Here are the talks from our Digital Social Ontology symposium, which took place in London, July 8th, 2015. This event was funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation.
Balihar Sanghera (University of Kent)
Feb 17th, 2015 at the University of Warwick
This paper examines how charitable giving is an outcome of different interacting elements of lay morality. Charitable giving reflects people’s capacity for fellow-feeling (or sympathy), moral sentiments, personal reflexivity, ethical dispositions, moral norms and moral discourses. An eclectic account of lay morality and charitable giving is warranted because of the complex nature of the object. Though ordinary people engage in ethical reasoning, they often think and act in piecemeal fashion, so that confusion and inconsistencies can occur. This is particularly evident when gender, class and ‘race’ shape people’s feelings and evaluations of others, their attention and care for others, and their understanding of responsibility and blame for social issues. Morality is further complicated because it takes place in the mundane world of everyday life that can result in inconsistent and confusing judgements and actions on giving.
Much of the debate occasioned by the development of ideas about reflexivity and morphogenesis has turned on the status of habit. Whilst recognising the importance of this debate, this seminar takes an alternative tack. Returning to Bhaskar’s formulation of ‘position-practices’, it reviews recent work on organizational routines. Developing a position which sees routines as a key emergent property of organizations, recent developments in information technology are seen to cement autonomous reflexivity. Accompanied by an increasing discourse of ‘strategizing’, this might limit the development of meta reflexivity.
This introduction to social ontology was part of a longer talk by Margaret Archer at the CSO PhD Workshop in 2014:
We’ll be running another workshop later this year. Details will be advertised on the site within a couple of months.
This seminar with Dave Elder-Vass (Loughborough) took place on Tuesday, January 27, 2015. You can listen to a recording of it here:
Prosumption – the unpaid performance of productive work by ‘consumers’ who thus help commercial businesses to generate a profit – is perhaps the most studied of the many hybrid forms of economic practice that have proliferated in the digital economy. A number of critical accounts have analysed prosumption in terms of Marx’s labour theory of value, suggesting for example that as prosumers do useful work for free they are infinitely exploited by the firms that profit as a result. But such accounts analyse the digital economy in terms that were derived from the nineteenth century factory – and terms that were highly questionable even in that context.
The spectacular mismatch between this model of capitalism and the case of prosumption exposes the inadequacy of the standard monolithic conception of capitalism as a homogeneous and universal contemporary economic form – a conception that at a certain level is also shared by the marketised discourse of mainstream economics. We need a new ontology of economic form that goes beyond the totalising concepts of mode of production and market economy and instead provides us with tools for understanding the sheer diversity of forms of economic practice in the contemporary economy. This paper offers the concept of appropriative practices as a contribution to such an ontology and applies it to the case of prosumption.
Dave Elder-Vass is a senior lecturer in sociology at Loughborough University, where he teaches a variety of core sociology modules. He also offers an MA module on Digital Economies and an innovative undergraduate option that consists entirely of debates between students on popular recent books. He is available to supervise PhD students, particularly those with an interest in social theory, critical realism, digital social developments or economic sociology.
Previously, he spent three years as a British Academy post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex, after completing his PhD at Birkbeck, University of London. Before returning to the academic world he was a senior IT executive in a major UK retail business.
In the third Centre for Social Ontology seminar of 2014/15, Graham Scambler (Emeritus Professor of Medical Sociology at UCL) discussed reflexivity and an interdisciplinary approach to the ‘structuring of agency’:
Margaret Archer’s recent contributions to our understanding of reflexivity in late capitalist society provide useful resources for theorizing across the substantive domains of sociology. Using illustrations from my own work on the sociology health inequalities in general, and my ideal type of the ‘vulnerable fractured reflexive’ in particular, I examine some of the pros and cons of adopting an interdisciplinary approach to the structuring of agency. I conclude with a skeletal research programme involving interdisciplinary collaboration.
The seminar took place on November 11th on the University of Warwick campus. You can listen to a recording of it here:
In the first Centre for Social Ontology seminar of 2014/15, Daniel Chernilo (Reader in Social and Political Thought at Loughborough University) discussed his work on philosophical sociology. This was the basis for a recent paper in the British Journal of Sociology.
In this presentation, I introduce the idea of philosophical sociology as an enquiry into the relationships between implicit notions of human nature and explicit conceptualizations of social life within sociology. Philosophical sociology is also an invitation to reflect on the role of the normative in social life by looking at it sociologically and philosophically at the same: normative self-reflection is a fundamental aspect of sociology’s scientific tasks because key sociological questions are, in the last instance, also philosophical ones. The idea of philosophical sociology is then sustained on three main pillars and I use them to structure this article: (1) a revalorization of the relationships between sociology and philosophy; (2) a universalistic principle of humanity that works as a major regulative idea of sociological research, and; (3) an argument on the social and pre-social sources of social life. As invitations to embrace posthuman cyborgs, non-human actants and material cultures proliferate, philosophical sociology offers the reminder that we still have to understand more fully who are the human beings that populate the social world.
You can listen to a recording of the talk here: