The Centre for Critical Studies was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

Beyond Behaviour Change
A symposium on social practice theories and their implications for environmental policy and programs

12 - 14 November, RMIT University, Melbourne

Jointly hosted by the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies and the Centre for Design (RMIT University).


Social practice theories are increasingly being used to provide new understandings of environmental issues and social change. The aim of this international symposium is to explore how these developments can inform new ways to analyse and tackle urgent environmental problems. More specifically, it will examine intersections between developments in practice theory and environmental policy and program development. In addition to providing a discussion-rich forum for key researchers working in this area, selected outcomes will be collectively published in an edited book and/or journal special issue.



Beyond behaviour change: social practice theory and social change

Social practice theories pose specific challenges to dominant psychological and behavioural approaches to social change in both policy and practice. This theme explores the nature of these challenges through the following key questions:

  • Are behaviour change and social practice theories linked or fundamentally incompatible?
  • How do social practice theories frame social change process?
  • Are there identifiable processes and trajectories that can be pursued in policies and programs?
Geographies of dispersal and transference: time, space and culture

‘Unsustainable’ social practices are becoming increasingly globalised and dispersed through time, space and culture. This raises a series of questions regarding processes of practice diffusion, innovation and transferral. Key issues to explore are:

  • How are practices globalised and localised, and what does this mean for the dispersal, transfer, reproduction and innovation of ‘sustainable’ and ‘unsustainable’ practices?
  • How do differing (or similar) ontologies of everyday life normalise practices in different countries, contexts or cultures?
  • What processes are involved in the transferral and globalisation of practices?
Domestication, appropriation and design: the role of things in social change

Building on recent interest from the fields of science and technology studies and material culture, this theme explores the role of materiality in processes of social change. Specific questions include:

  • What role and agency do technologies and ‘things’ have in constituting social practices and enabling social change?
  • What agency do designers and designs have in ‘steering’ or ‘scripting’ social change?
  • How do practices and things co-evolve and reinforce change?
Infrastructure and change: resource relationships, intermediaries and practices

This theme is focused on the intermediary role of infrastructures, including new digital technologies, in supply-demand and provider-consumer relationships. Key questions are:

  • How do supply systems and infrastructural arrangements shape ‘sustainable’ and ‘unsustainable’ practices?
  • How are new assemblages of digital technologies, such as smart grids, smart meters and distributed systems, changing provider-consumer relationships and what impact is this having on social practices?
  • What policies and politics are informing current and future supply-demand relationships, and how might these be repositioned?
HDR Panel: Methods, techniques and analysis

This session is targeted specifically towards HDR candidates from a range of disciplines working with theories of social practices on topics of environmental significance and social change. Candidates are invited to address a key conceptual, methodological or analytical concern related to their research project. Questions might include:

  • How do social practice theories invite researchers, policy makers and/or other stakeholders to reframe environmental problems, or rethink social change and human action?
  • What methods, techniques and analytical tools are appropriate for researching and understanding social practices in empirical research?
  • What and where are the limits of social practice theories in understanding social processes and social change? What other theories, concepts and approaches might be required?
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