Configuring Light/Staging the Social: Dialogues between the social sciences and lighting practices

Lead Research Organisation: London School of Economics & Pol Sci
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

Light is a material through which we organize social space; light is the infrastructure of everyday modern life and without it much of what we do and take for granted would not be possible:for example, if we only had natural light, invevitably nightime activities would be severely reduced with a significant impact on the forms of social life that can be sustained. The benefits of our technological manipulation of artificial light are immense: the contemporary city's economy critically depends upon it, heritage and creative industries require it (the lighting of great public buildings an important part of city branding, for example) and much of what constitutes the civil governance of cities (crime, safety and security) takes light as the fundemental basic requirement. Moreover, as part of creative industry, manufacture and maintenance, lighting is a major economic sector.

At the same time, the ecological costs of our energy consumption are also hotly debated and are consequently framed within political discourse and public policy, as new lighting technologies and EU regulations attempt to create sustainable energies. In addition, light (and its absence - darkness) are critical to our health, as for example in the regulation of sleep, mood and well-being and can entail significant health reactions if not properly regulated (as highlighted by the case of SAD and by increasing concerns with light pollution.

These debates and issues are the broader social context for our seminar series, 'Configuring Light/Staging the Social', which aims to forge an intergrated dialogue between social sciences, design, architecture and urban planning focused on this most fundamental feature of social life. Surprising, given the importance of light as outlined above, there has been little integrated thinking and research on light. While it is a central concern to technicians, architects, engineers or designers and some policy makers, it has largely been ignored or little researched within the social sciences. While it would be seem important to draw academic attention to this most critical social material, practitioners' technical and design knowledge would also benefit from a more rigorous understanding of the social and cultural aspects and impact of their practice. However, thus far, little dialogue has taken place across these different disciplines and between academics and practitioners.

Our seminar series aims to both address the gap in social science knowledge about light and put if firmly on the academic agenda within disciplines such as sociology, geography and anthropology, for example; while at the same time to bridge the divide between academic knolwedge and the technical and design knowledge of light engineers, architects and designers and urban planners. This dialogue between social science and practitioners should have considerable impact: our aim is to produce both knowledges and methodologies for better researching the ways in which light is configured and the roles it plays in structuring social life and it is envisaged that these new ways of thinking and working with light will directly impact on those practitioners in indusry and urban planning.

Planned Impact

Many professionals and institutions are actively involved in 'configuring light', and collectively have an enormous impact on a range of social and economic issues, most of which we hope to capture in our seminar topics, such as environmental costs, impacts on health and well-being, risk and safety, design of urban and domestic spaces, urban regulation and governance. Therefore impacting light-relate professionals has a considerable multiplier effect throughout the social field.

At the same time, these professionals have voiced a clear desire and need for dialogues with social scientists. Professional lighting practices involve core social assumptions and beliefs (eg, about the relationship between lighting and urban safety) that are known to be insufficiently evidence-based and requiring more social science informed knowledge and methods. At the same time, dialogues with social scientists, particularly in a multidisciplinary context, will generate new research questions, agendas, approaches and methodological innovations. Finally, we stress the significant research capacity within the lighting sectors themselves, particularly amongst manufacturers and designers. Hence, a significant seminar impact will be generating research collaborations across the academic-practitioner divide. We also note that dialogue between the four user constituencies we identify below is not always extensive; considerable social and economic impact may come from simply encouraging discussions amongst the beneficiaries within a social science context.

Given the seminar focus on 'configuring light', we have targeted several kinds of non-academic constituencies that comprise significant groups of active beneficiaries:

1. Lighting designers, architects and engineers: we have secured the support and participation of two of the most important practices in this sector: the lighting design group of Ove Arup and the Spiers and Major design company. We will also be inviting smaller lighting and industrial practices such as JLK DS and FourSquare, with whom we already work on joint research.

2. Urban planners and regulators: We have secured the active participation of LUCI (an international network that brings together urban lighting professionals in 65 cities).

3. Manufacturers: We will be inviting researchers from major manufacturers, both directly and through their membership of other organizations (eg, Theatrum Mundi, NYU/LSE, which has already confirmed their participation, includes major lighting researchers from the corporate sector, such as Philips)

4. Professionals working in environmental and energy policy: we are currently in negotiations with EC departments charged with drafting light and energy policy.

As indicated in our 'Pathways to Impact' statement, we aim to mobilize social science and user dialogue for greater impact firstly through the choice of seminar topics: we have consulted widely to ensure that the topics are recognised matters of concern and debate amongst practitioners. This should allow use to demonstrate and develop the role of social science knowledges, approaches and methods in addressing the key practical and professional concerns of non-academics, as well as positively developing new questions and agendas that can have real impact on their practices of configuring light.

