The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible

Living Edition
| Editors: Vlad Petre Glăveanu (Editor-in-Chief)

Speculative Research

Living reference work entry


This entry begins by distinguishing speculative research from the broader cultural and academic meanings of “speculation.” The present “constructivist” approach to speculative research places emphasis on the ways in which the research question, the researcher, the researched and research device are actively involved in a process of becoming-with one another. This is explored through the notion of the “research event” into which a multiplicity of divergent elements (micro and the macro, the social and the material, the cognitive and the affective, and the human and the nonhuman) enters. In combining, they also “become-with” one other thereby opening the potentialities of the research event, including the possibility that it is no longer “about” research. Speculative research concerns enabling a sensibility attuned to this process of co-becoming. The entry suggests that a sensitivity to, and a taking seriously of, the “idiot” (i.e., that which does not make sense in the context of the research event as typically understood) facilitates this openness to the possibilities of the research event. More proactively, speculative researchers can also introduce idiocy into research events as a way of prompting participants to explore potential ways of reframing the research question, that is, of inventing new problems. The device of the “probe” (drawn from design practice) is used to illustrate this. It is further proposed that speculative research extends to the data analytic phase: introducing alternative materials (e.g., nonacademic artifacts) or traditions of engagement (e.g., aesthetic) can also enable “possibilistic” accounts.


Speculation Constructivism Event Research Device Idiot Probe Possible Co-becoming 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Philosophy and AnthropologyUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  2. 2.Department of DesignGoldsmiths, University of LondonLondonUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Alice Chirico
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversità Cattolica del Sacro CuoreMilanItaly