Practice Theory and the Digital

A three day workshop: 18th to 20th September 2023, Lancaster University, UK

Organising team: Stan Blue, Bob Jones, Karol Kurnicki, Katy Mason, Natallia Martini, Elizabeth Shove and Ted Schatzki.

In recent years practice theory has established itself as an ontological alternative for social research. It differs from other, familiar approaches by emphasizing the centrality of practices—as opposed to individuals, interactions, structures, systems, networks etc.—in the constitution of social phenomena. In recent decades, moreover, society has become increasingly digitalized, with digital devices and infrastructures relentlessly spreading through social life. The latter development at once requires that practice-theory based analyses be given of digitalized social phenomena and raises the question of what practice theory can contribute to better understandings of them. Digitalization might also have implications for the further development of practice theory itself. In an effort to advance both practice theory and practice theory-based research on the proliferating range of digital phenomena, the Centre for Practice Theory at the University of Lancaster is organizing a three day in-person workshop for anyone who draws on theories of practices to study digital society.

The workshop will bring together such researchers in a series of forums—smaller group sessions focused on participants’ work, workshop-wide sessions on shared concepts and key phenomena, a closing panel on practice theory and the digital, extra-workshop activities—to exchange ideas, consider and comment on each other’s work, deepen understanding of both practice theory and the digitalization of society, and have a good time.

We are looking forward to discussions of  practice theoretical analyses or representations of any aspect of digital societies or any topic to do with practice theory and the increasing digitalization of social life.

Examples include:
• Big data, clouds, algorithms, automation, surveillance/monitoring, tracking
• Blockchains, cryptocurrencies, platforms, social media
• Communication, gaming, governance, production, consumption, movement
• Corporations, states, social movements, militaries
• Devices, infrastructures, bodies, data & information
• Digitalization and changes in practices, interactions, organizations, everyday lives, social spaces, identities, psyches, subjectivities
• Practices, connectivity, practice constellations, rhythms, space, time
• Gender, racial, sexual, geographical dimensions of & differences in any of the above
• The adequacy of practice (and other social theoretical) ontologies to grasp digitalized societies
• New theoretical ideas or concepts useful for understanding digitalized phenomena
• Practice theoretical approaches to digital futures
• Challenges that digital societies present for practice theory (and social theory more generally), e.g. for the import of the material, the integrity of key concepts-phenomena (practices, individuals etc.), relations between practices, digital or virtual worlds

Some images from the event, including a short video of the grand finale

The grand finale – a short video
A photo of nearly everyone involved

A photo of some of the organising crew