related to the event. There are 100 local committees all over the world which bring witness to the universality of the event. There is a second central committee in Jerusalem that manages a similar set of problems. The intention is for this to be a decentralised Jubilee that will be celebrated all over the world.

The frame, or 'spiritual map' of the event has been sketched by Pope John Paul II in his ecclesiastical letter, 'The Advent of the Third Millennium', which was designed as 'a workbench for establishing a true and proper construction site to accommodate all those who wish to participate in this grand festivity'. The letter was designed as a 'Magna Carta' for the works to be conducted, or as an 'open door of service to humanity, in search of hope'. The Apostolic letter makes it clear that the event will take place on a global as well as on a local level. The celebration will take place in the Holy Land, in Rome, and in all the churches of the world. Even if the event touches the Eternal City directly, its task will be to symbolically perpetuate 'the mission of the Church in relation to the universal Christian family'. This mission also includes the development of an inter-religious and cross-national dialogue that is characteristic of any global event.

Circulating information is one of the core tasks of this action net. There is a special bulletin, an information agency, press conferences and messages to the media, and a journal called Rivista Tertium Millennium, an official publication of the Central Committee which takes upon itself the role of connecting all national committees and groups from all over the world.

In November 1996, a logotype was selected from proposals offered by artists and agencies from all around the world.

This graphic representation is intended to serve as a symbol of recognition, of call-up and of unity among all manifestations of the event taking place in the various localities. There is no allusion to the commercial aspects of the event, so blatantly advertised in the lay action net. Commerce plays no part in this action net. Technology, however, especially information technology, does play an important role.

Information technology is being used on three main issues: monitoring the demands of pilgrims; estimating available resources in terms of people, organizational units and finances; and analyzing the supply and demand of services. A data bank has been created for these purposes. The technical committee has also created an IT centre to be connected via the net to all national committees in order to facilitate real-time communication on all issues concerning the travel organization. It is hard not to notice that, although market considerations are forbidden in the religious part of the action net, management is welcome. The Church is clearly attempting to create a non-commercial alternative to economic management.

Thus, the Jubilee 2000 is to be celebrated as a plea for solidarity with the poor people of the world, where

'... solidarity does not mean offerings of charity or money boxes, but a strategy through which the pilgrims from rich countries will be implicitly collaborating with those who come from poor countries. We shall realise this strategy through a series of operations to be carried out in co-operation with the national committees and the local churches. We will create 'pilgrim cards' which will also supply us with data for organizational purposes. Such cards will cost ten dollars in North America, but only five in Latin America, to give you but one example. It is not a money collection, but a series of strategies which will express a very open solidarity, one to be expected in a glass house.' (Religious Network)

For every local event, each organization of the universal church has introduced a fee that includes a fee of solidarity contingent upon the category of the pilgrim.

Another focus of attention is that of medical care, which, together with security, is a major problem at every big event of this kind. This problem is being considered in conjunction with the lay network. The actors in the religious network perceive themselves as enlightening their partners in the lay network via their Cupertino in the same action net.

Potential security problems are being compared to those experienced in Atlanta, even though that event could not be used as a model for the Jubilee. According to the chairman of the committee, who was in Atlanta himself: 'If we did a similar thing with the pilgrims at the entrance to St. Peter, we would have immediate chaos. It should be enough to have the identification signs readable only to the police and to the leaders of pilgrim groups'. If Atlanta cannot be a model, neither can the previous Jubilee, since the needs of pilgrims have changed since then.

'The problem which the technical committee for the reception of the pilgrims had to tackle in, let us say 1950, was the pilgrims' shoes. There was a reception centre in Ostiense where the pilgrims could wash their feet and put on new shoes. Today the world is different, the means of communication are different, and mobility is different. Every day, the airport at Fiumicino is vomiting out thousands of people. Europe is on the move; the people from the East are coming with all possible means of transportation to the City.' (RN)

Apart from the reception units already described, a centre of national and international voluntary help is being created to be put into operation during the 12 months of the Jubilee. Volunteers will be offered free travel and accommodation in exchange for various kinds of services and skills. Doctors, engineers and interpreters will arrive from all over the world, and will be able to talk to pilgrims in all necessary languages.

