Speculative Method and Twitter: Bots, Energy and Three Conceptual Characters

Wilkie, Alex; Michael, Mike and Plummer-Fernandez, Matthew. 2015. Speculative Method and Twitter: Bots, Energy and Three Conceptual Characters. The Sociological Review, 63(1), pp. 79-101. ISSN 0038-0261 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper aims to contribute to recent innovations in social scientific methodology that aspire to address the complex, iterative and performative dimensions of method. In particular, we focus on the becoming-with character of social events, and propose a speculative method for engaging with the not-as-yet. This work, being part of a larger project that uses Speculative Design and ethnographic methods to explore energy-demand reduction, specifically considers the ways in which energy-demand reduction features in the Twitter-sphere. Developing and deploying three automated Bots whose function and communications are at best obscure, and not uncommonly nonsensical, we trace some of ways in which they intervene and provoke. Heuristically, we draw on the ‘conceptual characters’ of idiot, parasite and diplomat in order to grasp how the Bots act within Twitter to evoke the instability and emergent eventuations of energy-demand reduction, community and related practices. We conclude by drawing out some of the wider implications of this particular enactment of speculative method.

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Additional Information:

This paper draws on research conducted under the project grant ‘Sustainability Invention and Energy-demand reduction: Co-designing Communities and Practice’ funded by RCUK and led by the EPSRC (project code ES/1007318/1)


Twitter, energy-demand reduction, speculative methods, digital methods, software roBots, Bots, performativity, science and technology studies, parasite, idiot, diplomat

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Design > Interaction Research Studio


14 July 2014Published Online
24 February 2015Published

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Date Deposited:

18 Jul 2014 12:01

Last Modified:

25 Mar 2021 09:37

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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