Lighting is increasingly recognized as a significant social intervention by both lighting professionals and academic social scientists. However, what counts as ‘the social’ is diverse and contested, with consequences for what kind of ‘social’ is performed or invented. Based on a long-term research programme, we argue that collaboration between sociologists and lighting professionals requires negotiating discourses and practices of ‘the social’. This paper explores the quality and kinds of spaces made for ‘the social’ in professional practices and academic collaborations, focusing on two case studies of urban lighting that demonstrate how the space of ‘the social’ is constrained and impoverished by an institutionalized division between technical and aesthetic lighting. We consider the potential role of sociologists in making more productive spaces for ‘the social’ in urban design, as part of the central sociological task of ‘inventing the social’ (Marres, Guggenheim and Wilkie 2018) in the process of studying it.
Entwistle, J. & Slater, D. R. (2019) Making space for ‘the social’ in the material culture of light: Social thinking and design practice. British Journal of Sociology 70 (5), 2020–2041.