The Actions of the Two Networks

A need for one action net, the Jubilee, has produced two networks and two temporary organizations, both of which are supported by permanent organizations, including the Rome Jubilee Agency, which is connected to the Office of Rome the Capital City, and the Technical Committee connected to the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi. The two organizations and their collaborators began translating their tasks into sets of actions. The following figure, although coming from the lay net, neatly symbolises the two networks (St. Pietro and the she-wolf) and their actions:

Although we are talking about what is supposed to be one action net, the most interesting parts of it are the connections between the different actions of the two networks. There is only one joint action so far -- the construction of a parking area, to be built by the City of Rome and jointly financed by the Vatican and the City.

Many parallel actions play a different role in their appropriate networks. For example, for the lay group, the communication target is the citizens of Rome, but for the religious group it is the pilgrims. From the very beginning, in the case of the lay network, information has been used to demonstrate transparent operations; in the religious network, however, it has been used to propagate the event.

It is the intention of both networks to modernize their management systems, but as these are different systems, modernization will follow different models. The lay network intends to modernize city management following the example of private companies, thus 'company-izing' organizational structures. Modernizing the management of pilgrim reception will take place mainly through investments in information technology. Here the model will be 'destination management'.

There are many actions which are specific to one network, such as lay-group efforts to connect the event to other works already initiated or completed, including the renovation of the Vatican railway station, and the widening of the motorway between Rome and Fiumicino, thus securing extra funds from both the Italian State and from the European International Bank. The lay network wants to give the event a distinctly commercial flavour, with the aim that it will benefit City finances.

Actions initiated by the religious network, however, are concentrated around the spiritual contents of the event and its global character. Apart from the purely religious significance of the event, the way in which it is organized should also contribute to its spiritual message. The Solidarity Fund has bee set up to assist the poorest pilgrims and convey the message of humanitarianism. The aim of this message is to complement, provide an alternative to, or perhaps even contradict the commercial message of the lay network's actions.

Which models, positive and negative, have been used by both networks as points of reference? Atlanta seems to have been a partially negative, though vivid, model for both nets (perhaps because the Head of the Technical Committee was also the Head of the Olympic Committee). 'There, the buildings were, and are, simply marvellous: the organization was practically non-existent and the management was disastrous. From this one can conclude that it is more important to know how to manage a big event than how to construct large swimming pools and other large works.' (RN). The lay actors also mentioned the FAO's top meeting in 1996, when they hosted 140 delegations from all over the world. They also mentioned the World Soccer Championship in 1990, and especially the security measures, since that particular World Championship was a disastrous event from the point of view of public works. The models evoked by the religious network indicate that there is a longer organizational memory at their disposal, referring back to the EXPO, or even to the Jubilee of 1950.

The Olympic Games and the FAO top meeting were, however, seen by city officials as relevant from the point of view of mass-event security, rather than management practices. Such practices involving the Millennium project are intended to follow patterns institutionalised within routine city management. The Jubilee will be managed in the same way as any other event taking place in the City of Rome. This view, however, is not shared by the Vatican:

'The Jubilee is a special event, different from an EXPO or the Olympics. This is not only because it has a religious and a cultural significance, but because it resonates at world level, because of its 12-month time-span, because of the number of people involved, and because of the number of national and international organizations contributing in some way to the event.' (RN)

The religious field is building its plans for managing the event by concentrating on its uniqueness. This uniqueness is of central importance to establishing the identity of a temporary organization, and to establish such an identity, organizational skills not currently present in any other organization have to be either present or be developed.

The lay network is relying to a large extent on the more inclusive organizational field of city management, whereby various efforts are integrated organizationally with the help of an effective negotiation culture built up within the action net from activities that are already institutionalized and firmly in place. New kinds of institutional developments are neither expected nor deemed necessary for organizing the Jubilee, even though innovative solutions may be needed. However, as was mentioned before, any ambitions to regenerate the culture of public management may be cut short by the emergency situation fostered by the delay in receipt of funds and the lack of time.

The process of organizing, which creates the action net, takes shape via a chain of local translations, as demonstrated by differences in purpose, action and the means employed. The lay network takes private company management as a model and tries to translate it into the realities of public management. The religious network, on the other hand, appears to be modelling their actions on the example of managing big sports events. Both networks use and create connections with other existing networks and organizations to transform themselves and those connected with the event. All this happens under the strong influence of the developments that are taking place in technology, especially in information technology. The religious network, in particular, uses IT as a way not only to spread news about the event and its message, but to create a global religious community that they hope will last for ever. The potential for success of the Eternal Netscape seems to be quite realistic.

