New Sciences of Protection: Conference opening

Conference Opening with Bob Jessop, Cynthia Weber and Andrew Clement; Theme Panel 1 (New Sciences of Protection: Designing Safe Living) with Cynthia Weber, Adrian McKenzie and Mark Lacy

Cynthia Weber, Adrian McKenzie and Mark Lacy opened the first panel session with a reminder of the three central themes or questions which the research programme ‘New Sciences of Protection: Designing Safe Living’ has been trying to address. Is safe living conceivable, achievable and desirable? Conceptions of safe living are everywhere today: in the mass media, government policy, ‘think-tanks’ and NGO’s. The panel discussed the centrality of ‘design’ as a set of socio-technical practices in taking safe living from the conceptual to the practical level. The way conceptions of safe living are literally designed-in to both ‘everyday’ and ‘exceptional’ objects and systems. The panel moved on to ask what happens to politics when it becomes preoccupied with design, and the design of safe living in particular, as the titles of the UK national security documents ‘Designing out Insecurity’ and ‘Designing in Protection’ indicate. Evaluating safe living, whether it is desirable as a politics, as an ethics, and as a day-to-day way of life necessarily involves paying attention to the way safe living is designed. But it also requires sensitivity to the experience of this or that form of safe living. A crucial question then concerns the stratification of experience of a particular conception of safe living, as it is designed and operationalized on the ground. Does it make everyone feel safe in the same way, or does the experience of safety for some necessarily involve generating feelings of unsafety for others? And more generally, what is the relationship between feelings of safety and unsafety? Who decides on what is considered safe living and who it is for? What is the strategic calculus for determining the acceptable amount of unsafety generated for some in the realization of safe living for others? Lastly the panel discussed how, as ‘social scientists’ and as ‘designers,’ it is possible to critically interrupt and intervene in the processes of conceiving, designing and operationalizing safe living: a process which is increasingly presented as a smooth and unproblematic ‘designer politics.’

Thank you to our fabulous Joseph Rigby for this great summary

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