Structure and Undisciplining

By Catherine Price

Reflecting on the sessions this morning, there appears to be an undercurrent of structure to how we think and talk about undisciplining. Even if we want to challenge ideas and push back against existing boundaries, in order for this to be effective, this has to be in a structured way. This raised questions in my mind of what undisciplining means and how do we achieve this. If we want to create interventions do we have to apply structure to these interventions in order for them to be effective? Is this undisciplining  or is structure imposing a set of rules on our interventions? If undisciplining is trying to open up dialogues, does imposing structure in order to achieve our aims, actually close conversations down? It will be interesting to see if I can find answers to these questions over the course of the conference.

Making a sociological board game

Pat Thomson is writing and publishing this post in real time. The post will report first and then reflect. 

Alke and Katy share an interest in creative academic practice. Their workshop is on the use of a board game concept to visualise stages in a research project – or another academic practice. A board game can be used in three ways: (1) to design a research process, (2) monitor that process and (3) communicate results at the end. The goal of the workshop is to come up with a prototype game. The academic practice being developed in the workshop is the use of visualisation.

IMG_1286.JPGParticipants have brought with them a list of ten to twenty things involved in a research project. It is important to use an actual project, Alke says, rather than invent one, as this way you include the range of items that ma

Stage One. These ‘process’ points have to be turned into a flow-chart. People have to think about the order of their points, as well as consider the overall number that they have. Points are transferred to numbered post-its.

An example is pinned on the wall for people to look at – see left. It is a chart about an essay writing process. The steps are in purple.

One participant notes that some things don’t actually end – in both action research and ethnography for example, the research process is iterative and understanding grows over time. While these can be put on post-its they may have to be repeated.

Stage Two. The next stage involves game mechanics. People have to think about their favourite board game and note elements. Examples include:

  • random events e.g. landing on an unlucky square where they might get go to gaol cards or land on a ladder you fall down. Random events can be built in.
  • progression rules – you can’t move on a stage until you’ve completed the previous one. This might involve collecting, trading, accumulating points or money.

DgDrRmGW0AAqVOCPeople have to think about benefits and obstacles – random events, penalties, rewards, shortcuts. They are asked to put these ideas onto coloured post-its that are different from their process steps.. They can also use chance cards, if these fit with their game format; cards used to deliver random events. (Take a life crisis now. Your ethics committee asks for more information. There is some cathartic conversation going on.)

Stage Three: The “Visualise Impact” stage. Participants must now think about how their game is to be laid out. They are asked to think about what visuals might be used. Alke gives people permission to draw badly, but they are also urged to commit by using a big black marker. People have to think about the content or the process of their project – or both. The idea of a visual metaphor is offered – Alke used the metaphor of an iceberg for her essay writing game, and also the notion of a circus, drafting and redrafting.

DgDy76BW0AEqi3X.jpgPeople are directed to the posters around the room, actual examples of what other people have produced. Alke suggests that people think about the ways in which shape and colour might enhance their game.

The mechanics of the game are also discussed as they are being visualised. How do cards work? Where and how is chance to be built in?

And then – people are offered a fresh and large piece of card to use as the base for the game prototype, as well as the option of various coloured pens, cards, dice, counters and play money. “Put it all together” is the instruction.

And while the workshop has been going on, Alke has been documenting the various steps people are taking as a board game. Meta-game-boarding!

The workshop ends with volunteers presenting their game to the group. Applause. Applause.


(1) Live blogging. As I was writing this post in real time, I noticed that it is quite hard to reflect and record at the same time. It’s an issue that ethnographers are pretty familiar with. However the ethnographic research challenge is to stop too much reflection going on and obstructing the recording process. Here, the issue is about doing some reflection, and not simply record. The tension between the two writing/thinking processes goes to the question of liveness.

(2) Board game as a multi-use “tool”.  I am musing about whether it is more interesting to make a board game than to play it. Are both of these equally instructive?

(3) I am also thinking about the pleasures of making and how very rarely in academic conferences there are opportunities for people to use their imaginations and just “make stuff”.

Would you like to take part in a film project?

We’re launching a short project today at Undisciplining, recording statements about the importance of the sociological to be released through social media. We’d like to record short statements in response to the following questions:

  1. What does the sociological mean to you?
  2. How did you come to the sociological?
  3. Why does the sociological matter?

Please get in touch with us via e-mail ( or via Twitter (@thesocreview) if you’d like to take part this afternoon.

Where to eat and drink at #undisciplining



Our social media guidelines for #undisciplining

Undisciplining Social Media Guidelines
@TheSocReview #Undisciplining

Social media has been central to our journal in recent years, helping us build a new relationship with our readers and expand beyond our traditional audience. We enthusiastically embrace it as a means to promote sociological thought, as well as a way to work towards a more engaged and open culture within the academy. But making good on this promise requires that it is treated carefully. For this reason, we have included this document in each delegate pack, offering some principles and guidelines to inform your use of social media at Undisciplining. We have a few non-negotiable requirements, included after careful deliberation within our team, but mostly what we have included are pointers we hope will improve everyone’s social media experience at the conference.

General principles:

Be clear about what you are doing and why. It can be easy to slip into using social media in a habitual way, particularly when you’re waiting for a coffee break. But the more concrete you can be about your aims, the easier it will be to ensure you are using social media effectively. The table below provides an overview of conference social media activities and common reasons why these might be undertaken. It is by no means exhaustive so please don’t worry if you intend to use these platforms in a way we haven’t listed here but please talk to us if you have any doubts about its appropriateness after reading these guidelines. There are possibilities we haven’t listed here, such as live streaming and recording audio-visual material, which we request that you don’t use at the conference for reasons explained below.