City Kaleidoscope: Translations by a Temporary Organization

The role of the one specific organization responsible for the Cultural Capital event in Stockholm was to spin an action net around itself, but the problem of delineating the field and locating appropriate models was analogous to that of Rome. For Stockholm, though, this question was twofold: (1) how to find a model for the temporary organization which was given, a priori, the central role in the process, and (2) how to find models for organizing the event itself. tar quite some time, the actors gave the first question more attention than the second. Later, however, most effort focused on producing a broadly defined cultural programme that had sufficient breadth, depth and dynamics. Many collective initiatives were undertaken in and around this organization, forming a net of activities, which are the focus of this study. The logo, with its characteristic 'splash' motive, symbolizes these activities.

The motive indicates that culture could be found everywhere, even in the most unexpected places; it was accessible for each and everyone.

Stockholm '98 as a Hybrid

To imitate is 'to act like someone else with the more or less conscious intent of achieving the same, or similar' (Sevon 1996: 5). There is a need to match one's own -- emerging -- identity with a desired one. However, this is a circular process, since in order to find appropriate models, one must already have an -- emerging -- answer to the question, 'who are we?'. The environment that brought the temporary organization to life confronts it from the outset with three kinds of demands: political, economic, and cultural.

By comparing a given organization to various ideal organizational types, Brunsson (1994) attempted to unravel the ways in which different and sometimes contradictory demands affect organizations. Stockholm '98 was set up as a joint stock company, and should be considered as a company within this classification. 'The company's' most important business is to produce, and therefore to look for solutions rather than problems. Indeed, during the period 1994--1996, Stockholm '98 did just that. In 1994, the organization appealed to a wide range of 'activists' from cultural life, mostly within the municipality of Stockholm. 'The year for suggestions' was 1995, during which citizens were encouraged through different meetings, information material, and so on, to propose various ideas. Approximately 5,000 suggestions were sent in. These suggestions, discussed with various individuals, groups and institutions, inspired the formulation of fifteen thematic concepts, known as anchor themes, which were later used to establis h the basis of the entire cultural programme.

This democratic strategy was, in fact, chosen for political reasons. Instead of delivering a clear-cut proposal of content, a general invitation was issued to the public, inviting everybody to participate in the process leading up to 1998. A feature of political organization, another of Brunsson's ideal types, one might expect this to be a certain way of inviting problems. Why, then, did Stockholm '98 not use one model only? After all, the winning perspective of the day favoured the free market as the right way of doing things. Brunsson (1994) argued, on the other hand, that politicization, meaning that 'the company' takes on features from 'the political organization', is a very common strategy for ensuring survival, and that, at times, it is also a healthy way of dealing with conflicting demands.

Packendorff (1993) would perhaps have called Stockholm '98 'a pure project organization', meaning a project without roots in any other permanent organization; one that is totally 'separated from the rest of the parent system' (Meredith and Mantel 1989:115). However, a 'pure project organization' is yet another ideal type, whereas Stockholm '98 combined all ideal types to create a truly hybrid organization. What then does a hybrid do? One trait that it shares with all other organizations is the need for money to run its operations. Now, in all rating procedures, Stockholm is evaluated as a affluent city. Certainly, this is how it appears most of the time, especially when it comes to traffic and information technology (Corvellec 1998; Dobers 1998). When it came to financing the actual Cultural Capital Year, though, it became clear that the event would not receive high priority. This attitude was shared by the Swedish government, who gave the city an economic guarantee of over $540 million if it was successful i n winning the Olympics 2004 sponsorship, but was unable to decide whether the Cultural Capital event was worth even $41 million. During the spring of 1996, this uncertainty was crucial to the actions of Stockholm '98. The city had earmarked $13.5 million for 1998, and set conditions against the rest of its contribution: that it was prepared to donate half of whatever the government was willing to pay. Preparations for Stockholm '98 could only continue because of financial aid from the County Council.

In September 1996, the Swedish government decided to sponsor the cultural year by donating $41 million. Half of this sum was to go to Stockholm '98, and the remainder to the Ministry of Culture's own project, 'Culture throughout the Whole Country'. The city simultaneously released its contribution.

