Speculative approaches in social science and design research: Methodological implications of working in ‘the gap’ of uncertainty

Mianna Meskus, Emilia Tikka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Recent studies in design research and science and technology studies (STS) have investigated how speculative thinking might be applied in empirical contexts. A unifying feature of speculative approaches has been an interest in futures as mediated, shaped and conditioned by science and technology. Yet concrete methodological conditions of speculative research events remain under-explored. There is a need for a more nuanced understanding of speculation ‘as it works’. While speculation does not constitute a unified method or analytical grid with a defined set of elements, speculative research is not innocently playful or free of methodological constraints. Speculation denotes here philosophically driven knowledge production conducted with research participants on science, technology and futures. Based on experiences of two social science and two design research cases in cellular reprogramming and genomic engineering, we illustrate and theorize our methodological observations on what takes place in speculative practices with participants. Drawing on Whitehead’s and Stengers’ conceptual work on experiential practices of knowing, we develop the concept of ‘the gap’ to describe the mode of speculative engagement that shapes concrete relations and positioning in research events. Contingent and situated, the gap of speculative action builds on openness, uncertainty and hesitation. Achieving the gap is the aim of speculative engagement and also a methodologically elusive, risky part of the study process. The concept of the gap helps illustrate what researchers ask from participants in the name of speculative openness, and how participants position themselves in these encounters. It allows us to highlight how participants, in turn, invite researchers to reposition themselves and demand experiential involvement that may reconfigure the course of the study.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQUALITATIVE RESEARCH
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • biotechnological modification
  • design research
  • experience
  • futures
  • methodology
  • social science
  • speculative thinking
  • the gap
  • uncertainty

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Speculative approaches in social science and design research: Methodological implications of working in ‘the gap’ of uncertainty'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this