Mundane Governance Conference

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Extraordinary Mundaneity Public Lecture by Professor Steve Woolgar, Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Linköping University, Sweden and Emeritus Professor of Marketing at University of Oxford, UK

The concept of mundane governance enables the exploration of the subtleties and intricacies of governance". In this paper I review the emergence of the concept and discuss some of the reaction and interpretation following the publication of the book. I discuss the strategic significance of the mundane for furthering a key sensibility of contemporary social sciences and humanities: that for any given state of affairs it could always be otherwise. Far from its apprehension as merely trivial, the domain of the mundane offers a degree of recalcitrance which challenges our assumptions about what counts as good social analysis. In particular, I argue that attention to the mundane requires a new kind of politics, a revision of how we conceptualise governance, and a rethinking of traditional approaches to agency and power. Finally, I briefly explore how the concept of mundane governance - originally developed with particular reference to waste management and recycling; traffic regulation; and the management of airports - might be elaborated and applied in some other empirical areas.

About the speaker

Steve Woolgar is Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Linköping University, Sweden and Emeritus Professor of Marketing at University of Oxford. He has published widely in science and technology studies and in social theory and is considered a leading international figure in these areas. His recent books are Mundane Governance: ontology and accountability (Oxford); Globalisation in Practice (Oxford); Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited (MIT) and Visualization in the Age of Computerization (Routledge). His research interests include neuromarketing; the uses of big data; and academic evaluation practices. Among his current projects is It Could Be Otherwise - a book length investigation of the nature and limits of provocation and intervention. Professor Woolgar was the former Director of the Economic and Social Research Council's (ESRC) 'Virtual Society?' programme  for five years, overseeing  more than twenty research projects throughout the UK that examined the wide range of social impacts of new electronic technologies. He has also served as a strategic advisor for Philips, World Executive Institute and World Brand Lab and Which?, as well as with the UK Department of Trade and Industry's Consumer Affairs Directorate and the Cabinet Office's E-commerce and Small Businesses Group.