Doing sociolegal research in design mode: a short monograph

Perry-Kessaris, A. Doing Sociolegal Research in Design Mode (Routledge, 2021) is a short monograph produced with the support of a Socio-Legal Studies Association field work grant and a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (RF-2019-045).

Download Chapter 1: Towards a proposition (Author Manuscript)



This book is the first to explore what design can do for sociolegal research. It is primarily focused on what the sociolegal research community can take from design, but it also offers lessons to designers, especially those who work with law.

Chapter 1 Towards a proposition first identifies three challenges that face all sociolegal researchers—working with indeterminacy, generating meaningful change, and engaging in meaningful relations. It then identifies three designerly ways that might enhance our ability to meet those challenges—mindsets that are simultaneously practical-critical-imaginative, experimental processes, and strategies that make things visible and tangible. It argues that these designerly ways can be combined to generate structured-yet-free enabling ecosystems; and that within these ecosystems the abilities of a researcher to make meaningful contributions and to engage in meaningful research relations, both within our research community and in the wider world, can be enhanced.

Chapter 2 Enabling ecosystems explores, firstly, how the structured freedom of experimental processes—as captured in the Design Council’s Double Diamond, and Damian Newman’s Design Squiggle—enables us to meet and embrace indeterminacy with proactive provisionality, rather than reactive uncertainty. Secondly, it explores how visible and tangible communication strategies, especially prototyping, can enable us to think things through, individually and collaboratively. It also includes some important caveats—about, for example, the disabling, colonising, neoliberal dimensions of design; and about the need for a degree of visual literacy among sociolegal researchers wishing to work in designerly ways.

Chapter 3 Working in design mode introduces examples of doing sociolegal research in design mode drawn from my own individual and collaborative experimentation in modular, found and bespoke model-making—for example, engaging in material metaphoricisation in a materials lab; and generating pop-up collections of legal objects in museums and online; model making on site and in interviews; and promoting and facilitating community building among antagonistic actors working in the field of hate crime.

Chapter 4 Reconstructing pasts, speculating futures explores what might become be possible if sociolegal researchers were to collaborate with expert designers. It draws attention to how experts from architecture, speculative design and performance arts prompt and facilitate themselves, and those whom they seek to influence, or with whom the seek to collaborate, to be imaginative about pasts, presents and futures; as well as about the relationships between them.

The volume closes with an opening, Chapter 5 Entering design mode, which consists of a set of accessible sociolegal design briefs on which the impatient can make an immediate start.

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