In this talk I will consider how speculation and speculative thought might be taken up as part of interdisciplinary design and empirical social research. Although a much-maligned term, typically attributed to risky, irresponsible and opportunistic ventures based on inadequate evidence, in this talk I retrieve a version of the speculative from a lineage of thought that can be traced through the work of A.N. Whitehead, Gilles Deleuze and more latterly Isabelle Stengers. In doing so, the talk demonstrates how it can inform a constructivist approach to designing concepts and ‘devices’ that actively relate the research process to the questions it aims to answer as well as acknowledging the co-becoming of the researcher and the researched. The talk illustrates this version of situated and empirical speculating through the case of the Energy Babble: a research device that was designed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers and deployed amongst members of local energy communities around England in order to modestly articulate and understand the ‘problems’ and possibilities of energy-demand reduction.
Alex Wilkie is a sociologist of science and technology and a Senior Lecturer in Design at Goldsmiths, University of London. His research interests combine aspects of social theory, science and technology studies with experimental design research that bear on theoretical, methodological and substantive areas including: aesthetics, constructivist and speculative thought, situated design practice, healthcare and computational technologies, human-computer interaction design, as well as involvement, engagement and participation with science and technology. Alex is a Co-Director of the Centre for Invention and Social Process (Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths) and the Director of Research in Design. He has recently edited Studio Studies with Ignacio Farías (Routledge, 2015) and Speculative Research with Martin Savransky and Marsha Rosengarten (Routledge, 2017) and is currently preparing the edited volume Inventing the Social with Noortje Marres and Michael Guggenheim (Mattering Press).