Conference Agenda

RS14_07: Sociology of Sociological Knowledge
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: René Tuma, TU Berlin
Location: BS.3.25
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road


‘Just Enough Research’: User Research as the Adaptation and Production of Social Knowledge

Seweryn Rudnicki

AGH University of Science and Technology, Poland

The aim of this presentation is to analyze the field of user experience research as an area of production and utilization of social knowledge.

User research is conventionally defined as a field of research undertaken in order to understand humans’ behaviours, reactions, habits and needs in order to design better products and services. This approach has been gaining an increasing attention in the last two decades, which may be illustrated by the popularity of the terms like ‘user experience’, ‘design thinking’, ‘service design’, ‘interaction design’. User research has been one of crucial elements of this approach and has been extensively referred to and discussed in the field of design and human-computer interaction. In spite of its growing professional popularity, user research has been largely overlooked by sociology as a non-academic field of the production of knowledge on society and its usage for (mostly commercial) purposes.

This presentation will attempt to show what kind of knowledge about the social life is generated within user research, how it is produced and used. It will also discuss the social consequences of its popularity as well as the position of sociology as a discipline in the light of the relatively new non-sociological area of expertise on the social. The empirical basis of the presentation is the data gathered in the on-going research project on user research as a social practice (expert interviews, observations and secondary data analysis).

On The Boundaries Of "Sociological Methods"

Lisa Kressin

University of Lucerne, Switzerland

This paper focusses on symbolic and social boundaries perceived, adjusted and reinforced within methods teaching in the studies of sociology within Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Understanding mandatory method training as part of the reproduction system of the discipline, the notion of the performative nature of (social) scientific methods is extended to its use in constructing and de-constructing disciplinary identity. Based on collected syllabi and interviews with method professors, this contribution tracks classification processes, boundary drawings and negations through objects, practices and knowledge elements valued as relevant for the introduction of sociology students to the category of “methods”. However, as Schuster and Yeo (1986) have shown, scientific methods’ claims do not only (de-legitimize) boundaries within and between disciplines but also across the scientific system in general. Following Gieryn (1983), methods are used as a strong resource to differentiate science from non-science. Historical and current debates on the legitimacy of differing ontological, epistemological, and methodological perspectives within German-speaking sociology and its teaching show how the discursive distinction between science and non-science is re-introduced within the discipline of sociology. This contribution will approach questions like, what are “sociological methods”? What role does method training play in the reproduction of the disciplinary order? Which symbolic and social boundaries are being drawn? Which are not? How do these fuzzy boundaries relate to the discipline’s constant struggle to defend its own “turf” (Abbott 2010) and legitimacy, facing competing interpretations of the social from all sorts of societal actors, like other disciplines, the media, corporate research etc.?

The Academic and Political Institutionalization of Sociology in the German Democratic Republic

Barbara Grüning

Milan Bicocca, Italy

In the light of the social and political context of the GDR-State, the paper aims to investigate how its ideology and policies influenced over time the ways sociological knowledge was produced and disseminated in the political, scientific and academic fields. As the main indicator, the paper will consider the processing of Ph.D. and habilitation dissertations issued from 1951 to 1990. The analysis is based on a list of 1500 titles of dissertations on social science issues. The database contains important information about: The main topics carried out over time in the social sciences; the gender of the authors; the kind of institution (academic; scientific, political) where Ph.D. and Habilitation dissertations have been issued; their geographic location (central, peripheral); the discipline(s) of the authors. This material provides meaningful cues to identify from a temporal perspective: (i) the differentiation process of sociology from other disciplines in terms of theories, paradigms and methods; (ii) the symbolic, social and political functions attributed to sociology; (iii) the degree of ideologization of sociological knowledge. The co-world analysis will be carried out according to the variables mentioned above: Gender of the authors, places of issues; disciplines. In addition, to reach a better understanding of how sociological knowledge was produced, disseminated and used by sociologists and other social actors I will take into account eight in-depth interviews carried out with scholars of sociology and cultural sciences who worked in the GDR academic and scientific institutions. The main idea of the paper is, therefore, to highlight how the scientific, symbolic and social boundaries changed over time according to the structural transformation of the political and academic/scientific fields.