Stockholm '98 insisted all the while that it was hybrid in nature, claiming that it was not a public sponsor, but a collaborator; that it was an organization encouraging and supporting the actions of others, the true culture producers. This created no end of misunderstandings involving interaction with other organizations.

In the cultural field in Sweden, there has been a long tradition of seeking sponsorship from the city, the county council and/or the state. Private sponsorship is rare, but Stockholm '98 hoped to change all this. However, this attempt to change tradition was not met with enthusiasm by those involved in culture. One anonymous artist expressed his/her opinion on the identity of Stockholm '98, as shown in Figure 5:

The message says: 'How to produce stains by punching artists in the jaw'. The allusion is to Stockholm '98's logo, with its characteristic splash.

It transpired that hybrid organizations were suspected of having confused identities, and that there were many different interpretations of the meaning of 'local democracy'. In the case of Stockholm '98, local democracy meant inviting everybody to participate in the phase of creating ideas (which was then criticised for lacking a single, leading idea - see below). For the artist, local democracy meant public sponsorship of cultural events, thus assuring citizens' access to culture (the culture producers saw 'marketization' as a threat, not an opportunity).

Complexity Requires Multiple Models

After these questions of identity had been settled, at least temporarily, and the money had arrived, the next major hurdle was to choose the identity of the event(s). Several employees from Stockholm '98 had visited similar events in an attempt to understand how the work had been organized on those occasions, hoping to avoid making mistakes. What they discovered was that the Copenhagen '96 team found themselves guided in many ways by the Glasgow '90 event. Glasgow had chosen a broad definition of culture in order to engage as many different parts of social life as possible, not just those traditionally related to the cultural field. As work progressed in Copenhagen, even Antwerp '93 figured in as a role model. Antwerp, however, had chosen a narrower definition of the cultural concept and had concentrated on contemporary art ('Opting for art'). The head of the Copenhagen '96 office expressed it in the followinng way: 'Insofar as the political and economic elements were concerned, we were guided by Glasgow '90. When it came to the artistic elements, we drew inspiration from Antwerp '93'. This demonstrates yet another hybrid modelling.

The organization field of 'managing cultural capitals' is not the only one that hosts temporary organizations or organizes big events. One prominent alternative example was, in Stockholm as in Rome, the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. In considering the 'Atlanta-way-of-organizing', ideas were discussed and transformed into developing information work further. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the field of 'temporary big projects' was delineated.

It was also necessary for Stockholm '98 to call on professional expertise in other organizational fields. City administration was one source to rely on when organizing administrative matters. This field, contrary to that of 'managing cultural capitals', is well-structured, with strong institutional norms. The city administration helped Stockholm '98 to organize its work, but, when D-day came, that is, when time had run out, Stockholm '98 had to stop relying on it and make their own decisions, 'irrespective of what the [city administration] says'. Similarly, for all the claims of the Italian lay action net, that they do not need to go outside the 'home field' to organize the Jubilee, the Mayor of Rome was in fact given the special role of Proxy for the Jubilee by the Italian government, to allow him to take decisions.

The multiple models did not mean that Stockholm '98 had no ambition to achieve distinctiveness -- another important facet of identity construction. Organizing and managing this project was a task that had never been undertaken before in Sweden. From the outset, this made the project unique and different from other organizations, in a variety of ways. Stockholm '98 willingly used rhetorical strategies focusing on distinctiveness. To define an organization's ability to do what other organizations cannot is of vital importance. Yet Stockholm '98's own organizational history was very short, allowing them no alternative but to imitate in order to fulfil the unique purpose of the project.

Is this paradox of uniqueness something out of the ordinary? Martin et al. (1983) claimed that it is not. They argued that, for example, an organization' s uniqueness 'is expressed through cultural manifestations that are not, in fact, unique' (p. 439). In his study of national identity construction, L[ddot{o}]fgren (1993) claimed that the magic of distinctiveness (which, in itself, is built according to an imitable procedure) lies in the prefix (e.g. national). Stockholm '98's magic prefix was the word 'cultural', since a cultural capital is unlike all other capitals, although, of course, there have been other -- unique -- cultural capitals. Imitating other, well-accepted, successful cultural capitals helps the event to gain legitimacy in society, even in an unstructured organizational field that does not have many organizations to imitate.

