Unit of Play Events Archive


Diagrams and Play: From Schiller to Deleuze, via Beethoven

Discussant: Alex Wilkie
Chair: Marsha Rosengarten

Deleuze’s conception of ‘diagrammatics’ implicates a radicalised notion of play. This augments Schiller’s conception of play as the harmonic synthesis of the form impulse and the sensible impulse to reconceive play as the disjunctive synthesis of the sensible. I consider the philosophical sources for this inversion, and attend to its aesthetic implications through an appeal to Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. In his revisioning of the ‘Theme and Variation’, Beethoven invests play as a strategy for aesthetic freedom from formal determination (the theme), and the construction of a ‘second nature’. Is a new possibility for ‘aesthetic education’ signalled by this shift? How might we understand the contemporary stakes of this diagrammatic practice of art?

Kamini Vellodi is an artist, academic and writer. She is lecturer on the MRes Theory and Philosophy at Central Saint Martins, School of Art and Design. She completed her PhD at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Middlesex University, with a thesis on Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of the diagram and the 16th century Venetian painter Jacopo Tintoretto. Her research interests include the critical interface between post-Kantian Continental Philosophy, the Visual Arts and Art History, the ‘modernity’ of 16th century Italian painting, and philosophical restagings of problems in art historical methodology. She has published articles in the journals Parrhesia, Art History and the Journal for Aesthetics and German Art History, and is currently working on a book monograph on Tintoretto.

Situating Efficacy: Biomedicine, Interdisciplinarity, and the Politics of Intervention

Although the randomized control trial (RCT) is considered the gold standard for evidence-based research in medicine, its findings of biomedical ‘efficacy’ under isolated test conditions stand apart from what affects the successful implementation and take up of the intervention, that is, ‘effectiveness’ in real world conditions.

In this symposium we consider the challenges that emerge through this distinction and what an interdisciplinary approach might offer to redressing the challenges now posed in the translation of ‘efficacy’ to ‘effectiveness’. By discussing conceptual issues as well as recent findings of RCTs for HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis biomedical prevention, the broad aim of the symposium is to facilitate an interdisciplinary exchange on the implications of efficacy testing by RCTs for 'real world' implementation, and to provide a forum in which to 'test' a concept of 'situated efficacy and its potential as a basis for novel modes of interdisciplinary collaboration.

At the centre of the development of a concept of ‘situated efficacy’ is an attempt to rethink the effects of biomedical interventions such that any clear-cut distinction between the controlled environment of the RCT (which the testing of conventional ‘efficacy’ requires) and the ‘real world‘ (which concerns the question of ‘effectiveness’) is not presupposed but rather problematised. Bringing together participants from the natural and social sciences, speculative design, international policy and programming, non-government organization implementers, will discuss and attempt to think collectively the potentials and limitations of experimenting with alternative forms of interdisciplinary interventions in complex naturalcultural problems.


  • Dr Vera Ehrenstein, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
  • Prof William Gaver, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
  • Prof Robert Grant, Gladstone Institute, UCSF, United States
  • Prof Ian Harper, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Dr Ann Kelly, Exeter University, United Kingdom
  • Ms Susie McLean, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, United Kingdom
  • Dr Catherine Montgomery, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Dr Dean Murphy, Curtin University and UNSW, Australia
  • Prof Daniel Neyland, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
  • Associate Prof Kane Race, University of Sydney, Australia
  • Prof Marsha Rosengarten, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
  • Dr Martin Savransky, Goldsmiths, University of London and UCL, United Kingdom

Cognitive Fluctuation, Distributed Sensing, and the Marking of Illness

Mel Chen in the Citizen Sense "Sensing Practices" seminar series co-hosted with the

In this talk I consider a number of intersecting phenomena: the often feminized exceptionality of "brain fog" and other cognitive departures from expected temporalities, overlapping with more temporally durative (or unexcusable by other means) "chronic illness"; the narration of biochemical transactions in relation to bodies at various scales; and the affectively rich play in geopolitical adjudications between "toxicity" and "intoxication." Underneath all of these considerations lies a series of investments that could be understood as racially "tuned," an expression of my interest in the hidden intersections of race and disability.

Mel Y. Chen is Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and the Director of Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. Chen’s Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Duke University Press, 2012, Alan Bray Memorial Award), explores questions of racialization, queering, disability, and affective economies in animate and inanimate “life” and “nonlife.” Further writing appears in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Discourse, Women in Performance, Australian Feminist Studies, Amerasia, and the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies. Along with Jasbir K. Puar, Chen serves as series coeditor for a book series at Duke called “Anima.” Chen sits on the board of directors for the Society for Disability Studies.

