Inventive Methods

The Happening of the Social

Edited by Celia Lury, Nina Wakeford

© 2014 – Routledge

274 pages | 35 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
New in Paperback: 9780415721103
pub: 2013-08-01
US Dollars$60.95
Hardback: 9780415574815
pub: 2012-05-31
US Dollars$160.00

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About the Book

Social and cultural research has changed dramatically in the last few years in response to changing conceptions of the empirical, an intensification of interest in interdisciplinary work, and the growing need to communicate with diverse users and audiences. Methods texts, however, have not kept pace with these changes.

This volume provides a set of new approaches for the investigation of the contemporary world. Building on the increasing importance of methodologies that cut across disciplines, more than twenty expert authors explain the utility of 'devices' for social and cultural research – their essays cover such diverse devices as the list, the pattern, the event, the photograph, the tape recorder and the anecdote.

This fascinating collection stresses the open-endedness of the social world, and explores the ways in which each device requires the user to reflect critically on the value and status of contemporary ways of making knowledge. With a range of genres and styles of writing, each chapter presents the device as a hinge between theory and practice, ontology and epistemology, and explores whether and how methods can be inventive. The book will be a valuable resource for students and scholars of sociology and cultural studies.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Perpetual Inventory by Celia Lury and Nina Wakeford. Anecdote by Mike Michael. Category by Evelyn Ruppert. Configuration by Lucy Suchman. Experiment: Abstract Experimentalism by Steven Brown. Experiment: The Experiment in Living by Noortje Marres. List by Andrea Philips. Number by Helen Verran. Pattern by Janis Jefferies. Pattern by Paul Stenner. Photo-Image by Vikki Bell. Phrase by Matthew Fuller and Olga Gurionova. Population by Cori Hayden. Probes by Kirsten Boehner, William Gaver and Andy Boucher. Screen by AbdouMaliq Simone. Set by Adrian Mackenzie. Speculation by Luciana Parisi. Tape Recorder by Les Back.

About the Editors

Celia Lury is Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at University of Warwick. Her substantive research interests are focused on the sociology of culture and feminist theory. She explores contemporary developments in the culture industry with a special focus on changing cultural forms. Her recent publications include the jointly authored book The Global Culture Industry: The Mediation of Things (Polity, 2007, with S. Lash) and the introduction to a special issue of the European Journal of Social Theory on ‘What is the empirical?’. More recently, she has become interested in the relations between methods, space and representation in the context of an exploration of the value of topology for social science.

Nina Wakeford is Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London and a visual artist. Her interests include the ways in which collaborations can be forged between social science and design, and the way in which ethnography has been put to use in the design of new technologies. She is particularly concerned with the ways in which contemporary social and cultural theory can play a part in the design process, and how aspects of practice-led disciplines can be brought back into sociology, in particular though science and technology studies. Amongst her publications are papers on virtual methodologies, queer identities, and visual representations in design work.

About the Series


Culture, Economy and the Social

This series establishes the importance of innovative contemporary, comparative and historical work on the relations between social, cultural and economic change. It publishes empirically-based research that is theoretically informed, that critically examines the ways in which social, cultural and economic change is framed and made visible, and that is attentive to perspectives that tend to be ignored or side-lined by grand theorising or epochal accounts of social change. The series addresses the diverse manifestations of contemporary capitalism, and considers the various ways in which the `social', `the cultural' and `the economic' are apprehended as tangible sites of value and practice. It is explicitly comparative, publishing books that work across disciplinary perspectives, cross-culturally, or across different historical periods.

We are particularly focused on publishing books in the following areas that fit with the broad remit of the series:

  • Cultural consumption
  • Cultural economy
  • Cities and urban change
  • Materiality, sociality and the post-human
  • Culture and media industries
  • Culture and governance
  • Emerging forms of cultural and economic practice

The series is actively engaged in the analysis of the different theoretical traditions that have contributed to critiques of the `cultural turn'. We are particularly interested in perspectives that engage with Bourdieu, Foucauldian approaches to knowledge and cultural practices, Actor-network approaches, and with those that are associated with issues arising from Deleuze's work around complexity, affect or topology. The series is equally concerned to explore the new agendas emerging from current critiques of the cultural turn: those associated with the descriptive turn for example. Our commitment to interdisciplinarity thus aims at enriching theoretical and methodological discussion, building awareness of the common ground has emerged in the past decade, and thinking through what is at stake in those approaches that resist integration to a common analytical model.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Methodology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Methodology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General