Remember that people can have different interpretations and will bring different knowledge to the same situation. This might sound obvious but social media can make it hard to remember this by stripping interactions of context and presenting isolated units of communication in a way that is easy to misinterpret.

Source: xkcd. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License

We want people to be critical of the arguments they encounter but please try to be civil and give other conference goers the benefit of the doubt. People have a right to know what you are saying about them so please ensure you tag other users if you are talking about their contributions to the conference. Likewise please ensure you credit people appropriately, including relevant affiliations (most academic departments now have Twitter accounts) if the person in question does not have their own feed.  

Social media can often magnify disagreements and multiply misunderstandings. To paraphrase our favourite xkcd cartoon, if it begins to matter to you that someone is wrong on the internet then that’s a sign you should put down your phone or tablet and engage with the conference without social media for a bit. We want to use social media to help people at Undisciplining connect with each other and the last thing we want is for people to spend the event falling out over social media. We’ve worked hard to create a friendly, engaging and welcoming event so please do your best to approach each other with that ethos when you interact through social media.


  • Please ensure you use the #undisciplining hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. This will allow us to keep track of what’s happening on social media and curate this material before, during and after the event. We are keen to help people connect with each other and connect to other conference goers, so if you’d like us to recirculate something to other participants at the conference please tweet the request to us or e-mail
  • Please follow the instructions of chairs concerning social media. While we encourage social media at the conference as a whole, speakers and organisers establish what they are comfortable with in their sessions. Therefore please listen to the guidance of the chairs and respect any concerns or requests made by speakers to this end.
  • Please refrain from using live streaming services like Periscope or Facebook Live during the conference. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of being live-streamed and its immediacy can create problems, even for those who might be comfortable with the idea in principle.
  • Please refrain from recording audio or video at the conference. We have put a lot of time and energy into planning the multimedia being produced at the event. We want to ensure that we capture the event in the most effective way and ensure everyone is comfortable with the finished outputs.
  • Please be considerate in your use of photography at the conference. Photography is ok in the main auditorium unless otherwise specified. Please aim for crowds and avoid foregrounding individuals when taking photography outside of sessions. Avoid photography in workshops unless told it is ok.

If in doubt about something, please ask at any point. Tweet or DM us @thesocreview, e-mail our Digital Engagement Fellow directly at or speak to one of the conference team who can direct your query accordingly.

It’s almost time for #undisciplining

The Sociological Review team is currently in Gateshead, preparing for Undisciplining which commences on Monday with our Early Career Researcher day before the main conference starts on Tuesday. We have a fabulous line up, encompassing everything from films to walks, departing from the traditional conference format to produce something more akin to a festival of social science.

We hope to see you there but if you couldn’t make it, please follow along remotely through the #undisciplining hashtag on Twitter or the live blog on the conference website. We’ll be recording videocasts and podcasts throughout the event, as well as collaborating with participants over the coming months to ensure what takes place in Gateshead is only the start of what we are doing.

The ECR Day at Undisciplining

Monday 18th June 2018, 09.30-17.00
The BALTIC, Gateshead, UK

Registration fee £10.00. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

A conference brought to you by the Sociological Review Foundation Limited

This pre-conference day is being organised by our early career researchers editorial board. It will have a number of different workshops and panels with a particular focus on precarity for Early Career Researchers (ECR), Postgraduate Researcher Students (PRG) and Master Students, as well as for others employees working in universities. Wider issues of such as restructuring of higher education and decolonising the curriculum will be explored. There will also be a number of small practical workshops covering topics such as: action research, writings, publishing, photo elicitation, applying for academic jobs.

Confirmed Speakers and Workshop Facilitators Include:

·       Camille Barbagallo (University of Kent, Sociological Review Fellow of 2017)

·       Michaela Benson (Goldsmiths)

·       Mark Carrigan (The Sociological Review)

·       Adam Elliott-Cooper (Kings College London)

·       Tom Dark (Senior Commissioning Editor, Social Sciences, Manchester University Press)

·       Sol Gamsu (University of Bath)

·       Jo Grady (University of Sheffield)

·       Rosemary Hancock (University of Notre Dame, Australia)

·       Nicola Harding (leeds Trinity University)

·       Alexis Hieu Truong (University of Ottawa, Canada)

·       Deana Jovanović (Keele University, Sociological Review Fellow of 2018)

·       Chantelle Lewis (Goldsmiths, University of London)

·       Ewan Mackenzie (Newcastle University)

·       Ruth Pearce (University of Leeds)

·       Meritxell Ramírez-i-Ollé (Sociological Review Fellow of 2017, Spain)

·       Nicola River (University of Gloucestershire)

·       Remi Joseph-Salisbury (Leeds Beckett University)

·       Jack Saunders (University of Warwick)

·       Patricia Thomson (University of Nottingham)

·       Audrey Verma (Newcastle University)

·       David Webster (University of Gloucestershire)

·       Emilie Whitaker (University of Salford)

We are very much looking forward hosting this special ECR focused day.

To register for the ECR day, please go to:


For enquires about this conference please contact Events Manager Jenny Thatcher:

If you wish to register for the main conference (Tuesday 19th June to Thursday 21st June), please go to: