Attila Bruni

Working in an Operating Theatre, Flirting with the Material World

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The attention devoted by STS to human-artefacts relationships sets the issue of the materiality of social action at the centre of different sociological debates. On the basis of ethnographic fieldnotes collected during an ethnographic study of the operating theatres in a northern Italian hospital, the article proposes a «material» understanding of everyday working practices, showing their connections with different objects and technologies. Operating theatres can be considered as technologically dense environments, where objects and technologies co-construct practices, relations and work organization. In other words, they are environments where the accomplishment of everyday activities requires humans and technologies to work «together» and «fit in» with each other. In particular, the article looks at the relation between actors and the material world through the interpretative metaphor of «flirting» in order to highlight the «complicity» and, at the same time, the indeterminacy and occasionality that characterizes such a relation. From this point of view, the metaphor directs one's attention on the reciprocal and reflexive relationship that takes place between actors and technological artefacts and thus, to the empathic, emotive and aesthetic ways in which actors are «captured» and interpellated by the material world.


  • Sociomateriality
  • working practices
  • shadowing
  • flirting


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