Call for papers: Alternative experiments — spaces of learning and innovation at the grassroots

Deadline: 9 February 2015 - 12:00am

Dates: 2 - 4 September 2015

Where: Exeter, UK

Experiments attract a lot of current interest as tools for change, especially in the broader context of sustainability transitions, climate change responses and urban development. There has been significant work on different experimental efforts, from model projects to living labs, and their role as examples for infrastructural co-creation or as local governance tools. This highlights their practical contributions to local problem solving and posits experiments as sites for social learning as well as seedbeds for innovation. The emphasis of these discussions lies on experimental efforts as deliberately designed and strategic interventions, many of which are technology-centred and motivated by dominant or mainstream narratives of development or societal change.

Yet as experiments have come to be seen as open and adaptive approaches to knowledge making within the lived everyday world (Davies 2010), there is a whole range of initiatives that stand alongside these strategic efforts. These may be termed alternative experiments: interventions that explicitly seek to challenge and replace existing economic, social and other configurations through experimental  means. These experiments are often more diffuse and haphazard, based at the grassroots level and emerging organically from existing efforts. While they share a commitment to local problem solving and learning with other efforts, they are distinct in their commitments and approaches. As well as offering locally practised alternatives, they are spaces of learning and innovation with the potential for much wider relevance.

The purpose of this session is to begin a wider conversation about such alternative experiments, exploring their distinct implications and roles within processes of societal and sociotechnical change. We invite a range of theoretical and empirical work that discusses what alternative experiments are, how they emerge and how we may think about them.

Possible topics could include:

  •    The spatiality and emplacement of alternative experiments
  •    The emergence and development of alternative experiments: How do experiments get made and unmade?
  •    Relational, socio-material and networked perspectives on experiments
  •    Critically engaged case studies of experiments (examples might include, alternative currencies, food projects, hackerspaces, fab labs, social centres, ecovillages etc).
  •    Issues of governance, power and politics in relation to alternative experiments
  •    Explorations of processes of learning, ‘scaling up’ and ‘diffusion’.
  •    Critical engagements with notions of the ‘alternative’ in relation to experimentation.
  •    The relationship between countercultural space / place and experimentation.


Please send abstracts for 15-minute papers (up to a maximum of 250 words) to Noel Longhurst ([email protected]) and Jana Wendler ([email protected]) by Monday, 9th February 2015.

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