Missed the recent ‘Public Perceptions of the Social Sciences in a Contemporary Era of Unrest’ event organised by sociology post-grads at University of York. A recording of the presentations and Q & A sessions will be posted online soon, so look forward to having a chance to check this out once this happens.
In other news, the Open University has successfully bid to become one of eight RCUK ‘Catalysts’ for ‘public engagement with research’ (for RCUK Catalyst announcement and details of other HE institutions awarded funding, see here). This RCUK funding follows on from the Beacons for Public Engagement initiative which ended in December 2011. The purpose of the Catalyst funding, according to the RCUK media release, “is to embed public engagement with research in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)”.
Professor Tim Blackman, the Open University’s Pro-vice Chancellor for Research is the Principal Investigator on the OU’s Catalyst project and this kicks-off in a few months time. I will work on this project too (for 0.5 day p/w) as one of its co-investigators. This will allow the Creating Publics work to develop in this context alongside the five other co-investigators from across the OU who will develop other aspects of this initiative. More on this here as this project progresses.
For now, just to note that just as opportunities for centrally funded projects for re-making the future get more and more squeezed the vocabulary for talking about putatively ‘bottom-up’ ways of making the future seems to be expanding exponentially (with the Creating Publics project only seeming to add to this). I’ve noticed this for a while now, but provoked most recently into thinking about this issue again by the CCIG Forum event I attended last week. This event, on the theme of ‘Enacting Worlds’ was almost entirely oriented to discussing what is at stake in the rise of theories and more empirical research that utilises ideas of ‘enactment’. The event worked to bring into conversation a number of recent strands of work in this area, including that of a CRESC programme on ‘the social life of methods’, work on the ‘Enacting European Citizenship’ project as well some of the work of the events exciting and generous keynote speaker Anne-Marie Mol.
Words matter, perhaps especially when used in discussions about how futures are to be made (as my CCIG & Publics Research Programme colleague John Clarke always reminds me). ‘Creating’, ‘envisioning’, ‘catalysing’, ‘enacting’, ‘imagining’ – these words can summon up and privilege subtly different academic and political histories, forms of agency, collectivity, expertise, creativity and criticality. Perhaps Creating Publics should therefore keep trying to look out for these kinds of words, not least to see if it’s possible to develop a more sophisticated analysis of these words contexts and possible effects.