Speculative Research: The Lure of Possible Futures

Edited by Alex WilkieMartin SavranskyMarsha Rosengarten

Is another future possible? So called ‘late modernity’ is marked by the escalating rise in and proliferation of uncertainties and unforeseen events brought about by the interplay between and patterning of social–natural, techno–scientific and political-economic developments. The future has indeed become problematic. The question of how heterogeneous actors engage futures, what intellectual and practical strategies they put into play and what the implications of such strategies are, have become key concerns of recent social and cultural research addressing a diverse range of fields of practice and experience. Exploring questions of speculation, possibilities and futures in contemporary societies, Speculative Research responds to the pressing need to not only critically account for the role of calculative logics and rationalities in managing societal futures, but to develop alternative approaches and sensibilities that take futures seriously as possibilities and that demand new habits and practices of attention, invention, and experimentation.


“In this remarkable and innovative collection of essays, the authors give renewed value, meaning and, above all, empirical relevance to the practice of speculation. Speculation is rescued from the hands of the speculators!”
Andrew Barry, Chair of Human Geography, University College London.

“This beautifully written collection of essays represents an exciting exploration of the contemporary importance of making speculation centre stage. The book is a landmark in the philosophy and methodology of social science. It does not just illuminate the value of process philosophy – it also provides methodological and practical approaches to doing socially significant research. It is a must read for anyone that wants to take the turn to ontology and affect seriously.”
Joanna Latimer, Professor of and Chair in Sociology, Science and Technology. University of York.

“Speculative Research is a truly unique collection that offers much needed inspiration for thinking beyond present conditions and the futures they seem to make impossible. It invites us to engage with a generative tradition of speculative thought that has yet to fulfil its radical practical potential. The stimulating contributions to this volume offer remarkable examples of what thinking speculatively can mean in encounters with specific research fields and problems – faithful to the empirical but not bounded by it, an adventurous yet careful inquiry. In composing this volume, Wilkie, Savransky and Rosengarten have achieved both a generous prolongation and innovative experimentation with speculative thought.”
Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Organisation, University of Leicester.

“Speculative Research is a remarkably prescient book that opens up new vistas of experimental thought and practice for contemporary social and cultural research. In reclaiming the question of the speculative from its more recent and notorious variants, this collection crystalizes how the possibilities of more–than–human futures can be engaged with empirical and conceptual assiduousness without relinquishing the challenges and risks of what is to come and what is possible to the logics of the probable. As the editors and contributors insist, developing a speculative sensitivity involves the care for and acceptance of knowledge practices that are part of the cultivation of new futures.”
Antoine Hennion, Professor & Director of Research, Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, Mines ParisTech, Paris.

“Redeeming speculation against its negative connotations, this exciting book exhibits the multiple potentials of speculative social research. Engaging in a struggle against the deadening effects of probability and inevitability, it opens up for thinking and making alternative futures, inducing readers to come along for the ride.”
Casper Bruun Jensen, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Osaka University.


Studio Studies: Operations, Topologies and Displacements

Edited by Ignacio Farías Alex Wilkie

Consider the vast array of things around you, from the building you are in, the lights illuminating the interior, the computational devices mediating your life, the music in the background, even the crockery, furniture and glassware you are in the presence of. Common to all these objects is that their concrete, visual and technological forms were invariably conceived, modelled, finished and tested in sites characterised as studios. Remarkably, the studio remains a peculiar lacuna in our understanding of how cultural artefacts are brought into being and how ‘creativity’ operates as a located practice.

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 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 stu- dies 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