Aesthetics, Cosmopolitics and Design

Tobie Kerridge presenting his paper 'Empirical Speculation' at the Aesthetics, Cosmopolitics and Design track at DRS 2016.

Tobie Kerridge presenting his paper ‘Empirical Speculation’ at the Aesthetics, Cosmopolitics and Design track at DRS 2016.


Anuradha Venugopal Reddy presenting her paper The Role of Participation in Designing for IoT at the Aesthetics, Cosmopolitics and Design track at DRS 2016.

Anuradha Venugopal Reddy presenting her paper The Role of Participation in Designing for IoT at the Aesthetics, Cosmopolitics and Design track at DRS 2016.

The track Aesthetics, Cosmopolitics and Design included nine papers at DRS 2016 and generated a lot of interesting discussion brought about through the interdisciplinary engagement between STS and design research. The papers included in the track explored the notions of aesthetics and cosmopolitics in different (implicit and explicit) ways. In almost all, however, there is a distinct preoccupation with aesthetic processes and the nature and composition of participation in the empirical settings of the research and during the enactment of research practices. Substantively, and in no particular order, the contributions variously explore how common worlds and collectives are fashioned (or not) in Scandinavian furniture design (Gasparin and Green), the Chilean National Zoo (Hermansen, Tironi and Neira), the Internet of Things (Reddy and Linde), computational (Forlano) and wearable fashion (Widle), the web (Mauri and Ciuccarelli) and social media (Alshawaf),  Eselek village, Gokceada Island, Turkey (Cheung-Nainby), cultural institutions in Copenhagen (Olander), the Berlin Laboratory for innovative X-ray Technologies (Marlen Dobler), the Mellunkyla neighborhood in Helsinki (Koskinen).

Here’s the abstract to the introduction:

The scope of this theme is to explore the burgeoning interest in interdisciplinary engagements between the domains of design research and science and technology studies (STS). On the one hand, design has, for some time, been a topic for scholars in interested in the role of science and technology in ‘society’ where the discipline’s practices and technoscientific ‘objects’ have been studied as a newly recognized source of knowledge production, expertise and politics. On the other hand, design scholars and practitioners have exhibited a sustained interest in STS in order to inform and theorize their own practices and analysis, notably the conceptualisation of technology-user relations by way of actor-network theory, the historical analysis of design, the symmetrical acknowledgement and inclusion of human and non-human actors in participatory research and the engagement of publics in democratic processes. Against this complex and variegated backdrop, design and STS scholars have also been engaging in interdisciplinary collaborations that productively combine aspects of practice-led research and process thought. Here, for example, designed devices (e.g. web-based visualization tools, cultural probes, computational appliances, software roBots) are designed, deployed and studied in-situ as part of inventive and so called speculative methods that acknowledge the active role of such techniques in shaping and manifesting the researched. As such, this theme explores engagements between design research and STS as topic, critical resource as well as interdisciplinary efforts where the crafting and experience of aesthetics is foregrounded as both a practical and theoretical concern and part of the reformulation of politics as cosmopolitics i.e. the modification of the social through designs and design research interventions.

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Experiments in new modes of practice: Launch of the Centre for Invention and Social Process (CISP)

Experiments in New Modes of Practice. Launch of the Centre for Invention and Social Process

Experiments in New Modes of Practice. Launch of the Centre for Invention and Social Process