To Have a Long-lasting Impact

Neither a well-functioning temporary organization nor the organization of a unique if imitated big event exhausted the ambitions of Stockholm '98, whose overall goal was to improve the long-term position and accessibility of culture in Stockholm and Sweden. The event of Stockholm '98 was founded in the strong belief that culture is 'fundamental to society', and is 'the glue that holds a fragmented society together'. A couple of months after work began on the project, the General Secretary said:

'My vision is more like a mission, but not in a pretentious way. Culture can open one's eyes to the creative energy instead of the destructive forces around us. I believe that culture has that creative, positive energy, in the short run as well as over time. I have seen, both at the municipal and the state level, how sluggish this is, how extremely one-sided, how one casts aside the importance of culture... If one takes culture seriously, the power is there.'

This desire to effect a long-lasting transformation of life in the city was not only supported by the then Mayor of Stockholm, but had also been expressed by earlier cultural capitals. Once again, Glasgow seemed to have been a source of inspiration. For Glasgow '90, the main theme was 'participation'. A total of 12 million people visited Glasgow during 1990. Attendance at daytime cultural events rose by 89 percent compared to 1989, and participation by local inhabitants in cultural activities rose by 31 percent (Newsletter 3/95). The information manager for Copenhagen '96 estimated Glasgow's impact on cultural activities to be as follows:

`It is only Glasgow, really, that has succeeded in creating a real Cultural Capital worthy of the name... They succeeded not only in increasing cultural activities within the city as a whole, but also in adjoining areas around the river Clyde. And all this, in spite of the fact that it took place during a very deep recession, which resulted in heavy structural transformations. The culture became an important tool for this process of change.' (Svensson 1994: 35)

During an evaluation of the first ten years of cultural capital events, three main themes emerged: 'Artistic Concept', 'Festival Programmes' and 'Infrastructure' (Myerscough 1994: 9). The theme 'Artistic Concept' was adopted as a strategy by Antwerp '93, so instead of dividing public interest in many different directions, emphasis was placed on one specific segment of cultural life -- contemporary art -- to counteract the commercialization and trivialization of culture (Celsing 1994). The theme 'festival programmes' focuses attention on some special festival or celebration (for example, as adopted by Paris '89). To induce positive effects on society, similar to those expressed by the information manager at Copenhagen '96, Stockholm '98 strove to become more like those cultural capitals which had adopted a broad definition of culture, such as Glasgow and Copenhagen. The theme, 'infrastructure', was intended to achieve long-term positive effects on cultural life by taking an extended approach to the relationshi p between culture and society.

There are many ways of lasting for ever, one of which is to be inscribed in memory. From the beginning, ideas had been put forward about how to construct a data base for information exchange related to both internal and external culture by utilising many different but related functions. In this, Stockholm '98 had come up with an innovative idea that had never been tried out before. It was dedicated to the city and its citizens. Two years later, the situation was described as follows:

'In normal cases, when working with computerized systems, routines already exist which are supposed to become ennobled and developed. In our case, we don't have that. What we have is an idea, a rough picture about how the project will progress, what stages it will go through, and an idea about the kinds of tools we will need to realise it.'

Once again, uncertainty became palpable, and the question was raised as to whether Stockholm '98 should turn to earlier cultural capitals as models to imitate in this matter as well. However, none of the other cultural capitals had built up a data base of cultural events. At Copenhagen '96, for example, diskettes of updated information on cultural events had been sent to the administration once a month, but this had stopped as soon as the cultural year ended. Obviously, to fulfil the desire to preserve useful inheritance of this kind, Stockholm '98 needed to accumulate experiences from other organizational fields as well. To achieve this, the organization turned to a number of computer consultant companies, as well as to the city administration.

What Happened? Stockholm as a Kaleidoscope

Towards the end of preparations for the cultural year, voices were raised about lack of vision or unifying theme. It was feared that spectators would be unable to form a comprehensive picture of the event. The day after the release of the cultural programme for 1998, in which over a thousand projects were presented, one of the headlines in the evening tabloids read: 'Headless culture '98: The Expressen's critics look in vain for vision in the watered down program offerings' (1997-10-22).

Indeed, to the observer, the programme did appear to be rather fragmented. As a result of inspiring cross-contacts between different genres and artists, the action net became not so much a net as a collage, incorporating fragments that were only loosely connected to other projects, or even to the cultural programme as a whole. Any possibility of supervising what was actually happening was minimal. Thus, it was difficult to see the Cultural Capital Year as one action net, because of all the different people, organizations and artefacts involved.