We will support this approach outside the seminars through dissemination strategies (for which we are also seeking administrative support but will also be supported through our location in the LSE Cities Programme, which is widely networked): eg, we will be circulating 'new agenda' documents from each seminar which summarise and promote new questions, agendas and approaches to the topic of that seminar; we will also use the website to circulate such documents, as well as working papers and new literature. Above all we know that web-hosted audio-visual presentations of key seminar discussions can have wide impact on practitioners.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The award was for a research seminar series aimed at discussion and networking, rather than research project with substantive findings. However because dialogues between social science and lighting professionals were at a very early stage when this series began it is clear that the seminar programme played an important role in opening discussions on the key topics that were identified as focuses for each seminar. The main seminar topics included sustainability, local governance and lighting, new lighting technologies, histories of lighting, visual culture, light and well-being. The seminar series allowed us to develop ongoing discussions that linked these disparate explorations of a new topic, and to do so in a way that both crossed disciplinary boundaries between social sciences, humanities and technical disciplines, and crossed the boundaries between lighting professionals and academics (most seminars had at least 50% professional participants). In each case, we were able to identify questions (rather than definitive findings) that were strategic for developing both academic and professional understanding of light and lighting.
Exploitation Route As discussed under narrative impact and collaborations, the seminar series discussion have eventuated in a range of collaborations, roundtables and research programmes. We are about to release an online summary of the seminar series which foregrounds ongoing questions and agendas for both interdisciplinary academic developmetn of lighting studies and for academic-professional collaboration.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.configuringlight.org
 
Description The award was for a research seminar programme (rather than research project). We have therefore evaluated our impact in terms of the range of participants we have been able to draw into the seminar series to date. The 9 seminars have had attendances of 30-50 people, almost always evenly split between academics from diverse disciplines and non-academic professionals drawn from lighting design, architecture, urban planning, city councils and voluntary organizations. The seminars have been notable for continued attendance by a range of organizations over the full series. The has involved non-academic participants in, firstly, discussions of lighting related topics as they can be re-conceptuatlised from a social science point of view, including methodologies; and secondly discussions leading to collaborations in subsequent research. We have detailed the latter under collaborations and partnerships, and further funding: the seminar series has been central to developing innovative research partnerships with the lighting designers Speirs+Major, and Arup urban lighting group; and have involved these and numerous seminar participants in a series of meetings on social inequality in public lighting. The former impacts - those resulting from participating in the research seminar series - are clearly harder to document. Two significant cases: Mark Major (principal of Speir+Major) wrote a statement, now on our website, documenting his view of our impact on both his practice and the professional field as a whole; Arup urban lighting group has indicated the impact of our discussions on their 'night time design' approach in several documents (and Arup University publication on night time design, and the final report on our joint research in Colombia). Another major outcome of the series has been to consolidate a relationship between social science academics and the LUCI municipal network of lighting professionals in over 70 cities around the world (including its current president, Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, where we held one seminar with the city and with Philips). Newsletters for each seminar were widely circulated, and a large distribution list was developed through the seminar series and associated website. We know from contacts that these have been widely read. We expect similar reach and impact from the online final report of the seminar series, which is about to be released.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description HEIF5
Amount £52,981 (GBP)
Organisation London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 06/2016
 
Description HEIF5 Fund
Amount £40,515 (GBP)
Organisation London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2014 
End 02/2015
 