Please come and celebrate with us the relaunch of CSISP: Experiments in new modes of practice:Launch of the Centre for the study of Invention and Social Process (CISP)
Andrés Jaque, Office for Political Innovation (Madrid/New York and
Antoine Hennion (Centre de Sociologie de l’innovation, Ecole des Mines, Paris)
Chaired by the new directors: Marsha Rosengarten, Michael Guggenheim & Alex Wilkie
Wednesday 23rd of March 2016, 5pm-7pm
Richard Hoggart Building, RHB 300
All Welcome
Andrés Jaque is an architect. His work explores the role architecture plays in the making of societies. He has been considered one of the most challenging contemporary European architects. In 2003 he founded the Office for Political Innovation, a trandisciplinary agency engaged with the making of an ordinary urbanism out of the association of heterogeneous architectural fragments. In 2014 he won the Silver Lion to the Best Research Project at the 14th Venice Biennale directed by Rem Koolhaas.
Antoine Hennion’s research in the sociology of music and culture focuses on the cultural industries, advertising and design, mediators, services and users. He is currently working on a comparative analysis of various forms of attachment, through a study of amateurs. With J.-M. Fauquet, musicologist at the CNRS, he has also undertaken historical research on the development of the taste for classical music, primarily in relation to the case of Bach in nineteenth century France. In these areas he is working towards a definition of a sociology that studies the mediations through which a relationship with objects is established, in order to analyze taste as an accomplishment. A mediation is neither a cause nor an effect: it is a pause, a support, before the advent of a new configuration. The analysis thus defies the dualistic debate between aesthetics and sociology of culture: taste does not fear the revelation of hidden determinations of which it may not have been aware; it seeks them out to produce new effects. Mediations trigger the appearance of the objects of taste, the amateurs who adopt them and the frame that allows their relationship to be experienced. The world of taste is constructed on the basis of organized places, trained bodies, texts, instruments and various material objects. Taste does not exist without these systems of collective and materialized appreciation that make it part of a history. It constantly produces its own questioning on what determines it, on the quality of objects, on the nature of the attachment itself. Thus defined, it is less an object to explain than a key area in which to grasp the combined formation of subjectivities and collectives, the objects that make us and the others with whom we live, relations between ourselves and our bodies.
Andrés Jaque Masterclass | 10am-12pm
On the morning of the launch of CISP Andrés will be running a masterclass for masters and PhD students. The masterclass is open to students in both the Departments of Sociology and Design and will explore how societies are made.
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How To Become Modern: Time, Work and Infrastructure in Rural Newfoundland


CISP and the Interaction Research Studio are pleased to welcome Phoebe Sengers (Cornell University) who will be speaking on the 22nd of March Phoebe Sengers about technological infrastructures and governance in the Change Islands. All welcome.

Tuesday, 22/03/2016
RHB 137

In the 1950’s the government of Newfoundland & Labrador began an ambitious project to transform this new Canadian province from an impoverished rural backwater to an industrial economy. Central to this plan was the organized movement of most of its population from isolated fishing villages to centralized settlements allowing easier access to services and infrastructures. Change Islands was one of a few villages that actively resisted this move and insisted instead on modernizing in place. Within a few years, the village was overrun with unfamiliar technologies, including electricity, telephone, television, cars, roads, and running water.

I will use the case of Change Islands to explore how modern ways of being are shaped, sometimes accidentally and sometimes intentionally, through the design of technological infrastructures and centralized forms of governance. Modernization both relies on and produces new cognitive habits, orientations to labor, experiences of time, requirements for accountability, and moral norms, many of which do not match well to the geographical and social requirements of remote, rural communities. Caught up in contradictions, Change Islands is today simultaneously experienced as a dying relic, as a cherished preserve for traditional practices, and as unrecognizably modernized. Change Islands is a place to recognize and reflect on the hopes invested in becoming modern, the technical mechanisms used to realize those hopes, their consequences, and their political stakes.

Phoebe Sengers is an Associate Professor at Cornell University in Science & Technology Studies and Information Science, and is currently a Visiting Scholar in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her work integrates technology design with cultural studies of technology by analyzing the political and social implications of current technologies and designing new technologies based on other alternatives. She has received a US National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, been a Fulbright Fellow and a fellow of the Cornell Society for the Humanities, had 7 major NSF grants, and led the Cornell campus of the Intel Science & Technology Center for Social Computing. She received an interdisciplinary PhD in Artificial Intelligence and Cultural Theory in 1998 from Carnegie Mellon University.
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Studio Studies Book Launch

Some photos from the book launch of Studio Studies, which took place at Goldsmiths on the 18th of February and the V&A on the 19th – as part of the Design Culture Salon.

Welcome slide.

Welcome slide at Goldsmiths.

Daniel Charny responding to questions from the audience at the V&A.

Daniel Charny responding to questions from the audience at the V&A.

Daniel Charny in conversation about Studio Studies at the V&A.

Daniel Charny in conversation about Studio Studies at the V&A.

Peter Lloyd discussing his reading of Studio Studies and the implications for design at the V&A.

Peter Lloyd discussing his reading of Studio Studies and the implications for design at the V&A.

Isaac Marrero Guillamon chairing the first book launch at Goldsmiths.

Isaac Marrero Guillamon chairing the first book launch at Goldsmiths.

