1st Edition

Speculative Research The Lure of Possible Futures

Edited By Alex Wilkie, Martin Savransky, Marsha Rosengarten Copyright 2017
    236 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    254 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Is another future possible? So called ‘late modernity’ is marked by the escalating rise in and proliferation of uncertainties and unforeseen events brought about by the interplay between and patterning of social–natural, techno–scientific and political-economic developments. The future has indeed become problematic. The question of how heterogeneous actors engage futures, what intellectual and practical strategies they put into play and what the implications of such strategies are, have become key concerns of recent social and cultural research addressing a diverse range of fields of practice and experience. Exploring questions of speculation, possibilities and futures in contemporary societies, Speculative Research responds to the pressing need to not only critically account for the role of calculative logics and rationalities in managing societal futures, but to develop alternative approaches and sensibilities that take futures seriously as possibilities and that demand new habits and practices of attention, invention, and experimentation.

    1. The Lure of Possible Futures: On Speculative Research, (Martin Savransky, Alex Wilkie & Marsha Rosengarten)

    Part 1: Speculative Propositions
    Section Introduction, (Martin Savransky, Marsha Rosengarten, Alex Wilkie)

    2. The Wager of an Unfinished Present: Notes on Speculative Pragmatism, (Martin Savransky)

    3. Speculative Research, Temporality and Politics, (Rosalyn Diprose)

    4. Situated Speculation as a Constraint on Thought, (Michael Halewood)

    Part 2: Speculative Lures
    Section Introduction, (Marsha Rosengarten, Martin Savransky, Alex Wilkie)

    5. Pluralities of Action, a Lure for Speculative Thought, (Marsha Rosengarten)

    6. Doing Speculation to Curtail Speculation, (Alex Wilkie & Mike Michael)

    7. Retrocasting: Speculating about the Origins of Money, (Joe Deville)

    Part 3: Speculative Techniques
    Section Introduction, (Alex Wilkie, Marsha Rosengarten, Martin Savransky)

    8. Sociology’s Archive: Mass-Observation as a Site of Speculative Research, (Lisa Adkins)

    9. Developing Speculative Methods to Explore Speculative Shipping: Mail Art, Futurity and Empiricism, (Rebecca Coleman)

    10. Creating Idiotic Speculators: Disaster Cosmopolitics in the Sandbox, (Michael Guggenheim, Bernd Kräftner & Judith Kröll)

    11.'Too Sweet to Kill' – A Contribution to the Art of Cosmopolitics, (Michael Schillmeier & Yvonne Lee Schultz)

    Part 4: Speculative Implications
    Section Introduction, (Martin Savransky,  Alex Wilkie, Marsha Rosengarten)

    12. On Isabelle Stengers’ ‘Cosmopolitics’: A Speculative Adventure, (Vikki Bell)

    13. Aesthetic Experience, Speculative Thought, and Civilized Life, (Michael L. Thomas)

    14. The Lure of the Possible: On the Function of Speculative, (Didier Debaise)


    15. Postscript, (Monica Greco)


    Alex Wilkie is a sociologist and a senior lecturer at the Department of Design Goldsmiths, University of London. His research interests combine aspects of social theory, science and technology studies with design research that bears on theoretical, methodological and substantive areas including, but not limited to: energy-demand reduction, design practice and design studios, healthcare and information technologies, human-computer interaction design, inventive and creative practices, user involvement and participation in design, practice-based design research, process theory and speculative thought. Alex is a director of the Centre for Invention and Social Process (CISP), alongside Michael Guggenheim and Marsha Rosengarten, and convenes the Ph.D. programme in Design at Goldsmiths. He has recently co-edited Studio Studies: Operations, Topologies and Displacements with Ignacio Farias (Routledge, 2015) and he is preparing the edited collection Inventing the Social with Michael Guggenheim and Noortje Marres (Mattering Press). Alex is also a founding editor of Demonstrations, the journal for experiments in social studies of technology.

    Martin Savransky is a lecturer at the Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, where he teaches philosophy, social theory and methodology of social science. He works at the intersection of process philosophy, the philosophy and methodology of the social sciences, and the politics of knowledge. He has published widely on the ethics and politics of social inquiry, postcolonial ontologies, and social theory. He is the author of The Adventure of Relevance: An Ethics of Social Inquiry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

    Marsha Rosengarten is Professor in Sociology, Director of the Unit of Play and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the author of HIV Interventions: Biomedicine and the Traffic in Information and Flesh and co-author with Mike Michael of Innovation and Biomedicine: Ethics, Evidence and Expectation in HIV. Recent articles focus on biomedical research within the field of HIV, Ebola and Tuberculosis drawing from feminist and process oriented approaches. Her work offers alternative ways of conceiving intervention, bioethics, randomized controlled trials and, hence, the nature of scientific evidence. In 2009 she co-founded the international Association for the Social Sciences and Humanities in HIV (ASSHH). Although mostly known for her empirically oriented work on HIV and direct engagement with the biomedical field, in 2013 as Director of the Unit of Play in collaboration with Martin Savransky, Jennifer Gabrys and Alex Wilkie she initiated an intellectual project on speculation. The project has since involved various seminars and workshops and public presentations which, to date, have resulted in the manuscript Speculative Research.

    "In this remarkable and innovative collection of essays, the authors give renewed value, meaning and, above all, empirical relevance to the practice of speculation. Speculation is rescued from the hands of the speculators!"

    Andrew Barry, Chair of Human Geography, University College London.

    "This beautifully written collection of essays represents an exciting exploration of the contemporary importance of making speculation centre stage. The book is a landmark in the philosophy and methodology of social science. It does not just illuminate the value of process philosophy – it also provides methodological and practical approaches to doing socially significant research. It is a must read for anyone that wants to take the turn to ontology and affect seriously."

    Joanna Latimer, Professor of and Chair in Sociology, Science and Technology. University of York.

    "Speculative Research is a truly unique collection that offers much needed inspiration for thinking beyond present conditions and the futures they seem to make impossible. It invites us to engage with a generative tradition of speculative thought that has yet to fulfil its radical practical potential. The stimulating contributions to this volume offer remarkable examples of what thinking speculatively can mean in encounters with specific research fields and problems – faithful to the empirical but not bounded by it, an adventurous yet careful inquiry. In composing this volume, Wilkie, Savransky and Rosengarten have achieved both a generous prolongation and innovative experimentation with speculative thought."

    Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Organisation, University of Leicester.

    "Speculative Research is a remarkably prescient book that opens up new vistas of experimental thought and practice for contemporary social and cultural research. In reclaiming the question of the speculative from its more recent and notorious variants, this collection crystalizes how the possibilities of more–than–human futures can be engaged with empirical and conceptual assiduousness without relinquishing the challenges and risks of what is to come and what is possible to the logics of the probable. As the editors and contributors insist, developing a speculative sensitivity involves the care for and acceptance of knowledge practices that are part of the cultivation of new futures."

    Antoine Hennion, Professor & Director of Research, Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, Mines ParisTech, Paris.

    "Redeeming speculation against its negative connotations, this exciting book exhibits the multiple potentials of speculative social research. Engaging in a struggle against the deadening effects of probability and inevitability, it opens up for thinking and making alternative futures, inducing readers to come along for the ride."

    Casper Bruun Jensen, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Osaka University.