Doing Speculative Research: Knives, Nature and an Ecology of Futures

Professor Mike Michael, University of Exeter  

Monday 11 December

3.30pm - 5.00pm, Room 1.37, Paterson's Land, Moray House School of Education

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In this paper, I discuss aspects of the rationale behind speculative research, and list a number of possible techniques for its doing. By way of illustration, I focus especially on mundane technology as a medium through which to think about how space and time are sociomaterially performed, but also as a means for exploring the relation to the possible futures that we face (what might be called an ‘ecology of speculative futures’). More specifically I draw out some characteristics of a variety of ‘pocket knives’ (Swiss Army Knife, the mushroom knife, the hunting knife) in order to trace how each of these implicates a distinctive version of the ‘natural environment’ (which, of course, is anything but ‘natural’). I then go on to ask how are we to think about the role of mundane technology in the future of our environment, not least in circumstances of extreme uncertainty. Bracketing the more pessimistic futures such as the Anthropocene, I consider Donna Haraway’s more overtly hopeful and speculative but also more troubling future – the Chthulucene. In a related speculative vein, I suggest how the pocket knife might need to be re-designed to deal with the exigencies of the Chthulucene. Put otherwise, what might a prospective pocket knife for a prospective future afford us?


Mike Michael is a sociologist of science and technology, and a Professor in the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology at the University of Exeter.  His research interests have touched on the relation of everyday life to technoscience, the role of culture in biomedicine, and the interplay of design and social scientific perspectives.  Recent major publications include Actor-Network Theory:  Trials, Trails and Translations (Sage, 2017).  He is currently writing books on Science and Technology Studies and Design (with Alex Wilkie) and on Speculative Research Methodology.


Date of Event 
11 Dec 2017
Event Leader 
Professor Mike Michael, University of Exeter
Moray House School of Education, Paterson's Land, Room 1.37
Research Area 
Digital Cultures
Event type