Speculation in Social Science: Novel Methods for Re-Inventing Problems

25 April 2014

British Sociological Association Annual Conference

In this special event members of a research cluster within the Unit of Play, Goldsmiths, collectively discussed and developed approaches to speculative research and practice. Speculative approaches to research and practice are emerging across multiple fields as a way to develop not simply descriptive engagements with topics, but rather to make propositions that invent new possibilities for research and practice. Speculation may be considered a fitting response to a dynamic world that cannot be held, observed and acted upon without effect. Relatedly, its intention to engage with the dynamic and, hence, transformative nature of ‘things’, including the way in which distinctions between ‘things’ are situational, contingent and, therefore, always in process invites us to consider what we might seek in our research effect/s. In this session, we presented some of the methodological premises for devising a mode of speculative research and, through reference to a series of empirical ‘problems’, offer a series of context specific illustrations of what novel methods – textual, visual, aural, digital – might do. In contrast to the usual order of selecting methods, it is their prospective doing that we discussed as the guide to their design. Our key concern was to address the question: What might a speculative research approach offer to the re-inventing of otherwise seemingly near intractable ‘problems’?

With Jennifer Gabrys (Goldsmiths), Mick Halewood (Essex), Marsha Rosengarten (Goldsmiths), Martin Savransky (Goldsmiths) and Alex Wilkie (Goldsmiths).