Mirja Busch preparing to talk with Ignacio Farías.

Mirja Busch preparing to talk with Ignacio Farías.


Mirja Busch and Ignacio Farías talking about studio operations and engagements with land art.

Mirja Busch and Ignacio Farías talking about studio operations and engagements with land art.

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Energy experiments

I’m a discussant on the track ‘Energy Experiments’ at the EASST/4S Conference, August 31st to September 3rd 2016, Barcelona


Manuel Tironi (Instituto de Sociología, P. Universidad Católica de Chile, and NUMIES)
Tomás Ariztía (Departamento de Sociología, Universidad Diego Portales, and NUMIES)


Alex Wilkie (Department of Design, Goldsmiths)


Off-grid ecovillages, online energy communities, indigenous electricity projects, collective metering initiatives and citizen monitoring of energy-related pollution using DIY technologies. Energy experiments are proliferating in diverse contexts and settings. Experiments because they render energy both as an excitable material and as a site for the politicization of issues, institutions and arrangements. First, energy experiments tinker new engagements with water, solar, wind and other elemental forces, thus enlivening energy as a provocative yet resistant matter that is gathered and circulated through multifarious practices of intervention, making and care. Second, energy experiments are also social projects in which the otherwise is rendered possible (Povinelli 2007). In these experiments novel forms of collaboration and endurance are congealed, inciting new problematizations about how energy is governed in late liberalism. Notions such as participation, citizenship, ‘smart communities’, intervention and change are thus transfigured by the flourishing of alternative modes of engaging with energy. And third, insofar energy is an existent that forces thought and affection in the everyday, energy experiments relocate politics away from the sublime spaces of the public sphere and closer to the mundane, the intimate, the bodily and the uneventful.

This panel invites papers that critically explore the many ways in which energy experiments are lived, produced and politicised. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Material speculations in alternative energy projects.
  • Energy experiments as forms of political resistance.
  • Activism and grassroot energy interventions.
  • Energy production and more-than-human entanglements.
  • Open infrastructuring and collective innovation in energy systems and consumption.
  • Energy citizenship and participation.

Important dates

  • February 21: Deadline for abstract submissions;
  • March 13: Convenors’ deadline for abstracts acceptances/rejections/relocations;
  • April 17: Communication of acceptance/rejection of abstracts to authors, ranking/ordering and opening of online registrations;
  • July 31: Deadline for paper/input submissions (to chairs of sessions in track)
    For more information on how to submit a paper, please check the conference’s call for papers:

To submit a paper to this open track, please go to

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Studio Studies Book Launch

Studio Studies book launch poster

Studio Studies book launch poster

Two book launches coming up for Studio Studies:

You are cordially invited to celebrate the launch of the edited collection: ‘Studio Studies: Operations, Topologies, Displacements’ edited by Ignacio Farías and Alex Wilkie.

Studio Studies is being launched over two events, the first (at Goldsmiths) with a focus on the social sciences and the second (at the V&A) with a focus on the arts and design.


  • Introduction: Alex Wilkie
  • Studio operations: Ignacio Farías & Mirja Busch
  • Afterword: Professor Mike Michael
  • Discussion: chaired by Isaac Marrero Guillamon

Followed by a drinks reception.

Supported by the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process



19th February 2016, 6:30pm, Clore 55, Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Panel discussion chaired by Lucy Kimbell, University of Arts, London.

Panel: Professor Daniel Charny (Kingston); Ignacio Farías; Yiyun Kang (V&A Artist in Residence); Professor Peter Lloyd (Brighton) & Alex Wilkie.


Studio Studies is an agenda setting volume that presents a set of empirical case studies that explore and examine the studio as a key setting for aesthetic and material production. As such, Studio Studies responds to three contemporary concerns in social and cultural thought: first, how to account for the situated nature of creative and cultural production; second, the challenge of reimagining creativity as a socio-materially distributed practice rather than the cognitive privilege of the individual; and finally, to unravel the parallels, contrasts and interconnections between studios and other sites of cultural-aesthetic and technoscientific production, notably laboratories. By enquiring into the operations, topologies and displacements that shape and format studios, this volume aims to demarcate a novel and important object of analysis for empirical social and cultural research as well to develop new conceptual repertoires to unpack the multiple ways studio processes shape our everyday lives.

