guest article by Danilo Brozović, Finalist of the SERVSIG Best Dissertation Award 2017 (granted by Maastricht U) 

When the opportunity to contribute to the SERVSIG blog and the newsletter arose, I was just starting at the new position and coping with the question which faces junior researchers in the beginning of the academic career: What is next, after the dissertation?

What is next? The question was bouncing back and forth as a continuous echo. Yet no matter how much one tries to figure this “next”, sometimes the “next” just happens to happen, which I believe also occurs rather frequently. What I will try to sketch in this short text is how I encountered the “next” and what reflection processes it awoke.

Simultaneously I hope that the readership will excuse me for hijacking the blog by writing a more personal text, somewhat “freer” than the format to which we are accustomed. You have to blame my background as a relatively successful novelist in my home country of Croatia. Besides, pataphysics as the topic I am currently involved with “requires” a certain degree of playfulness and deviations. Thank you for putting up with me.

Basically, it all started with a conversation during a coffee break:

“Danilo, I could not help but noticing you wrote an article using a metaphor”, said Bahram.

“Exactly, with a little help from my (research) friends. It was the honeybee metaphor, to be more precise”, I answered, referring to Brozovic et al. (2015).

“Have you ever heard about pataphors?” asked Bahram.

“I cannot say I did”, I admitted, which is not so strange because all things are pataphysical, yet few of us practice pataphysics consciously (Hugill, 2012).

This conversation (Yousefi, personal communication, March 27, 2017) made me think about and delve further into the world of pataphors and pataphysics, the science of imaginary solutions imagined by the famous French author Alfred Jarry (Ubu Roi). In essence, pataphysics is to metaphysics what metaphysics is to physics. It is the science of the particular and the laws governing exceptions. It describes a universe supplementary to this one. It uses pataphors to develop new and separate worlds created from the metaphorical parallels to reality (Hugill, 2012). In other words, pataphors are applied to build new, imaginary realities on the basis of metaphorical representations of existing realities, they are applied to re-imagine reality. For example, the world of Alice in Wonderland is pataphorical, just as Jarry’s Dr. Faustroll and interpretations of Mozambique (Nielsen, 2015) as well as quantum mechanics and the market economy, for that matter. The latter pair can also be interpreted as imaginary constructions turned into reality by extending metaphors which are in their own turn representations of reality.

I believe that the world of service research can be described in terms of pataphysics as well. Just as pataphysics instructs, service research is built around particularities and exceptions. This was evident already in the beginnings even when services were goods dominant because IHIP imagined services as “faulty” products and exceptions from the product paradigm, building a whole pataphorical world around this metaphor. The particularities and exceptions in service research continued, not least with the Nordic School perspectives, embodied by Grönroos, Gummesson, Normann, and Edvardsson, among others (Gummesson and Grönroos, 2012), focusing on complexity and ambiguity of markets and markets as systems.

The latest stream of exceptionality is the service-dominant logic (SDL; Vargo and Lusch, 2004) and the continued efforts of the service research community to extend the world of value co-creation and to re-imagine the reality using this paradigm. Vargo and Lusch are the Lennon and McCartney of service research, with our adjoining research efforts serving as Joan, who was quizzical, studying pataphysical science in the home (Lennon and McCartney, 1969).

Based on exceptions and not conceptions, variance (anomalos), alliance (syzygia) and deviance (clinamen) as the declensions of service research (Bök, 1997, p. 10) can be summarized in Table 1:

Table 1. Pataphysical declensions of the exception with its service equivalents (derived from, Bök, 1997).
Declensions of the exception Explanations Service research equivalents
Anomalos Differs from every other thing in a system that values the norm of equivalence, the exception eventually becoming the rule SDL, bringing service to the mainstream
Syzygia Equates things to each other in a system that values the norm of difference (the fall of the body towards the center is the same as the ascension of vacuum towards periphery) From exchange to value creation
Clinamen Detours around things in a system that values the fate of contrivance, the smallest possible aberration that can make the greatest possible difference IHIP, as the starting exception

Rather abruptly, I decide to stop here and let pataphysics trigger readers’ imagination. Thank you for the opportunity to share some of these perhaps not so orthodox thoughts and I hope that you have learned something from reading this short piece of text, just as I did from assembling it. Please, feel free to approach me to discuss pataphysics.

In any case, the research into the pataphysical aspect of service has merely begun. A small project concerning the pataphysics of consumption is currently underway. Mimsy were the borogoves, as Lewis Carroll wrote.

Danilo Brozović
Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Management
Stockholm Business School
Stockholm University



(Some) references:

Brozovic, D., Ravald, A., & Nordin, F. (2015). Making sense of service dynamics: the honeybee metaphor. Journal of Services Marketing, 29(6/7), 634-644.

Bök, C. (1997) Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science, PhD dissertation, York University. North York, Ontario.

Gummesson, E., & Grönroos, C. (2012). The emergence of the new service marketing: Nordic School perspectives, Journal of Service Management, 23(4), 479-497.

Hugill, A. (2012). ‘Pataphysics: A Useless Guide. The MIT Press.

Lennon, J. and McCartney, P. (1969) Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Abbey Road, Apple Records.

Nielsen, M. (2015). The pataphysical state, Hau Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 5 (3), 263–266.

Vargo, S. L., & Lusch, R. F. (2004). Evolving to a new dominant logic for marketing, Journal of marketing, 68(1), 1-17.