Social Science Of 100 Objects To Be Launched In February 2013

Posted by hct16 at Feb 13, 2013 11:07 PM |
New University of Leicester project examines the familiar from a new perspective

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office 13 February 2013

• Is the mobile phone a tool for inverse surveillance?

• How the cotton bobbin has come to represent the deindustrialisation of the Leicester labour market

• How the television has become an electronic babysitter for the incarcerated

A picture of Dr Pilcher is available from

An innovative project that provides a social science perspective to everyday objects will be launched by the University of Leicester in February 2013.

The project will showcase a broad range of research across all eight Departments of the University’s College of Social Science and will be hosted on a public platform, Leicester Exchanges (

It is inspired by the popular BBC Radio 4 series ‘The History of the World in 100 Objects’; a 2010 partnership between the BBC and the British Museum in which one hundred short programmes were created, each focusing on an object from the British Museum’s collection.

Academics from the College of Social Science will submit four articles on Leicester Exchanges in February, followed by one article per object per week thereafter.

The articles will discuss the academic’s specialist research and offer unique perspectives on objects in and out of the home; how the cotton bobbin has come to represent the deindustrialisation of the Leicester labour market, how the television has become an electronic babysitter for the incarcerated, and how the mobile phone is a tool for inverse surveillance, amongst many other interesting insights.

The project was initiated by Dr Jane Pilcher from the Department of Sociology, who said: “Taking iconic, everyday, familiar objects like mobile phones, or televisions, or a child's toy, and using them as a way of emphasising the analytical, academic approach of social science disciplines such as economics, sociology or politics, will highlight the contribution they have made to our knowledge and experiences of our social world.”

On the conceptualisation of the project, Dr Pilcher added: “The idea came to me after I had attended the Campaign for Social Science Roadshow event at the University of Leicester. I started to think about ways to increase public understanding of the importance of social science and the contribution it has made and continues to make to our everyday lives. I had seen the popularity of the British Museum/BBC collaboration which presented a history of the world in 100 objects, and thought the social sciences would make for just as interesting a series.”

Each piece will be approximately five-hundred words in length and could change the way everyday objects are perceived. Not only will this project involve staff and students from within the University of Leicester, but will also engage the wider community. Through Leicester Exchanges, the articles will encourage debate and discussion, allowing the public to engage more fully with the research that goes on in the College of Social Science and offer them the chance to give their point of view on each object in question.

The project will launch with four articles in February; the rocking horse by Dr Pilcher, the cotton bobbin by Dr John Goodwin from the Centre for Labour Market Studies, the television by Professor Yvonne Jewkes from the Department of Criminology and the mobile phone by Dr Paul Reilly from the Department of Media and Communications.

Dr Pilcher hopes that: “Through focusing on everyday familiar objects, the project will help people recognise the value of social sciences, whose contribution to our society is too often taken-for-granted or unacknowledged”.



For more information, please contact: Daniela Murphy on or (0116) 252 1878

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