Studio Studies is published by Routledge and is part of the CRESC series which establishes the importance of innovative contemporary, comparative and historical work on the relations between social, cultural and economic change

Editors: Ignacio Farías is a sociologist and an Assistant Professor of the Munich Center for Technology in Society and the Department of Architecture at the Technische Universität München. Alex Wilkie is a Senior Lecturer in Design at Goldsmiths and a sociologist.

Contributors: Tomás Ariztía, James Ash, Ariane Berthoin Antal, Georgina Born, Ignacio Farías, Emmanuel Grimaud, Antoine Hennion, Sophie Houdart, Mike Michael Erin O’Connor, Laurie Waller, Alex Wilkie.


Studio Studies is a much needed work of enquiry: the studio is by turns an obvious and an unknown thing today. They are far more common and influential spaces than the laboratories about which we know so much – and yet no such signature volume has existed until now. It will be a defining collection by extraordinary contributors.”
Chris Kelty, Associate Professor, Institute of Society and Genetics & the Department of Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles.

“This book offers an excellent introduction to one of the defining projects in social studies today: the performative analysis of creative practice. Combining case studies and interviews by outstanding scholars in the study of science, technology and culture, it shows how the studio enables the assembly and negotiation of relations between art, design, markets, publics and social studies themselves. It thereby offers a welcome empirical handle on an especially complex contemporary phenomenon, the valuation of creativity across domains.”
Noortje Marres, Associate Professor, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodology, University of Warwick

“In this sophisticated and theoretically astute collection, the authors make a case for the studio as a rewarding site for ethnographic research. But more profoundly, the studio is offered up – in its ad hoc procedures and modes of emergent organization – as an empirical model for social life and creativity more generally. It makes the studio mundane while showing how the worlds outside – factories, firms and so much more – share in the ‘studio-ness’ that makes things happen.”
Harvey Molotch, Professor of Sociology and Metropolitan Studies at New York University. Author of Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers and Many Other Things Come to Be As They Are.
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The Event of the Public – Call for Papers

The event of the public: Convolutions of aesthetic and epistemic practice

Joint conference of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) and European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST).

31st of August – 3rd September 2016, Barcelona.

This call for papers invites contributions to address the role and place of aesthetics in epistemic practices, with emphasis on the ways in which ‘publics’ are enacted and eventuated.

Mike Michael (University of Sydney)
Gay Hawkins (Western Sydney University)
Kane Race (University of Sydney)
Alex Wilkie (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Abstract Deadline: February 21st 2016
Submit abstracts online at:

This track aims to explore the role of the aesthetic in epistemic practices with particular reference to the ways in which ‘publics’ or ‘scientific citizens’ are enacted. While STS has long explored how the epistemic practices of knowledge-making can be linked to a heterogeneous range of other practices (social, ethical, economic, political, care-ful, corporeal, affective, etc.), the place of aesthetic practices has been relatively neglected. The proposed theme aims to examine the role of the aesthetic in the epistemic, with particular reference to the ways in which ‘publics’ are enacted or eventuated. More concretely we can pose such questions as: what counts as ‘aesthetic practice’ and how does this relate to other practices (for example, of care, affect, social)? how do the aesthetics of a technoscientific artifact or assemblage (eg a plastic water bottle, smart monitor, or alternative systems of electricity generation) affect the ways in which publics enact environmental concern? how do the aesthetics of more or less typical STS research tools (such as focus groups, ‘ethnographic’ engagements, data harvesting or speculative design interventions) impact the emergence of particular sorts of ‘epistemic publics’; how do the aesthetics of the representational practices found in STS, policy or the media (eg online data visualization or the narrative structures of academic accounting) shape the public and its issues? More broadly, we ask how might we understand aesthetic practice in the context of ostensibly related traditions, for example non-representational or arts-based modes of inquiry. Papers are therefore invited which consider the complex interactions – the convolutions – between aesthetic and epistemic practices specifically in relation to the ways in which publics (or ‘scientific citizens’) emerge.

Key Questions

  • What counts as ‘aesthetic practice’ and how do these relate to other practices?
  • What role does aesthetics play in epistemic practices?
  • How do the aesthetics of technoscientific assemblages and/or artefacts affect the ways in which publics enact issues?
  • How do the aesthetics of STS research methods and tools impact the emergence of ‘epistemic publics’?
  • How might STS understand aesthetic practice in the context of traditions that themselves claim expertise on the aesthetic?
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