Inventing the Social

With Noortje Marres and Michael Guggenheim, I’m organising the 10th anniversary event for the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process.

Here’s the poster for the event, drawing on past poster design and listing a sample of events that the Centre has organised and hosted over the past ten years. The names give an indication of the richness of the Centre’s activities and intellectual mileau.

Inventing the Social

Here’s the blurb:

“There has been talk of a ‘return of the social’ now that social media, social innovation and social design present and push themselves as objects, instruments and contexts of research and engagement. Social and cultural researchers might be tempted to recognize in the ‘social’ a ‘ghost from the past,’ as important and customary questions about the nature of collectivity and the relation between social stability and change – endurance and invention – are posed with renewed urgency. At the same time, to seek refuge in these questions would surely provide us with a false sense of security and result in missed opportunities.

Crucially, the return of the social should not be mistaken as a return to ‘the human’. Practices of social innovation, design and media stand out precisely insofar as they attribute distinctive capacities for sociality to technology, settings and things. Empirically, this also seems to be significant, as ‘bots’ turn out to be the most active users on Twitter, and a plastic island in the Pacific ‘brings us together’ in ways that no politician seems capable of doing.

In this symposium, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of CSISP by exploring renewed efforts at the socialisation of technology, the environment and implicated entities, both as a phenomenon to be investigated and as a challenge to savour and respond to. We are especially interested in the question of whether and how the ‘return of the social’ involves a radicalization of the ‘performativity’ agenda in social and cultural research and theory. It has long been recognized that sociality is ‘performed’, ‘accomplished’ or ‘enacted’, but technological and environmental practices raise the further possibilities that sociality can also be activated, generated, created and produced. Here, we seem to be faced with a further de- naturalization of the social.

The issue of the ‘social’ also has major implications for the practice of sociological research itself, for example, how social research, broadly defined, might participate in the invention of the social. What if sociology adopted the agenda of the invention of the social? Is this possible? Indeed, can sociology ask more ‘inventive’ questions or explicitly engage in ‘problem-making’? These are, of course, risky and tricky questions, which require a suitably experimental and ludic approach. In this symposium, we take up these questions in a symmetrical fashion, as ‘problems’ pertaining to the conceptual, methodological, empirical, bureaucratic, and stylistic devices that participate in the practice of social research.”

We’ve organised a fantastic line-up of people, many of whom who have played a part in the centre over the past ten years.

Speakers
Lisa Blackman (Goldsmiths)
Nigel Clark (Lancaster University)
Will Davies (Warwick University)
Maarten Derksen (Universiteit Groningen) Ignacio Farias (WZB, Berlin)
Michael Guggenheim (Goldsmiths)
Carolin Gerlitz (University of Amsterdam)
Bernd Kraeftner/Judith Kröll (Vienna)
Fabian Muniesa (Mines Tech, Paris) Noortje Marres (Goldsmiths)
Alex Wilkie (Goldsmiths)

Respondents and Chairs
Andrew Barry (UCL)
Rebecca Coleman (Goldsmiths)
Michael Halewood (Essex)
Daniel Lopez (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)
Anders Koed Madsen (Aalborg University Copenhagen)
Linsey McGoey (Essex)
Liz Moor (Goldsmiths)
Dan Neyland (Goldsmiths)
David Oswell (Goldsmiths)
Marsha Rosengarten (Goldsmiths)
Manuel Tironi (Catholic University of Chile)

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Experience as Evidence?

I’m participating in the symposium  ’Experience as Evidence? – Sciences of Subjectivity in Healthcare, Policy and Practice’ at St Hughes College, Oxford in October 2014. I’ll be presenting a paper, co-authored with Mike Michael, entitled ‘Doing Speculation to Curtail Speculation’.

Here’s a description of the event:

‘Experience’ has long been referenced as a valuable, if ‘subjective’, resource in a variety of fields. Especially in healthcare, highly personal, embodied understandings of illness have been studied as an alternative to ‘objective’ biomedical knowledge and are often used to critique biomedical reductionism. In the wake of this critique, as well as burgeoning patient activism and health consumerism, over the last fifty years an industry has emerged that aims to capture, process and distribute the patient ‘experience’.

Participants include: Samantha AdamsMadeleine AkrichSusannah FoxHavi CarelTrisha GreenhalghTiago MoreiraJeannette PolsJohn PowellVololona RabeharisoaGlenn RobertTanja SchneiderNatascha SchüllPaul WicksSue ZieblandNeil ChurchillLouise LocockJames MunroSteve WoolgarMalte Ziewitz

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Enquiring into Modes of Existence

Noortje Marres and Bruno Latour working on the specification of new political entities.

Noortje Marres and Bruno Latour working on the specification of new political entities.

On Friday, I participated in Bruno Latour’s  ’An Enquiry Into Modes of Existence‘ project, through a one-day workshop organised by Noortje Marres and Bruno’s project team from SciencesPo Medialab. The aim of the workshop was to work with Bruno and his team to detect and specify new political entities and their modes, or tone, of existence. In the language of the project, this meant using empirical description to better know the proposition of ‘Pol’, or, in other words, to diagnose new political becomings.

Michael Guggenheim responding to Noortje's talk on digital sociology.

Michael Guggenheim responding to Noortje’s talk on digital sociology.

Lisa Disch, from the School of Political Science, at the University of Michigan.

Lisa Disch, from the School of Political Science, at the University of Michigan.

Analysing the content and form of political speeches.

Analysing the form and content of political speeches.

For a more in-depth account of the workshop, by David Moats, click here.

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The Data Practices of Citizen Science

Dan McQuillan speaking at the Data Practice seminar 'The Data Practices of Citizen Science'.

Dan McQuillan speaking at the Data Practice seminar ‘The Data Practices of Citizen Science’.

On Tuesday January the 28th, the Data Practices seminar featured presentations by Christian Nold, Dan McQuillan and Tom August. The seminar addressed normative models of doing citizens science and participatory sensing, how public engagement is done by way of citizen science as well as considering new models of doing science, what Dan referred to as ‘critical science’ as response to post-normal science.

On the CSISP Online blog, Nick Shapiro has written a piece on the Data Practices of Citizen Science seminar and Goran Bečirevič and Hjalmar Carlsen provide some thoughts on previous seminars.

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Energy Babble and Speculative Method

Speculative Method and Twitter: Bots, Energy and Three Conceptual Characters

Speculative Method and Twitter: Bots, Energy and Three Conceptual Characters.

On December the 19th I gave a talk at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), where I discussed the ECDC project in relation to a paper I’ve been working on with Mike Michael and Matthew Plummer-Fernandez. The paper, ‘Speculative Method and Twitter: Bots, Energy and Three Conceptual Characters’ seeks to contribute to the performative dimensions of sociological and design methods by focussing on the becoming-with character of social events. In so doing, the paper considers three twitter ‘bots’ whose function and communication is often obscure, and sometimes nonsensical. To better grasp how the bots operated on twitter we draw on three conceptual characters, namely the idiot, the diplomat and the parasite, drawn from the work of Deleuze & Guattari, Isabelle Stengers and Michel Serres.

The talk was organised by Israel Rodriguez Giralt and Daniel López on behalf of TECUSO (Technoscience, Culture and Society) research group.

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

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