SO475      Half Unit
Material Culture and Design

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Donald Slater STC S310


This course is available on the MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Economy, Risk and Society , MSc in Media and Communications (Data and Society), MSc in Sociology, MSc in Sociology (Contemporary Social Thought) and MSc in Sociology (Research). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course focuses on designed entities in everyday life, looking at the ways in which materials are configured into things, practices, spaces and forms, and at the assemblage of objects across production, design, consumption and use. Though aiming to produce expertise in specifically social science research, the course will bring together literatures and debates that cross the social sciences, humanities and science/technology, drawing particularly on actor-network theory, material culture studies, sociology of consumption, practice theory, urban and architectural studies, cultural theory and design studies. There will also be a strong emphasis on methodology: what tools are available to social scientists to investigate the emergent properties and impacts of designed objects. Case studies will be central to the teaching, developing theoretical and methodological strategies through a

(changing) set of empirical cases that are likely to include: digital objects (software, games); media objects; lights and lighting; fashion; domestic interiors.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT.

Reading week: week 6.

Formative coursework

One 2,500 essay applying a theoretical approach to a specific case study.

Indicative reading

Bijker, W. E. and J. Law (eds.) (1992) Shaping technology/building society: Studies in Sociotechnical change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Frayling, C., E. King and H. Atkinson (2009) Design and popular entertainment. Manchester ; New York

Lash, S. and C. Lury (2007) Global Culture Industry: the mediation of things. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Latour, B. (2005) Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Manovich, L. (2002) The language of new media. Cambridge, Mass. London: MIT.

Miller, D. (2008) The Comfort of Things. Cambridge: Polity.

Molotch, H. (2003) Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers and Many Other Things Come to Be as They Are. New York and London: Routledge.

Shove, E., M. Hand, J. Ingram and M. Watson (eds.) (2007) The Design of Everyday Life. Oxford: Berg.

Yaneva, A. (2009) The Making of a Building: A Pragmatist Approach to Architecture. Bern: Peter Lang.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

Two hard copies of the assessed essay with submission sheets on each, to be handed in to the Administration Office, S116, no later than 16:30 on the second Thursday of Lent Term. An additional copy to be uploaded to Moodle no later than 18:00 on the same day.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2015/16: 14

Average class size 2015/16: 13

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information