Tuesday, October 16, 2007

matterealities, mobilities, innovation


matterealities, mobilities, innovation.

A growing body of studies show that in the detailed how of ‘how matter comes to matter’ (Barad 2003) the social and the material are inextricably linked. However, the very practices that join also often conceal such entanglement - in everyday practice, politics, science and design. In this interdisciplinary workshop we seek to explore a particular set of connections between 'matterealities', mobilities and innovation:

Matterealities: If social-material realities or orders are made, two questions arise: ‘How are they made?’ and ‘How could they be made ‘better’?’ Science and technology studies and ethnomethodological studies address the first, and – sometimes also the second question (e.g. through socio-technical innovation and ‘engaged’ research (Sismondo 2007). However, while these studies can powerfully draw our attention to the entanglement of the social and the material, they often struggle to escape the dualisms entrenched in our languages and epistemic practices. Non-representational philosophy and Barad’s agential realism in particular, open up new possibilities for a study of ‘intra-action’, not only by focusing on how epistemic practices and 'pre-cognitive' 'matereal' ethnomethods of embodied conduct make material agential forces ‘speak’ and matter, but also by formulating a new physical epistem-ontology. The convergence of increasingly powerful and small computing, sensor and actuator technologies with everyday materials, including the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, and the places we live, play and work in – presents a particularly rich challenge for this approach. Whereas research into socio-technical settings and practices has tended to look at human-computer interaction and 'the virtual' (cyberspace and life online), research must now also look towards the intra-actions of digital phenomena and the 'materealization' of socio-technical realities.

Mobilities: A new ‘movement-driven’ social science (Urry 2007) reveals movement, potential movement and blocked movement as constitutive of economic, social, political, environmental and material relations. Movement, momentum, and motion are also integral to epistemic practices. Moreover, they rely on and can reveal media (air, water) and infrastructural support (roads, cables, satellites, networks). Combining a focus on mobilities with studies of intra-action can make important aspects of the entanglement of the social and the material amenable to study.

Innovation: Can studies of how socio-material realities are made inform the making of ‘better’ realities? A first answer must be ‘No’, because by drawing attention to the entanglement of the social and the material, such studies show that it is difficult if not impossible to know what ‘better’ might mean, to go beyond the scale of ‘us, here and now’, let alone decide what steps would enable the matterealization of better futures (without treading loose an avalanche of unintended consequences). Yet, it is so tempting to think that ‘issues of social order and intelligibility must be understood before social problems can be intelligently addressed’ (Garfinkel 2002, p. 54) and that once such issues are better understood, social, material technical problems could be intelligently addressed. Experience from ethnomethodologically informed technology design reframes the ambition: First, by changing the way in which innovation is conceived of and achieved towards a more collaborative, iterative (pervasive and never-ending), interdisciplinary process (Suchman 1999), and second, by seeking to change the products of innovation, making technologies that support creative appropriation in the context of everyday innovation (e.g. Dourish 2001, Chalmers, PalCom). Agential realism opens up new possibilities for these approaches and provides an opportunity to widen the focus to other forms of socio-technical change.

In this workshop we bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars and practitioners to fathom, formulate and shape these possibilities and opportunities.

A maximum of 40 participants can be accepted. Registration takes place on a first come first served basis.

Registration will cost approximately £ 80.00. Details will be published on our website

A limited number of student bursaries are available. For information about these or an expression of interest please contact m.buscher(at)lancaster.ac.uk

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