Speculative Research

Michael, Mike and Wilkie, Alex. 2020. Speculative Research. In: Vlad Petre Glăveanu, ed. The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. ISBN 9783319983905 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This entry begins by distinguishing speculative research from the broader cultural and academic meanings of “speculation.” The present “constructivist” approach to speculative research places emphasis on the ways in which the research question, the researcher, the researched and research device are actively involved in a process of becoming-with one another. This is explored through the notion of the “research event” into which a multiplicity of divergent elements (micro and the macro, the social and the material, the cognitive and the affective, and the human and the nonhuman) enters. In combining, they also “become-with” one other thereby opening the potentialities of the research event, including the possibility that it is no longer “about” research. Speculative research concerns enabling a sensibility attuned to this process of co-becoming. The entry suggests that a sensitivity to, and a taking seriously of, the “idiot” (i.e., that which does not make sense in the context of the research event as typically understood) facilitates this openness to the possibilities of the research event. More proactively, speculative researchers can also introduce idiocy into research events as a way of prompting participants to explore potential ways of reframing the research question, that is, of inventing new problems. The device of the “probe” (drawn from design practice) is used to illustrate this. It is further proposed that speculative research extends to the data analytic phase: introducing alternative materials (e.g., nonacademic artifacts) or traditions of engagement (e.g., aesthetic) can also enable “possibilistic” accounts.

Item Type:

Book Section

Identification Number (DOI):



Speculation, Constructivism, Event, Research, Device, Idiot, Probe, Possible, Co-becoming

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Design > Design Societies Research Unit
Sociology > Centre for Invention and Social Process (CISP) [2016-]


1 June 2020Accepted
26 June 2020Published Online

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Date Deposited:

07 Jul 2020 10:27

Last Modified:

13 Nov 2023 09:55



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