Sensing Practices
The Citizen Sense research group is hosting a year-long seminar series on “Sensing Practices.” The series attends to questions about how sensing and practice emerge, take hold, and form attachments across environmental, material, political and aesthetic concerns. Rather than take “the senses” as a fixed starting point, this seminar series instead considers how sensing-as-practice is differently articulated in relation to technologies of environmental monitoring, data gathered for evidentiary claims, the formation of citizens, and more-than-human entanglements. How might these expanded approaches to sensing practices recast engagements with experience, and reconfigure explorations of practice-based research?

New Methodologies for Interdisciplinarity in HIV and Related Health Fields

Since the identification of HIV, the virus has required extensive engagement between the social sciences and biomedicine. However, the relationship between the two has often been contentious: differences in language, frameworks for analysis, representation and understandings of what is at stake have provoked responses to the virus to categorise themselves as either biomedical or behavioural interventions.

Consequently, and in contrast to its entangled character, the problem of HIV is often articulated in dichotomous terms - social or physiological. In contrast, by bringing together speakers (and audience participants) from the social sciences, humanities and biomedical landscape this symposium seeks not to amplify mutual critique, but to expand modes of collaboration. Acordingly, we will explore the relations - both beneficial and problematic - between research on HIV conducted within the humanities and social sciences and biomedical development.

(Confirmed) Speakers:

  • Dr Marsha Rosengarten Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Dr des. Lukas Engelmann University of Cambridge
  • Ms Susie MacLean International HIV/AIDS Alliance
  • Dr Catherine Montgomery University of Amsterdam
  • Dr Catherine Dodds London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Prof Jane Anderson Homerton University Hospital
  • Dr Mitzy Gafos University College London
  • Dr Monica Greco Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Dr Mike Youle Royal Free Hospital

Listen to the speaker presentations below:

Bursaries are available, attendance is free and lunch and tea/coffee will be provided. However, places are limited so please be sure to register for the event by the 17th of June by e-mailing: admin (@hivproject.co.uk).

Please check The HIV Project website for further information (including the programme) in the lead up to the event

Convened by The HIV Project: Richard Boulton, Ulla Mcknight, Emily Nicholls, Agata Pacho, Annette-Carina van der Zaag with the support of Marsha Rosengarten

In association with Association for Social Sciences and Humanities in HIV (ASSHH) and the Unit of Play (UoP, Goldsmiths)

Funded by Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness

Novel Modes of Inquiry to Achieve Effective HIV Prevention

The increasing emphasis on using antiretrovirals for prevention confronts the HIV field with new challenges and new possibilities. Evidence of the efficacy of TasP (treatment as prevention) and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) from randomised controlled trials has stimulated debate on questions of acceptability, on risk to existing safe sex practices (condom use), the development of drug resistance, and the need to sustain treatment programs in light of calls to invest in antiretroviral prevention. In addition there is the question of ‘effectiveness’ in post-trial roll-out and scale-up compared to projections from clinical trial data and statistical modelling.

Although these concerns are well founded, it is not clear that there is yet sufficient knowledge about social relations for devising strategies attuned to the prevailing and contrary expectations of antiretrovirals in the context of existing prevention strategies. In this session, participants will be introduced to novel research methods devised within the discipline of design that have already taken up within the social sciences for addressing questions posed by climate change.

Design-led methods do not aim to enable generalisation across a community or epidemiological category, but to seek out the unfamiliar. In doing so they generate a new sort of ‘data,’ potentially able to inform the complex but also dynamic relations that people may experience in dealing with multiple objects including HIV, condoms, diagnostic tests, prevention messages, and sexual partners.


Dr Dean Murphy, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations and UNSW, Australia  
Professor Marsha Rosengarten, Dept Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK


Professor, Bill Gaver, Interactive Design Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.    
Professor Robert Grant, Gladstone Institute, UCSF, USA. 
Ms Susie McLean, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, UK
Dr Kane Race, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney, Australia.


