6th Annual Conference 2010: The Social Life Of Methods
31 August - 3 September, St Hugh's College Oxford
During the past century and longer, social scientific methods have come to be extensively deployed in government, administration and business, as well as in academic research. Maps, enumerations, surveys, interviews, indicators, software and visualizations proliferate. The aim of this conference is to consider how we can best understand the agency of social science methods in both shaping, and themselves being affected, by economic, social and cultural change, both historically and in the current context when digitalization poses specific challenges to established repertoires of social science methods.
Mindful of the ideas developed within Science and Technology Studies, which show how objects in the natural and medical sciences can be social agents, we seek to broaden this agenda to focus more particularly on methods within the social sciences and humanities. Papers are invited from interdisciplinary audiences addressing the following issues:
- Is it useful to explore how agency can be located in certain kinds of social scientific methodological repertoires?
- What kinds of methods succeed and which fail? What are the respective powers of different sorts of qualitative and quantitative forms of analysis? How can we explain why certain sorts of methods become hegemonic in certain domains, and what consequences follow from this?
- What is the role of the visual in social science methods? How is this changing?
- With the proliferation of digital data, are we currently seeing a crisis of standard social science methods based around the sample survey and the interview, and what does this portend for our understanding of socio-cultural change? Does the idea of a descriptive turn offer a useful way of grasping the role of these new methods?
- What is the transformative and critical potential of social science research methods, both historically and today?
We are interested in using reflecting theoretically about how actor network theory, genealogy, complexity theory, feminist theory, anthropological studies of expertise, ecological studies of knowledge, political economy and field analysis can be used to understand and illuminate these issues. There will be four themes which will structure the sessions of the conference:
1: The device: what kinds of device have come to play an important historical role, and which have failed? How can we better understand the histories of nations, social groups, individuals and organizations through a focus on devices?
2: The challenge of digital data: what is the implication of the proliferation of digital information for the ordering of economic, social, political and cultural knowledge?
3: Envisaging the visual: how have visual methods historically competed with textual and numerical methods, and how far is their role changing in the current context?
4: Transformative practice: history, discipline and movements: how can methods be mobilized to critique and challenge dominant methodological repertoires, focusing especially on the role of historical analysis, ethnographic, feminist, and subaltern methods?
Please submit either (a) proposal for individual papers, or (b) panel proposal including 3 papers by the end of February 2010.
CRESC Conference Administration, 178 Waterloo Place, Oxford Road, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, Tel: +44(0)161 275 8985 / Fax: +44(0)161 275 8985