For over ten years The Centre of Invention and Social Process (CISP) has been at the forefront of researching and understanding the interplay between science, technology, society and the environment.
Based in the Department of Sociology, CISP is an interdisciplinary research centre that hosts conferences, reading groups, research projects, salons, seminars, workshops as well as supporting doctoral research amongst other activities. Common to all is the exploration and examination of the role of ‘invention’ – and related terms such as ‘creativity’, ‘innovation’, technology, discovery, change and novelty in social and public life. CISP facilitates collaboration and intervention across disciplines and practices that touch upon and create the ‘social’, including, but not limited to: design and social science, computation and sociology, issue advocacy and inventive social methods, markets and economics, biomedicine and innovation in social research, the arts and environmental science.
The Centre’s distinctive approach arises from a shared engagement by its members with the study of invention. On the one hand, invention is at the heart of many accounts of contemporary social change. It is at stake in, for example, the concern with innovation in the market and in the media, the significance attached to cultural inventiveness in the making of people, places and times, the value attributed to creativity as a resource in the organisation of work processes, the importance attached to intellectual property, and the putative impact of sociomaterial novelty (e.g. biotechnology, the environment, designed products and experiences, information technology) on the processes of everyday life. This indicates a broad set of empirical issues of immense public concern.
On the other hand, the concept of invention also has a theoretical dimension. It signals a sociological focus upon the transformation of social and material realities, rather than upon the problem of social order. Instead of taking the identity of social and material entities as given and foundational, the concept of invention points to the way that persons and objects can be understood in terms of process and temporality in general, and novelty in particular. This orientation connects the interests of CISP in science, technology, art and design to questions of life, duration, the body, environment, ethics, and politics.
The Centre has formal and informal links with many institutions and individual colleagues, and actively maintains a network of researchers and practitioners interested in the broad themes under its remit. CISP has attracted numerous visiting scholars, and continues to invite colleagues – from senior academics through to postgraduate research students – interested in working in a hugely lively and innovative research environment.
CISP was founded in 2003 by Andrew Barry and was inaugurated by Bruno Latour with a lecture on the question of “how not to change vehicles” in moving from micro to macro in the social study of invention. Since then, CISP has been directed by Mariam Motamedi Fraser, Mike Michael, Marsha Rosengarten, Noortje Marres and is currently co-directed by Michael Guggenheim, Marsha Rosengarten and Alex Wilkie.