This fragmentation attracted criticism throughout most of 1997. As had been the case even earlier, Stockholm '98 was attacked in the media. The dissatisfaction was expressed in terms of money wrongly accounted for, excessive administrative overheads, and too many PR campaigns, without focusing very much on the cultural content itself. This situation ended on 21 October 1997, when Stockholm '98 brought out the 1998 programme catalogue. The media (as well as other interested parties) could see that over one thousand different projects had been planned for 1998. The newspaper headlines changed their focus, but not their tune. Now discussions dealt with the cultural content of the Cultural Capital Year, not with Stockholm '98's own organization, although criticism in that direction was still partly negative. One of the questions raised was about unity. 'What actually is the overall theme for 1998?' one woman asked one of the authors. 'Something is missing that would tie the whole sack together'.

Apparently, Stockholm '98 had failed to portray a unifying picture of what the Cultural Capital Year in Stockholm 'was'. It lacked Glasgow's definition, or the Jubilee's centre -- in the physical and symbolic sense; but was this possible, or more importantly, desirable, in Stockholm's case?

'Yes, [the content of the Cultural Capital Year] is like a huge kaleidoscope', said the Information Manager to the researcher one day in March 1998. To demonstrate what she meant, she quickly turned over the pages in the programme catalogue, which contained approximately a thousand projects. [4] Spectators in the city were to witness different scenes taking place in the city. Each scene, or fragment, represented the Cultural Capital project in its own way. Thus, rather than creating a unified picture, the action net had produced a view-finder, a kaleidoscope.

This product is not without its precedents in urban history. A century ago, arcades became fashionable in big European cities. Walter Benjamin found that one common attraction in these arcades was the phantasmagorias, as he called it, or Panoramas (Buck-Morss 1989). A Panorama was a mechanical device whereby visitors could look through a little window at quickly shifting pictures. The pictures gave the spectator the illusion of moving faster and faster through the world. In Stockholm, a century later, spectators would still peek at phantasmagorias, but this time they were constructed by the action net, under the name Cultural Capital. They fuctioned as a kind of view-finder.

Did the mass media accept this view? This is hard to say, as the third phase -- evaluation -- only began in 1999 and has not yet been completed. The history of cultural capitals shows, however, that the evaluation tends to be as complex and paradoxical as the preparation and carrying out of the event. It is yet another type of organizing -- organizing the past.

One particular event, however, must be mentioned. The kaleidoscope watchers in Stockholm repeatedly commented on one certain type of installation: men dressed in orange leaning on their spades, mournfully staring at the excavations at their feet. Of course, the inhabitants of Stockholm knew better than to accept these as part of the Cultural City affair. Apart from one old sculpture that indeed portrayed a road worker, these 'installations', initiated prior 1998, were devices used by the Stockholm City Construction Department. When asked by journalists why they would want to paralyze traffic in a city visited by tourists, they allegedly answered that the road works were also a symbol of city renewal. Opinions differed, however. The Minister of Culture, answering criticism from the Managing Director of Stockholm '98 on 'Radio P1', 30 May 1998, said: 'It would be much nicer to not have all these holes and fences in the streets. After all, Stockholm is one of the world's most beautiful cities'. A majority counci llor immediately responded to this mild critique by stating that 'a city must live, even during the Cultural City Year. Sincerely, I think that such comments are exaggerated, since many Stockholmians that I have met say "sure we can see the road works, but we also know how much better it is going to be when everything is done".' Observe this time-honoured figure of speech, 'the citizens I have met'. Well, the Stockholmians we have met, shared much the same feelings as the Romans, who looked mournfully at their disembowelled streets with serious doubts about whether there would be an end to it, as promised, by 31 December 1999.

The Big Events Compared


There were many apparent differences between the processes of organizing found in Rome and Stockholm. For instance, in Rome, there were two sources of organizing; two distinct networks with a complex relationship to each other which then formed a common action net. In Stockholm, the centre of action net development was a single temporary organization. Such differences, however, can also be seen as local translations necessitating differing solutions to similar problems. In this case, the common problem was the multiplicity of interpretations and identities behind the action net. No matter how hybrid the temporary organization in Rome became, it would never have been able to host everything. As we saw, Stockholm did not manage it either. In fact, some disgruntled artists attempted to arrange their own alternative Cultural Capital. Even the major themes of local translations were the same: spirituality (religion or culture) versus commercialization (marketization, company-ization etc.). Further comparisons reve al a similar pattern of interplay of both differences and similarities, which we have structured along three themes: organizing itself, the cities, and their public administrations.