Description Collaborations and Partnerships resulting from Configuring Light ESRC Seminar Series 
Organisation Arup Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution - Long-term partnership with internationally leading lighting design firm Speirs+Major, resulting in the research project 'Derby After Dark' (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/research-project/derby-after-dark/) - Long-term partnership with internationally design corporation ARUP, resulting in a research project in Cartagena, Colombia (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/research-project/lighting-research-in-cartagena/) - Configuring Light became member of the steering group of the UNESCO International Year of Light UK group - Linking up with the most relevant social science and design scholars working on light internationally, e.g. Margret Maille-Petty, Tim Edensor, Mikkel Bille, Peter Raynham, Kevin Mansfield - Linking up with the most relevant London- and UK-based lighting design, architecture and planning practitioners, e.g. Mark Major, Florence Lam, Eric Parry, Peter Rees - Collaboration with STO Werkstatt for ESRC seminar - Collaboration with Philips for ESRC seminar in Eindhoven - Collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Consumption University Manchester (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/project/esrc-seminar-series-2/) - Long-term relationship with the Social Light Movement group - Long term relationship and prospective collaboration with LUCI (80 city network of lighting professionals)
Collaborator Contribution Philips hosted a seminar in Eindhoven STO hosted a seminar in London Manchester Uni hosted a seminar in Manchester
Impact See details above
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaborations and Partnerships resulting from Configuring Light ESRC Seminar Series 
Organisation LUCI Association
Country France 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution - Long-term partnership with internationally leading lighting design firm Speirs+Major, resulting in the research project 'Derby After Dark' (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/research-project/derby-after-dark/) - Long-term partnership with internationally design corporation ARUP, resulting in a research project in Cartagena, Colombia (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/research-project/lighting-research-in-cartagena/) - Configuring Light became member of the steering group of the UNESCO International Year of Light UK group - Linking up with the most relevant social science and design scholars working on light internationally, e.g. Margret Maille-Petty, Tim Edensor, Mikkel Bille, Peter Raynham, Kevin Mansfield - Linking up with the most relevant London- and UK-based lighting design, architecture and planning practitioners, e.g. Mark Major, Florence Lam, Eric Parry, Peter Rees - Collaboration with STO Werkstatt for ESRC seminar - Collaboration with Philips for ESRC seminar in Eindhoven - Collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Consumption University Manchester (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/project/esrc-seminar-series-2/) - Long-term relationship with the Social Light Movement group - Long term relationship and prospective collaboration with LUCI (80 city network of lighting professionals)
Collaborator Contribution Philips hosted a seminar in Eindhoven STO hosted a seminar in London Manchester Uni hosted a seminar in Manchester
Impact See details above
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaborations and Partnerships resulting from Configuring Light ESRC Seminar Series 
Organisation STO Werkstatt London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution - Long-term partnership with internationally leading lighting design firm Speirs+Major, resulting in the research project 'Derby After Dark' (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/research-project/derby-after-dark/) - Long-term partnership with internationally design corporation ARUP, resulting in a research project in Cartagena, Colombia (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/research-project/lighting-research-in-cartagena/) - Configuring Light became member of the steering group of the UNESCO International Year of Light UK group - Linking up with the most relevant social science and design scholars working on light internationally, e.g. Margret Maille-Petty, Tim Edensor, Mikkel Bille, Peter Raynham, Kevin Mansfield - Linking up with the most relevant London- and UK-based lighting design, architecture and planning practitioners, e.g. Mark Major, Florence Lam, Eric Parry, Peter Rees - Collaboration with STO Werkstatt for ESRC seminar - Collaboration with Philips for ESRC seminar in Eindhoven - Collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Consumption University Manchester (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/project/esrc-seminar-series-2/) - Long-term relationship with the Social Light Movement group - Long term relationship and prospective collaboration with LUCI (80 city network of lighting professionals)
Collaborator Contribution Philips hosted a seminar in Eindhoven STO hosted a seminar in London Manchester Uni hosted a seminar in Manchester
Impact See details above
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaborations and Partnerships resulting from Configuring Light ESRC Seminar Series 
Organisation Signify Commercial UK LTD
Department Philips Lighting Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution - Long-term partnership with internationally leading lighting design firm Speirs+Major, resulting in the research project 'Derby After Dark' (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/research-project/derby-after-dark/) - Long-term partnership with internationally design corporation ARUP, resulting in a research project in Cartagena, Colombia (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/research-project/lighting-research-in-cartagena/) - Configuring Light became member of the steering group of the UNESCO International Year of Light UK group - Linking up with the most relevant social science and design scholars working on light internationally, e.g. Margret Maille-Petty, Tim Edensor, Mikkel Bille, Peter Raynham, Kevin Mansfield - Linking up with the most relevant London- and UK-based lighting design, architecture and planning practitioners, e.g. Mark Major, Florence Lam, Eric Parry, Peter Rees - Collaboration with STO Werkstatt for ESRC seminar - Collaboration with Philips for ESRC seminar in Eindhoven - Collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Consumption University Manchester (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/project/esrc-seminar-series-2/) - Long-term relationship with the Social Light Movement group - Long term relationship and prospective collaboration with LUCI (80 city network of lighting professionals)
Collaborator Contribution Philips hosted a seminar in Eindhoven STO hosted a seminar in London Manchester Uni hosted a seminar in Manchester
Impact See details above
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaborations and Partnerships resulting from Configuring Light ESRC Seminar Series 
Organisation University of Manchester
Department Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution - Long-term partnership with internationally leading lighting design firm Speirs+Major, resulting in the research project 'Derby After Dark' (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/research-project/derby-after-dark/) - Long-term partnership with internationally design corporation ARUP, resulting in a research project in Cartagena, Colombia (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/research-project/lighting-research-in-cartagena/) - Configuring Light became member of the steering group of the UNESCO International Year of Light UK group - Linking up with the most relevant social science and design scholars working on light internationally, e.g. Margret Maille-Petty, Tim Edensor, Mikkel Bille, Peter Raynham, Kevin Mansfield - Linking up with the most relevant London- and UK-based lighting design, architecture and planning practitioners, e.g. Mark Major, Florence Lam, Eric Parry, Peter Rees - Collaboration with STO Werkstatt for ESRC seminar - Collaboration with Philips for ESRC seminar in Eindhoven - Collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Consumption University Manchester (more: http://www.configuringlight.org/project/esrc-seminar-series-2/) - Long-term relationship with the Social Light Movement group - Long term relationship and prospective collaboration with LUCI (80 city network of lighting professionals)
Collaborator Contribution Philips hosted a seminar in Eindhoven STO hosted a seminar in London Manchester Uni hosted a seminar in Manchester
Impact See details above
Start Year 2014