Tag Archives: featured

Workshop: The Morphogenetic Approach

June 21st, 10am to 5pm
The University of Warwick

This one day workshop is intended for those currently using or planning to use the morphogenetic approach in their research. In the first half of the workshop, Margaret Archer will give an overview of the morphogenetic approach and its development, as well as address conceptual and methodological questions that participants might have. In the second half of the workshop, there will be plenty of time to present work-in-progress or planned projects, get feedback and discuss with others who are doing similar work.

If you’d like to participate then please e-mail mark@markcarrigan.net with a brief biography and description of your project.

Workshop: Investigating the Internal Conversation

Investigating the Internal Conversation
June 2nd at the University of Warwick

The Centre for Social Ontology invites applications for this practical workshop aimed at those investigating human reflexivity through empirical research. The ‘internal conversation’ was developed by Margaret Archer as a solution to the problem of structure and agency: a mediatory mechanism that accounts for how society’s objective features influence its members to reproduce or transform society through their actions. Since initially discussed in Being Human, this account of human reflexivity has been developed through a trilogy of books reporting on empirical studies into the distinct modes through which reflexivity operates. This body of work has been used in projects across a range of disciplines and been the topic of much theoretical and methodological debate.

This workshop intends to support those who are currently undertaking or in the process of planning empirical research investigating the internal conversation. The day will begin with an introductory lecture by Margaret Archer in which she will discuss the development of her work on reflexivity, ranging from the initial formulation in Being Human through to her recent work with Pierpaolo Donati on relational reflexivity.  Then Mark Carrigan (Warwick), Monder Ram (Birmingham) and Balihar Sanghera (Kent) will each give a shorter talk about their experience of investigating reflexivity through empirical research. The rest of the day will address the methodological and theoretical questions often encountered when studying reflexivity e.g. how to identify the modes of reflexivity of research subjects.

The workshop is free but registration is essential. If you would like to participate then please e-mail socialontology@warwick.ac.uk with a brief description of your project. We’re keen to adapt the content as much as possible to meet the needs of participants. If there are particular issues you would like us to address then please suggest these in your initial e-mail.

This event is funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation

Generative Mechanisms Transforming the Social Order

The latest volume in the Social Morphogenesis series examines how generative mechanisms emerge in the social order and their consequences. It does so in the light of finding answers to the general question posed in this book series: Will Late Modernity be replaced by a social formation that could be called Morphogenic Society?

This volume clarifies what a ‘generative mechanism’ is, to achieve a better understanding of their social origins, and to delineate in what way such mechanisms exert effects within a current social formation, either stabilizing it or leading to changes potentially replacing it . The book explores questions about conjuncture, convergence and countervailing effects of morphogenetic mechanisms in order to assess their impact. Simultaneously, it looks at how products of positive feedback intertwine with the results of (morphostatic) negative feedback. This process also requires clarification, especially about the conditions under which morphostasis prevails over morphogenesis and vice versa. It raises the issue as to whether their co-existence can be other than short-lived.

The volume addresses whether or not there also is a process of ‘morpho-necrosis’, i.e. the ultimate demise of certain morphostatic mechanisms, such that they cannot ‘recover’. The book concludes that not only are generative mechanisms required to explain associations between variables involved in the replacement of Late Modernity by Morphogenic Society, but they are also robust enough to account for cases and times when such variables show no significant correlations.

See here to order a copy or review a table of contents.

Reconstructing Sociology by Douglas V. Porpora

Critical realism is a philosophy of science that positions itself against the major alternative philosophies underlying contemporary sociology. This book offers a general critique of sociology, particularly sociology in the United States, from a critical realist perspective. It also acts as an introduction to critical realism for students and scholars of sociology.

Written in a lively, accessible style, Douglas V. Porpora argues that sociology currently operates with deficient accounts of truth, culture, structure, agency, and causality that are all better served by a critical realist perspective. This approach argues against the alternative sociological perspectives, in particular the dominant positivism which privileges statistical techniques and experimental design over ethnographic and historical approaches.

However, the book also compares critical realism favourably with a range of other approaches, including poststructuralism, pragmatism, interpretivism, practice theory, and relational sociology. Numerous sociological examples are included, and each chapter addresses well-known and current work in sociology.

Reconstructing Sociology will be published by Cambridge University Press in September 2015. See here for more details or to pre-order.

The Relational Subject by Pierpaolo Donati and Margaret S. Archer

Many social theorists now call themselves ‘relational sociologists’, but mean entirely different things by it. The majority endorse a ‘flat ontology’, dealing exclusively with dyadic relations. Consequently, they cannot explain the context in which relationships occur or their consequences, except as resultants of endless ‘transactions’.