In both cases, 'hybrid temporary organizations' were created to cope with the management of the big event. Although planned to vanish, the form itself may remain. While hybridization turned out to be an unexpected, but necessary, effect of intense translations taking place between the public and private sectors (and therefore not needed in the Vatican), temporization seems to be gaining more and more permanence as a new form of organizing.

At the same time, there has been the desire that traces of temporary organizing of this type should be left for posterity. It is indeed a historical tradition that big events should leave a visible trace, usually in the form of large monuments. Such were the plans of the Mayor of Rome, but these had to be forgotten. Instead, both cities put considerable energy into developing new information systems: the 'pilgrim card' in case of the Vatican, and the 'cultural data base' in the case of Stockholm. Without unduly praising the 'computer era', we find it significant that these have been investments which, in spite of their ever-changing form, are indeed supposed to last.

Interestingly enough, the dramatically different history of the two events gave rise to seemingly opposite actions that, oddly enough, appear to have had a common purpose. The organizers of the Jubilee tried to divest themselves from too much history, while the organizers of the Cultural Capital were trying to establish such a history. The common purpose can be seen as legitimation: neither too long, nor too short a history appears to have been of use in both these processes.

'Organizing of the past' in terms of either 'historicising' or 'de-historicizing' is a common feature of contemporary organizations. The two cases above, however, highlight the ensuing complications. Stockholm '98 may be seen as having spent too much time and energy working on its history, compared with the actual event. The religious net, divesting itself of history, may have lost sight of useful models, re-inventing them anew or looking elsewhere. Indeed, event organizers from both cities modelled their actions on sports events. Perhaps it is not without significance that, until recently, both cities had been taking part in the competition to host the Olympics 2004.

Organizing big events at the turn of the 21st Century involves global models, local translations, situations where market considerations are in opposition to cultural/religious considerations, and the development of hybrid organizations and information technologies. What about the cities themselves?


Inasmuch as both Rome and Stockholm have been oriented towards the new century and change, much thought and consideration has gone into their eighteenth century 'natures'. The bowels of these cities, as on so many previous occasions, interfered with the grand plans and big events. Open road works and traffic congestion are still the most effective ways of paralyzing a city (tourist buses constitute an innovation). Although this problem was common to both the cities studied, there was a big difference in the degree of difficulties experienced. After all, Rome is the only capital in Europe which still does not have a proper traffic system.

The ancient tendency to build monuments was blocked by the forces of contingency: there was no money and no time. Instead, as mentioned in the section above, a new kind of monument is being 'carved into a chip'. Event organizers do indeed have hopes for long- lasting change. The quest of the Vatican has nothing to do with the city, and will therefore be left out of this discussion. In Rome, the hope was that Rome would take the lead in bringing about a profound change in the functioning of public administration. Integration, a culture of negotiation, and orientation toward the citizen were the main slogans of City of Rome. Such interactions were thwarted, however, by the wider context of public administration which remained turbulent. Stockholm '98 had the ambition of, on one hand altering the accessibility of culture in the city by offering it to citizens at close range, while, on the other hand, involving private sponsors. Whether the same interactions with the rest of their public administration were the c ause of their relative failure, or just a contributing factor, is hard to say.

There is one more difference between Rome and Stockholm in that, in the former, city politics are subordinated to state politics. This means that anything that happens in Rome must be approved, and is dependent on the state. For pragmatic politicians, city governance is seen as being just a step up the highly attractive ladder of power. Sweden, on the other hand, has a long historical tradition of local democratic government, and in general, of administrative autonomy.

