Sociology @ Goldsmiths

Leading edge Sociology


July 2016

Smart Ethnography?

Call for Papers for a Workshop to be held at Goldsmiths, University of London: 15-16 December, 2016

Les Back [Sociology] & Mark Johnson [Anthropology] (Goldsmiths, University of London), Maggy Lee (Hong Kong University), Mike McCahill (University of Hull)

Key Note: Mirca Madianou (Goldsmiths, University of London)

The aim of this workshop is to bring together and evaluate critically the use of smartphones in ethnographic research. We ask, what are the particular affordances of smartphones and in what ways might they extend particular sorts of ethnographic practice? To what extent do smartphones supplement and/or supplant pencil and paper, pc and laptop, digital voice recorder and camera, what is the significance of the latter for fieldnotes and writing and how might this shift in recording devices enable and shape new forms of ethnographic engagement? Do smartphones enable a further democratisation of ethnography or do they take us further away from and displace participant observation as an embodied practice of dwelling and reflexively engaged encounter? Do the possibilities of ‘real time’ methods that potentially reorder the temporal relation between data production, analysis and dissemination necessarily engender presentist perspectives that mirror the space time compression of creative capitalism or might it open up new forms of public historical engagement? How might the dualities of this simultaneously most intimate and most public form of communicative and data generating device provoke and unsettle some of the ethical complacencies about anonymity and consent in an age of hyper surveillance?

We invite papers that speak to one or more of these themes, as well as others, and that are principally derived from actually existing experiments in smart ethnography. Papers may be about the use of smartphones to explore the practices of smartphone users; however, we welcome papers that consider how smartphones might be used in novel ways to explore a variety of topics in different sorts of ethnographic situations.

If you would like to participate in this workshop, please submit a 250 word abstract by Friday, 16 September to Mark Johnson: Paper presenters selected for inclusion in the workshop will be notified at the beginning of October.



“Value and Values”: Interaction, Infrastructures and Accumulation

Saturday December 3rd 2016
09.30-18.30 [followed by a wine reception at 18.30]
Goldsmiths, University of London

This event is free, but it is essential that you register. To register please go to:

This event is the final symposium for the ESRC Professorial Fellowship project “Value and Values” (ES/K010786/1) conducted between 2013-2016 by Bev Skeggs and Simon Yuill.

Facebook represents a new form of capitalist capture, one based on monopolization and rent that shapes our current connectivity as it monetises us and opens us up to forms of financialization, including increased indebtedness. This form of capitalist capture moves us into a new regime of accumulation, of profit without production, in which the command of surplus value is via the control of surplus information.

Will Davies, Natalie Fenton, Mark Fisher, Matthew Fuller, Olga Goriunova, Sarah Kember, Gholam Khiabany, Costas Lapavitsas, Adrian MacKenzie, Johnna Montgomerie, Alberto Toscano and Joanna Zylinska.

Project website:

This event has been sponsored by the: ESRC, Goldsmiths, University of London and The Sociological Review Foundation.

For event organisational enquiries, please contact Jenny Thatcher:

Open Book presents “The Likes of Us”

20 July 2016
Professor Stuart Hall Building, LG01

Open Book was established to support those at the margins of our society in addressing their situations through education. At the heart of the Open Book project is the belief that education is an end in itself and should not just be for an economic imperative. From Art to Philosophy, participants are encouraged to combine their own life experience with what they learn in the classroom, thereby transforming negative past experience into valuable insight and inspiration for positive change.

The Likes of Us came about as a result of Open Book students and staff meeting people in an academic environment and encountering misconceptions about the working classes. The series is intended to give an insight into working class lives through a series of talks and short films, delivered by Neil Bradley in a unique style: (in his own words) ‘part poor stand-up comedy routine and part social history lecture, with topics ranging from family life, industrial relations, and politics to my brushes with famous celebrities’.

This event will feature a short film ‘If I Ran London’, the story of completing the London Marathon to raise funds for the Pat Bryden Open Book Fund. Pat was the first Open Book student and stayed with Goldsmiths’ History department until his death in 2014. The Pat Bryden Open Book Fund was set up to provide funds to alleviate some of the financial concerns that make access to higher education particularly difficult for Open Book students starting out on this wonderful journey of academic discovery.

The film will be followed ‘A Working Class Life in 6 Envelopes’, where audience members will select 6 envelopes that will guide Neil’s talk.

This is an Open Book event in association with the Department of Sociology. All are welcome.



Social Media and Society

From 11-13 July some 250 researchers from around the world attended a conference hosted by Prof Evelyn Ruppert (Sociology and Editor, Big Data & Society) and Dr Dhiraj Murthy (Sociology and Co-Director, Goldsmiths Centre for Creative and Social Technologies (CAST).


Alberto Toscono publishes new blog post

Alberto Toscano has published a blog post on ‘Giorgio Agamben’s Political Paradigm’ for a Stanford University Press hosted symposium on the Italian philosopher’s Homo Sacer project. The post focuses on his book Stasis and its conceptualisation of civil war.

Check out Nex X Change Episode 1: ‘Lines on a Map’ featuring our own Les Back, Nirmal Puwar and Michaela Benson…

Chapter 2: “The dream happens to him”
Al Riddell and Harriet Onyett delve into a recent exhibition responding to the seminal 1975 book, A Seventh Man, by John Berger and Jean Mohr.

The Migrating Dreams and Nightmares exhibition was curated by Goldsmiths’ Methods Lab – a pioneering group of sociologists exploring new ways of doing social research. It brought together artists and academics to respond to the book and the theme of migration through new artworks and public talks. Featuring Dr Nirmal Puwar, reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths.

Chapter 4: “Her ridged posture screamed ‘Foreigner, know your place!’”
A young man boards a plane, but he’s not travelling for business or pleasure, he’s being deported. As he fastens his seatbelt, his phone vibrates. Expecting a heartfelt parting message from friends, he instead reads a text from the UK Border Agency, wishing him farewell and a good journey.

In this story, Tyler Hill talks to sociologist Professor Les Back about his long-term project exploring how different people establish a sense of belonging in London.

Find out how technology makes us more connected and mobile than ever before, but is also implicated in increasingly sophisticated ways of separating us.


Chapter 5: “These who’re coming in now begrudge you…I dread to see what comes of it”
We’ve recently witnessed mainstream politicians in the UK using the language of biblical plagues where refugees become ‘swarms’ ready to sweep across the country from a camp in Calais known as ‘the Jungle’.

And we’ve seen the term ‘migrant’ become increasingly toxic under the burden of sensationalising headlines that the Prime Minister has been only too eager to evoke in the House of Commons.

Adela Earlington and Tom Hill collaborated with sociologist Dr Michaela Benson to explore the fundamental question ‘Who is a migrant?’ We hear from academics, students and older generations of migrants who reflect on this complex question in which their sense of self and belonging are bound.

New X Change is a new project, a collaboration between students and staff at Goldsmiths, telling the stories behind the research and practice that’s responding to some of the most urgent issues of our time

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