Dr Judy Auerbach, Science and policy consultant and Adjunct Professor in the School of Medicine at UCSF, USA.
Mr Gus Cairns, NAM aidsmap, UK
Mr Alan Brotherton, AIDS Council of New South Wales, Australia

Techniques of Existence, Knowledge Practices and the Non-West

Islamization of knowledge – a technique of existence?
Wiebke Keim  (SAGE - Société, Acteurs, Gouvernement en Europe, Strasbourg University)

The call for “Islamization of knowledge” emerged in the US in the 1970s and was set up as a program, subsequently institutionalized in various sites, at the Mecca Conference on Education in 1977. For scholars interested in internationalization and circulation of social science knowledge, the “Islamization of knowledge”-debate is interesting because it is a highly transnational debate; because it makes a strong universalist claim, challenging the existing social sciences wholesome; and because it emerged as a socially relevant endeavor, aiming at social and political transformation of modern societies. In this paper I will present a work-in-progress of a preliminary qualitative analysis of interviews conducted in two institutions linked to the Islamization of Knowledge-project in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in April 2012. It proves difficult to make sense of the interview material in terms of its contribution to a sociological debate, due to various exclusive and doctrinarian premises put forward by interviewees. I will thus experiment with the argument that framing the debate in terms of a technique of existence provides possibilities to understand differently, and maybe more appropriately, what this debate is about.

Practices of Knowledge and Subjectivity: The Critique of 'Cramming' in Colonial India
Sanjay Seth, Professor of Politics (Goldsmiths, University of London).

Contemporary debates have been much concerned to recognise and respect ‘difference’, such as, for instance, through a historicism which is scrupulous about not projecting modern, western categories and presumptions onto other periods and peoples. This paper shares that concern, whilst also seeking to problematise some of the forms it takes. Taking as its archive the debates that came to surround the introduction of western education in colonial India, it documents and discusses the discourse of what I call ‘cramming’ - the observation (usually expressed as a lament), that Indian students used traditional or indigenous techniques of rote learning to acquire the ‘new’ knowledge, and that inasmuch as these traditional practices of knowledge drew upon ‘religious’ traditions, they confused the religious with the secular. The anxiety over cramming should be read, this paper suggests, as registering the fact that a modern form of subjectivity, presumed and posited by modern forms of knowledge, did not exist and had not been created in colonial India. Moreover, that Indian students acquired the new knowledge by drawing upon indigenous traditions testified not just to their failure to become a modern subject, but to the (stubborn) presence of another subjectivity, an indigenous or pre-modern one.

Discussant: Felipe Lagos, PhD Candidate Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London

Arts of Existence: Artistic Practices, Aesthetics and Techniques

Art Practice as Fictioning (or, Myth-Science)
, Simon O’Sullivan (Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths) ‌

…theres some thing in us it dont have no name...it aint us but yet its in us... (Russell Hoban, Riddly Walker)

This paper will outline a theory of art practice as a ‘technique of existence’, involving the production of alternative narratives and untimely images that might ‘speak back’ to their progenitors as if they came from an elsewhere, but also speak to that part of their audience/participants not subsumed by dominant regimes of subjectivity – or the what-already-is. Also at stake here is the idea of a practice in which motifs and themes are developed and reoccur across time, a practice that nests its own fictions so as to produce a certain complexity and density, and, ultimately, an opacity. In both of these ways art practice as fictioning produces its own worlds or myth-systems. But that other place from where such a practice is pitched is also a world, one whose edges are revealed by this doubling. An art practice maintains a critical function in this respect insofar as it turns away from that other myth-system which it has revealed as such. ‘Myth-science’ names this world-building – and world-breaking – technique of existence.

Art in the diagrammatic becoming-other of the Art-Form
, Eric Alliez (Centre for Research in Modern Eurpoean Philosophy, Kingston University)

This paper will outline the importance of Matisse's contemporary predestination, starting from the fauvist destruction of a formally defined art, following with the American Dance's diagrammatic assemblage ofpost-pictorial and trans-architectural forces, up until the Paper Cut-Outs which he conceives as a "new departure", and that we'll conceive as a non-aesthetic, and a new diagrammatic mode of existence for an art addressed to the future. Matisse, Matisse-Thought, would then signify something else, "elsewhere as well as anywhere", as Dominique Fourcade — the editor of Matisse's Écrits et propos sur l'art — regretfully remarks, in response to a question he feels is posed by the gouache cut-outs of a Matisse more "American" than "French": "Did Matisse not open the door to art's leaping outside itself, to art's wrenching itself free from itself so as not to be art anymore?".

