Theatres of Failure: digital demonstrations of disruption in everyday life

Perriam, Jessamy. 2018. Theatres of Failure: digital demonstrations of disruption in everyday life. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Theatres of Failure: digital demonstrations of disruption in everyday life)
SOC_EditedThesis_PerriamJ_2018.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (4MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

Disruption regularly occurs in everyday life: public transport runs late, online accounts get hacked or faddish technology interrupts our experience of public spaces. These disruptions are sometimes called 'speed bumps' in our daily experience, giving insight into our expectations of a normal working order of everyday life. But mundane disruptions are not only events that occur and are then forgotten about. As I discuss in this thesis, we also demonstrate our disruption to those responsible as a form of problematisation (Callon 1986a), enrolling others into the disruption. As far as direct communication is concerned, these disruptions were once demonstrated between the disrupted party and the responsible entity via personal media such as letters, telephone conversations or emails. However, the uptake of social and digital media devices in recent years has meant demonstrations of mundane disruption have become networked, enlisting participation from broader audiences beyond those directly responsible. This leaves us with questions about the ontology and agency of the digital: is the digital a setting, an actor or an assemblage in the demonstration of disruption, or many other entities in addition? This thesis investigates how demonstrations of disruption are being reconfigured in light of the digital. I examine this phenomenon through theoretical standpoints in Science and Technology Studies, the emerging field of digital sociology and, ethnomethodology, which I bring to bear on demonstrations performed in three different field sites. The first is an ethnographic study of the situated practices of Transport for London’s social media customer service team. The second analyses blogs and YouTube videos that attempt to enrol publics in issues of cyber security. The last empirical chapter combines digital ethnography with an in situ breaching experiment to describe and analyse how people use social media to demonstrate a particular disruptive digital object, the selfie stick, in public places.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

This is an edited version of the thesis, with third-party copyright material removed.


Social media, demonstrations, digital media, cyber security, Transport for London (TfL), disruption, failure

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Centre for Invention and Social Process (CISP) [2016-]


31 March 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 May 2018 11:36

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:06


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)