Having said this, one should point out that, although the picture sketched above is correct in its primary traits, the particular case of organizing a big event did not quite follow the lines drawn above. To begin with, the Mayor of Rome had hoped that the event would be an opportunity for 'liberating' the city from excessive state control and from formalism and legalism, towards hybridization instead. What was created was a state of emergency, and therefore of an exceptional status, which makes the survival of potential organizational innovations uncertain. In the Swedish situation, Stockholm '98 caused local autonomy and democracy to go somewhat into a tilt. The City Council made financial decisions dependent upon state approval. Had it not been for the County (Region), there could have been a stalemate. Stockholm '98's democratic attempts to involve citizens were also misinterpreted in that the organization was said to be short of ideas, and by involving private sponsors it was accused of going against the rights of citizens to have access to free cultural events. Far from suggesting yet another convergence explanation, we wish to emphasize that in following global models, even the most local of translations is not necessarily affected.

Big Events

'Big events provoke enormous amounts of sense-making and lead to change (...) People's and organizations' time perspectives are turned around; courses of action are not (only) built on past events and experiences which have formed expectations about what is 'normal', lawful, repetitive. Paradoxically, the unique, the unlikely, the unprecedented, even the impossible happen -- or are anticipated and begin to guide action. Epochs are closed (and thereby defined), other futures are opened (and thereby tentatively defined) by coming clean with the past. This is the context for turning latent ideas into projects. It entails vast redefinition of situations, and extraordinary mobilization of resources and the unfreezing of institutionalised resource allocations' (Czarniawska and Joerges 1998: 227).

Our studies show that the quote above correctly describes the intentions, hopes and expectations of the organizers of big events (see also Joerges 1990). As to actual developments, they turn out to be more embedded in the existing institutional order than the organizers would wish. However, this anticlimax seems also to be a typical trait of big events, as Stephen Jay Gould's amusing book Questioning the Millennium (1998) tells its readers. The expectations that great things will happen -- disasters or miracles -- will then be frustrated, and just because of these accumulated expectations, the day or the year of the event comes and goes like many others before, perhaps leaving a richer memory. The hope does not subside, though, it is simply transferred to a next big event. Strangely enough, organizing, this epitomically rational activity, seems to thrive in the mystic glare of a Big Event.

Tatiana Pipan

Tatiana Pipan is a Research Fellow at the Faculty of Sociology, University of Rome, 'La Sapienza'. She has published her work in major sociological journals in Italy, such as La Critica Sociologica and La Rivista Trimestrale di Scienza dell' Amministrazione, where she also edited a special issue dedicated to symbolist organization studies. Her research interests concern the role of the unions and industrial relations in Italy (Il sindacato come soggetto d'equilibrio, with D. Salerni, 1974; Sciopero contro l'utente, 1989), public sector reforms (Il labirinto dei servizi, 1996), and, most recently, the organization of the celebration of the Third Millennium of Christianity in Rome.

Lena Porsander

Lena Porsander is a doctoral candidate at the School of Business, Stockholm University. Her research interests revolve around the ways the big city organizes itself. This research is conducted in connection with two research programmes: 'Managing the Big City' at the School of Economics and Commercial Law, Gothenburg University and 'Imaginary Organizations' at the School of Business, Stockholm University. The results of this research project have been published in The Journal of Organizational Change Management and in the anthology Investigating Imaginary Organizations (edited by Bo Hedberg, Ali Yakhlef and Philippe Baumard, forthcoming).


(1.) This research is part of the programme 'Managing Big Cities' being carried out by Gothenburg Research Institute, School of Economics and Commercial Law at the University of Gothenburg under the direction of Professor Barbara Czarniawska. The programme is financed by the Bank of Sweden's Tercennary Fund, to which the authors are indebted. The paper benefited from comments by Professors Fabrizio Batistelli, Barbara Czarniawska and Arndt Sorge, to whom we extend our sincere thanks.

(2.) Quotations without a specified source are taken from the field notes.

(3.) Both studies are on-going. The study of Stockholm as Cultural Capital of Europe 1998, conducted by Lena Porsander (1996, 1998) consisted of intense observation ('shadowing') and interview periods, which stemmed from an interest in the temporary organization 'Stockholm '98'. The study of the Jubilee in Rome, conducted by Tatiana Pipan (1997), employed the snowball technique for individualizing the actors involved in the creation of the action net. It continues by means of repeated interviews with actors stabilized in the net and with new actors who join it.

(4.) A similar catalogue, even thicker, entitled 'Works for the Jubilee' was available in the Architecture Department of the Municipality of Rome.


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Author:Pipan, Tatiana; Porsander, Lena
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Date:Jan 1, 2000
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