Unit of Play

Established in 2012, The Unit of Play (UoP) is a transdisciplinary unit, based in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Its main activities are co-ordinating and developing a research focus within the Department through the hosting of conferences, reading groups, research projects, salons, seminars, workshops as well as supporting doctoral research. The research focus is oriented around the collaborative exploration and incubation of radically new ideas, practices, and proposals that cut across established disciplinary, theoretical, methodological, and thematic boundaries and concerns of the social sciences, arts and humanities.

Pluralistic Variations Lecture Series

In 2016/2017 The Unit of Play is hosting the Pluralistic Variations lecture series, exploring a variety of transdisciplinary engagements with pluralistic modes of thinking, knowing, doing, and relating. Upcoming events include” change with “Pluralistic Variations Lecture Series. Since 2016, The Unit of Play is hosting the Pluralistic Variations lecture series, exploring a variety of transdisciplinary engagements with pluralistic modes of thinking, knowing, doing, and relating.”

Two workshops on ‘Problems’


Two consecutive workshops bring together members of Goldsmiths Faculty —engaged in different disciplinary perspectives and different practice commitments, both theoretical and methodological— to consider the nature of problems. Bearing in mind concern within the field of Science and Technology Studies about how solutions are arrived at and may even be said to participate in how a problem is conceived in its framing and/or according to an accepted mode of evidence, the workshops will address the somewhat broader and hence different question of what is a problem and hence what might the experience of a problem prompt? What possibilities may be cultivated by attending to problems? How, if it all, might we understand problems as lures or provocations toward cultivating a future different to the present, a future that evades what is posed as the ‘intractable’ or ‘essence’ of a problem and in its expression forecloses on other possibles?

Professor Matt Fuller – ‘The problem in computing’
Professor William Gaver – ‘Problems made by Research through Design’
Dr Michael Guggenheim – ‘Making problems go round. How the social sciences can help re-define problems and be surprised by the re-problematisations of others.’
Professor Dan Neyland – ‘The Entangling of Problems, Solutions and Market (PDF download)
Professor Evelyn Ruppert—‘Problems in Data’ Dr Martin Savransky – ‘What is a Problem?’
Dr Edgar Schmitz—‘indifferent and improper’
Professor Marsha Rosengarten—Facilitator/Chair

For further info please contact the organisers Professor Marsha Rosengarten and Dr Martin Savransky.

Diagrams and Play: From Schiller to Deleuze, via Beethoven

Discussant: Alex Wilkie
Chair: Marsha Rosengarten

Deleuze’s conception of ‘diagrammatics’ implicates a radicalised notion of play. This augments Schiller’s conception of play as the harmonic synthesis of the form impulse and the sensible impulse to reconceive play as the disjunctive synthesis of the sensible. I consider the philosophical sources for this inversion, and attend to its aesthetic implications through an appeal to Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. In his revisioning of the ‘Theme and Variation’, Beethoven invests play as a strategy for aesthetic freedom from formal determination (the theme), and the construction of a ‘second nature’. Is a new possibility for ‘aesthetic education’ signalled by this shift? How might we understand the contemporary stakes of this diagrammatic practice of art?

Kamini Vellodi is an artist, academic and writer. She is lecturer on the MRes Theory and Philosophy at Central Saint Martins, School of Art and Design. She completed her PhD at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Middlesex University, with a thesis on Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of the diagram and the 16th century Venetian painter Jacopo Tintoretto. Her research interests include the critical interface between post-Kantian Continental Philosophy, the Visual Arts and Art History, the ‘modernity’ of 16th century Italian painting, and philosophical restagings of problems in art historical methodology. She has published articles in the journals Parrhesia, Art History and the Journal for Aesthetics and German Art History, and is currently working on a book monograph on Tintoretto.

Situating Efficacy: Biomedicine, Interdisciplinarity, and the Politics of Intervention

Although the randomized control trial (RCT) is considered the gold standard for evidence-based research in medicine, its findings of biomedical ‘efficacy’ under isolated test conditions stand apart from what affects the successful implementation and take up of the intervention, that is, ‘effectiveness’ in real world conditions.

In this symposium we consider the challenges that emerge through this distinction and what an interdisciplinary approach might offer to redressing the challenges now posed in the translation of ‘efficacy’ to ‘effectiveness’. By discussing conceptual issues as well as recent findings of RCTs for HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis biomedical prevention, the broad aim of the symposium is to facilitate an interdisciplinary exchange on the implications of efficacy testing by RCTs for ‘real world’ implementation, and to provide a forum in which to ‘test’ a concept of ‘situated efficacy and its potential as a basis for novel modes of interdisciplinary collaboration.

At the centre of the development of a concept of ‘situated efficacy’ is an attempt to rethink the effects of biomedical interventions such that any clear-cut distinction between the controlled environment of the RCT (which the testing of conventional ‘efficacy’ requires) and the ‘real world‘ (which concerns the question of ‘effectiveness’) is not presupposed but rather problematised. Bringing together participants from the natural and social sciences, speculative design, international policy and programming, non-government organization implementers, will discuss and attempt to think collectively the potentials and limitations of experimenting with alternative forms of interdisciplinary interventions in complex naturalcultural problems.


Dr Vera Ehrenstein, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
Prof William Gaver, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
Prof Robert Grant, Gladstone Institute, UCSF, United States
Prof Ian Harper, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Dr Ann Kelly, Exeter University, United Kingdom
Ms Susie McLean, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, United Kingdom
Dr Catherine Montgomery, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Dr Dean Murphy, Curtin University and UNSW, Australia
Prof Daniel Neyland, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
Associate Prof Kane Race, University of Sydney, Australia
Prof Marsha Rosengarten, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
Dr Martin Savransky, Goldsmiths, University of London and UCL, United Kingdom

Cognitive Fluctuation, Distributed Sensing, and the Marking of Illness

Mel Chen in the Citizen Sense “Sensing Practices” seminar series co-hosted with the {???}

In this talk I consider a number of intersecting phenomena: the often feminized exceptionality of “brain fog” and other cognitive departures from expected temporalities, overlapping with more temporally durative (or unexcusable by other means) “chronic illness”; the narration of biochemical transactions in relation to bodies at various scales; and the affectively rich play in geopolitical adjudications between “toxicity” and “intoxication.” Underneath all of these considerations lies a series of investments that could be understood as racially “tuned,” an expression of my interest in the hidden intersections of race and disability.


Mel Y. Chen is Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and the Director of Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. Chen’s Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Duke University Press, 2012, Alan Bray Memorial Award), explores questions of racialization, queering, disability, and affective economies in animate and inanimate “life” and “nonlife.” Further writing appears in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Discourse, Women in Performance, Australian Feminist Studies, Amerasia, and the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies. Along with Jasbir K. Puar, Chen serves as series coeditor for a book series at Duke called “Anima.” Chen sits on the board of directors for the Society for Disability Studies.

Sensing Practices

The Citizen Sense research group is hosting a year-long seminar series on “Sensing Practices.” The series attends to questions about how sensing and practice emerge, take hold, and form attachments across environmental, material, political and aesthetic concerns. Rather than take “the senses” as a fixed starting point, this seminar series instead considers how sensing-as-practice is differently articulated in relation to technologies of environmental monitoring, data gathered for evidentiary claims, the formation of citizens, and more-than-human entanglements. How might these expanded approaches to sensing practices recast engagements with experience, and reconfigure explorations of practice-based research?