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Student Research Workshops: Exploring Critical Research Practice

03/31 Friday | 4pm

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge and the global NYLON working group invite you to join us for afternoon research practicums as part of the 2017 NYLON Conference at NYU.


Session 1: Friday, March 31 – 4:00-6:00 PM

Live-Action Role-Play (LARP) as Scientific Proof

Organizer: Noah Arjomand (Columbia University)

Live-Action Role-Play (LARP) as Scientific Proof will consider role-play as a way not only to experimentally test, but also to make social scientific arguments. In recent years, some proponents of Live-Action Role-Play (LARP) have turned from freeform fantasy games of dress-up and battle toward recreations of socially salient situations, for example, of refugees applying for asylum or politicians negotiating a trade agreement. These “games” are intended to stir empathy by placing participants fleetingly in the unfamiliar roles of others. This form of LARP, as a constrained recreation of the social world, bears a semblance to social scientific representations of society.

In this experimental workshop, conference attendees will participate in a short LARP, taking on various roles in a scenario involving the reporting of an international news story. This exercise will be followed by a conversation that not only addresses potential uses of role-play in social science, but also uses the exercise to stimulate a more general discussion about the place of empathy in social sciences and the ways in which social science can convince audiences of causal arguments about social interactions unfamiliar to the latter.


Session 2: Saturday, April 1 – 4:15-6:00 PM – NYU Institute for Public Knowledge

A) Critical optimism: Exploring normative possibilities and connecting research to non-academic practice

Organizers: Helen Traill (LSE), Elena Denaro (LSE), Paz Concha (LSE), and Valentina Alvarez (Goldsmiths College)

“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” – A. Gramsci

The deeply unequal state of the globalized world calls for research that engages with, rather than stands aloof from, the world’s problems. This workshop aims to explore avenues for potential non-academic applications of social research based on the idea of “critical optimism.” We will discuss the possibilities for reconnecting facts with (explicit) values and ask how our research can engage in an ethical/transformative social science, focusing discussion around two questions: How can you reimagine the world using your research? And how does that change your role as a researcher? Participants are asked to submit an imaginative provocation (poems, video, etc.) to spark discussion and reflection on critical optimism in small groups. Each group will reflect on practicalities and problematics, which they will feedback to the larger group before an open discussion on particularly contentious issues, facilitate


B) NYLON Mixtapes: A Workshop on Critical Social Research

Organizers: Helen Gibson, Nadja Klopprogge, Hannes Langguth (NYLON Berlin)

“NYLON Mixtapes” is an experimental workshop aimed at exploring and evoking our methods, interests and self-positioning as critical researchers. In preparation for the workshop, we will pre-circulate NYLON Berlin’s mission statement, “Critical Social Research as Utopian Practice.” We will ask participants to respond to the statement and to position themselves as socially committed researchers. Following a brief discussion of the mission statement, we will use the workshop to conduct interviews between NYLON members. After the conference, the Berlin group will produce a podcast episode on critical social research within the NYLON network. We aim to turn the researcher herself into a subject of experimental investigation, exploring the very becoming of researchers within the space of an international graduate student conference. Our intervention will bear witness to manifold consecutive materializations and transformations of knowledge, exposing and commenting on the situated, contingent production of different forms of knowledge.


NYLON is an international research network, created in 2001 by Craig Calhoun and Richard Sennett of NYU and the London School of Economics to link young scholars engaged in qualitative, cultural research at the two institutions. Today, NYLON has expanded to include sociologists, historians, and media and cultural studies students from many different universities and more local branches in London and Berlin. Student participants workshop their research in regular meetings at their local institutions and come together every spring for an annual conference in New York, London, or Berlin.


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