This book adopts a different approach which regards ‘the relation’ itself as an emergent property, with internal causal effects upon its participants and external ones on others. The authors argue that most ‘relationists’ seem unaware that analytical philosophers, such as Searle, Gilbert and Tuomela, have spent years trying to conceptualize the ‘We’ as dependent upon shared intentionality.

Donati and Archer change the focus away from ‘We thinking’ and argue that ‘We-ness’ derives from subjects’ reflexive orientations towards the emergent relational ‘goods’ and ‘evils’ they themselves generate. Their approach could be called ‘relational realism’, though they suggest that realists, too, have failed to explore the ‘relational subject’.

The Relational Subject is  published by Cambridge University Press. See here for publisher details or here for Amazon.

The Social Ontology of Digital Data & Digital Technology, July 8th in London

This innovative conference brings together leading figures from a variety of fields which address issues of digital technology and digital data. We’ve invited speakers with a range of intellectual perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds who engage with questions relating to digital data and digital technology in their work. Our suggestion is that social ontology, however this might be construed, represents a potential common ground that could cut across this still rather siloed domain of inquiry into the social dimensions of digital technology.

The conference aims to explore this possibility by assembling a diverse range of perspectives and drawing them into a dialogue about a common question, without assuming a shared understanding of the topic at hand. Our aim is to extend this digitally via twitter, podcast and blog beyond the event itself, in order to facilitate an extended conversation that will draw more people into its remit as it circulates after the conference itself.

To this end, we invite each speaker to address this theme (the social ontology of digital data & digital technology) in whatever way they choose. Each speaker will have 30 mins to talk and 15 mins for questions. We’ll have an accomplished audio editor on hand to record each talk as a podcast. These will be released on www.socialontology.org and will be circulated on social media in order to try and stimulate a continuing debate around the issues raised at the conference. The hashtag for the day will be #socialontology.

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Chair: Celia Lury (Warwick)
  • Noortje Marres (Goldsmiths) – Does Digital Sociology have a Problem?
  • Jochen Runde (Cambridge) – Non-materiality and the Ontology of Digital Objects
  • Alistair Mutch (NTU) – Organizational Implications of Digital Data
  • Susan Halford (Southampton) – title TBC
  • Nick Couldry (LSE) – title TBC
  • Emma Uprichard (Warwick) – Big Data, Complexity and Time.

Eventbrite - The Social Ontology of Digital Data & Digital Technology

This event is funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation

Our PhD/ECR Conference

Centre for Social Ontology PhD/ECR Conference
June 23rd, University of Warwick, 10am – 4pm

Social ontology is integral to the study of society. It is impossible to inquire into the social world without some understanding, at least tacitly, concerning the entities which make up that world and their properties and powers. However social ontology remains an often confused and contentious matter within the social sciences.

The conference is open to all PhD students and Early Career Researchers with an interest in social ontology.

This event is funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation

Margaret Archer to speak at Epistemology, Method and Complexity

Epistemology, Method and Complexity

Warwick, Friday 8 May 2015

12.45-5.15, followed by Drinks Reception

Hosted by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick

Places are free but please REGISTER HERE.

In this fifth seminar, we explore one of the issues that has already started to emerge across all the seminar so far: epistemology. In particular, this seminar aims to unpack some of the ways in which different kinds of epistemological positions that tend to be implicit in complexity discussions in general. One of the features that has become clear to the seminar series organisers series is the ways in which each seminar as so far tended to ‘divide’ the seminar participants, with particular members preferring certain seminars over others in a way that tends to also map on to their respective disciplinary backgrounds.

In spite of the different approaches to complexity that are so obviously present across the disciplines, one of the aims of this seminar series has been to prioritise the social and to explore what a complex social systems methodological approach might entail. With this in mind, we return to some fundamental concepts in social science as way of exploring how they may or may not be turned on their head from a complex systems perspective.

In doing so, this seminar focuses on two aspects of the social that we consider to be fundamental to a complex systems approach, namely agency and evaluation. Often these concepts tend to sit separately to one another and they also tend not to be key priorities within complexity approaches in general either. Here, therefore, we bring them together as a way of rethinking some of the key ways we might begin to formulate what an empirical complex systems approach look like, if it acknowledged the importance of agency and evaluation together.

This seminar will follow a slightly different format to previous seminars in that we have chosen to only have a small number of key speakers and a larger audience. This will, though, still allow us plenty of time for some good discussion.

The speakers are:

Professor Margaret Archer, Sociology, University of Warwick University, Centre for Social Ontology.

Professor Edmund Chattoe-Brown, Sociology, Lancaster

Dr Ana Teixeira de Melo, Center for Social Studies, Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, University of Coimbra

Professor Malcolm Williams, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University