Discussant: Svenja Bromberg PhD candidate (Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Speculation and Speculative Research Workshop

Organisers: Jennifer Gabrys, Marsha RosengartenMartin SavranskyAlex Wilkie.  ‌


Once exclusively confined to the conjectural practices of armchair philosophers and seers, the notion of ‘speculation’ is now increasingly present as an approach signalling toward uncertain or possible futures. Not only does it characterise some of the practices performed in financial markets that are now thought to be partially culpable for the current contemporary socio-economic crisis, it is also an important operator in the many forecasting techniques that organise the social (e.g. risk analysis and predictive genomics). Furthermore, speculation is also becoming a theoretical preoccupation that is part of developments in disciplines as varied as continental, pragmatist and process approaches to philosophy, art and design, fiction and literary theory, as well as media studies. For the social sciences, the ‘speculative’ is being taken up as a practico-theoretical approach to reconceptualising problems and seeking more imaginative propositions. In other words, speculation acts as a means for asking more inventive questions.

As such, speculation is a notable response, or a set of responses, to dynamic and complex social phenomena that cannot be held, observed and acted upon without either the taking of risks or the experiencing of consequences. While it sometimes connotes an activity of anticipation and even exploitation of expectations, in other cases it denotes an investment in the real possibility of grasping alternate futures. Indeed, one of the threads that runs through the various engagements with the speculative is a renewed interest in the possibility of extracting from the present certain immanent potentialities that may be capable of opening up a transition into otherwise unlikely futures. Relatedly, speculation can also work as a particular way of engaging with the dynamic and transformative nature of ‘things’: to explore their situated and contingent characteristics as well as their capacities to affect and be affected.

Given the growing interest in and proliferating approaches to speculation in social and cultural research, this workshop aims to examine the multiple versions of speculation while attending to their methodological, epistemological, ontological, ethical and political implications. In so doing, the workshop will address the following questions: Can social and cultural research become speculative? What do practices of speculation consist of and what modes of speculation are there? What are the implications of allowing for speculation to ingress into the practices of social research? What might speculative research offer to the re-invention of otherwise seemingly intractable ‘problems’? How can speculation become a productive mode of thinking, feeling and knowing, and not just a practice of conjecturing and managing uncertainties?

Workshop participants

  • Vikki Bell, On Cosmopolitics: Speculation and/as Objects for Wonder
  • Rebecca Coleman, Speculation, Futurity, Empiricism
  • Joe Deville, Retrocasting: Speculating about the origins of money
  • Rosalyn Diprose, Speculative Research, Temporality, and Politics
  • Bianca Elzenbaumer, Situated Speculations and Collective Fabulations: Reappropriating our capacities of worldsmaking
  • Jennifer Gabrys, Pollution Sensing and Fracking: Reworking Environmental Monitoring through Speculative Research and Practice
  • Michael Guggenheim (co-authors Bernd Kräftner & Judith Kröll), Creating Idiotic Speculators: Disaster Cosmopolitics in the Sandbox
  • Michael Halewood, Situated (Speculation as a Constraint on Thought
  • Marsha Rosengarten, Reconstituting the rules of the game: recalcitrance as a lure for speculative reasoning
  • Martin Savransky, The Wager of an Unfinished Present: Notes on Speculative Pragmatism
  • Michael L. Thomas, Aesthetic Experience, Speculative Thought, and Speculative Life
  • Alex Wilkie (co-author Mike Michael), Doing Speculation to Curtail Speculation

Two workshops on ‘Problems’

Two consecutive workshops bring together members of Goldsmiths Faculty —engaged in different disciplinary perspectives and different practice commitments, both theoretical and methodological— to consider the nature of problems. Bearing in mind concern within the field of Science and Technology Studies about how solutions are arrived at and may even be said to participate in how a problem is conceived in its framing and/or according to an accepted mode of evidence, the workshops will address the somewhat broader and hence different question of what is a problem and hence what might the experience of a problem prompt? What possibilities may be cultivated by attending to problems? How, if it all, might we understand problems as lures or provocations toward cultivating a future different to the present, a future that evades what is posed as the ‘intractable’ or ‘essence’ of a problem and in its expression forecloses on other possibles?


  • Professor Matt Fuller - ‘The problem in computing’
  • Professor William Gaver - ‘Problems made by Research through Design’
  • Dr Michael Guggenheim - ‘Making problems go round. How the social sciences can help re-define problems and be surprised by the re-problematisations of others.’
  • Professor Dan Neyland - ‘The Entangling of Problems, Solutions and Market (PDF download)
  • Professor Evelyn Ruppert - ‘Problems in Data’
  • Dr Martin Savransky - ‘What is a Problem?’
  • Dr Edgar Schmitz - ‘indifferent and improper’

Professor Marsha Rosengarten Facilitator/Chair

For further info please contact the organisers Professor Marsha Rosengarten and Dr Martin Savransky.