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De-signing the object of sociology: toward an 'idiotic' methodology.

Publication Date
  • Design


This paper outlines a version of ‘Live Sociology’ that enacts and engages with the openness and processuality of events. This is initially explored through a focus on everyday objects that, in their relationality, ‘misbehave’, potentially challenging standard sociological framings. Drawing on the work of Isabelle Stengers, it is suggested that such objects can be understood as ‘idiotic’ - possessed of an incommensurability that enables social scientists to ‘slow down’ and reflect upon ‘what is busily being done’ (not least by the social scientists themselves). This responsiveness to the idiot object is then contrasted to the proactive idiocy of Speculative Design. Here, artefacts - probes and prototypes – are designed to have oblique and ambiguous functions that allow both their users and designers to open up what is at stake in particular events. Examples taken from past and current research are used to illustrate how speculative designs can open up what ‘the neighbourhood’ and ‘energy demand reduction’ can be. The paper ends with a discussion of a possible ‘idiotic methodology’ and its implications for the conceptual and practical doings of social scientific research.

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