The Happening of the Social
Edited by Celia Lury, Nina Wakeford
Routledge – 2012 – 274 pages
Social and cultural research has changed dramatically in the last few years in response to changing conceptions of the empirical, an intensification of interest in interdisciplinary work, and the growing need to communicate with diverse users and audiences. Methods texts, however, have not kept pace with these changes.
This volume provides a set of new approaches for the investigation of the contemporary world. Building on the increasing importance of methodologies that cut across disciplines, more than twenty expert authors explain the utility of 'devices' for social and cultural research – their essays cover such diverse devices as the list, the pattern, the event, the photograph, the tape recorder and the anecdote.
This fascinating collection stresses the open-endedness of the social world, and explores the ways in which each device requires the user to reflect critically on the value and status of contemporary ways of making knowledge. With a range of genres and styles of writing, each chapter presents the device as a hinge between theory and practice, ontology and epistemology, and explores whether and how methods can be inventive. The book will be a valuable resource for students and scholars of sociology and cultural studies.
Introduction: A Perpetual Inventory by Celia Lury and Nina Wakeford. Anecdote by Mike Michael. Category by Evelyn Ruppert. Configuration by Lucy Suchman. Experiment: Abstract Experimentalism by Steven Brown. Experiment: The Experiment in Living by Noortje Marres. List by Andrea Philips. Number by Helen Verran. Pattern by Janis Jefferies. Pattern by Paul Stenner. Photo-Image by Vikki Bell. Phrase by Matthew Fuller and Olga Gurionova. Population by Cori Hayden. Probes by Kirsten Boehner, William Gaver and Andy Boucher. Screen by AbdouMaliq Simone. Set by Adrian Mackenzie. Speculation by Luciana Parisi. Tape Recorder by Les Back.
Celia Lury is Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at University of Warwick. Her substantive research interests are focused on the sociology of culture and feminist theory. She explores contemporary developments in the culture industry with a special focus on changing cultural forms. Her recent publications include the jointly authored book The Global Culture Industry: The Mediation of Things (Polity, 2007, with S. Lash) and the introduction to a special issue of the European Journal of Social Theory on ‘What is the empirical?’. More recently, she has become interested in the relations between methods, space and representation in the context of an exploration of the value of topology for social science.
Nina Wakeford is Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London and a visual artist. Her interests include the ways in which collaborations can be forged between social science and design, and the way in which ethnography has been put to use in the design of new technologies. She is particularly concerned with the ways in which contemporary social and cultural theory can play a part in the design process, and how aspects of practice-led disciplines can be brought back into sociology, in particular though science and technology studies. Amongst her publications are papers on virtual methodologies, queer identities, and visual representations in design work.