NCRM Annual Lecture 2024

This prestigious event will bring together researchers from across the UK to discuss some of the latest advances in research methods
  • Event time:
    21st May 2024 18:00 – 20:30
  • Event address:
    The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London
  • Format:

Join NCRM for its 2024 annual lecture on Tuesday, 21 May. This prestigious event will bring together researchers from across the UK to discuss some of the latest advances in research methods.

The free lecture, which is part of NCRM's 20th anniversary celebrations, takes place in the magnificent surroundings of The Royal Society in central London. It will also be streamed online.

Researchers from any discipline and sector are welcome to attend. More details about the programme and speakers are available below.

In her presentation, Professor Marres will discuss the debates surrounding the use of AI in social research and argue that the new tools challenge the ability of the social sciences to engage with contexts and communities in society. Professor Marres will present a new set of methods and strategies that social researchers across disciplines have developed to address these challenges: situational mapping.

Drawing on recent research, she will show how this approach can be used to explore the ways that AI affects particular people and places. Professor Marres will explain how interdisciplinary methods can enable researchers to negotiate conflicting requirements that automation and participation place on social research.

The lecture, After the Automation of Methods: the Case for Situational Analytics, will conclude with reflections on the consequences of the rise of generative AI for relations between social science and society.

After the Automation of Methods: the Case for Situational Analytics

The growing popularity of generative AI as a research tool poses new challenges for the sciences of society. While computational methods have long played an important role in enabling social inquiry, AI advocates now claim that acts of knowledge production – from interpreting data to writing up results – can be delegated to automated systems. For the social sciences and humanities, this has reawakened classic concerns about their future in a techno-scientific age, as well as long-standing debates about what it takes to create knowledge of society. While some argue that the sciences of society should embrace the automation of methods, others insist that understanding society requires active engagement with specific places, people and contexts, today no less than before.

In this lecture, Professor Noortje Marres will show how a distinctive set of interdisciplinary methods – digital, visual and participatory methods of situational mapping – can enable us to navigate the challenges that AI poses to knowing society. These methods, which have roots in sociology, media studies and design research, offer a practical framework for negotiating the conflicting requirements that automation and participation place on social research in contextually-aware ways. Drawing on two recent research projects, Shaping AI and AI in the Street, the lecture will show how methods of situational analytics enable insight into the implications of AI for particular places and people, while equally enabling the evaluation of AI in society at scale.

The lecture will conclude with some reflections on the consequences of the rise of generative AI for the relations between social science and society. Far from rendering societal engagement irrelevant to scientific research, the drive to automation in both science and society reveals the degree to which the relations between them are interactive. Which is also to say: engagement across science/society is not a nice add-on to computational research, but indispensable to knowing society whether this involves automated methods or not.


  • Noortje Marres
    Professor in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies University of Warwick
    Noortje Marres is a Professor in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick. A leading scholar in the field of science, technology and society (STS), she has conducted extensive research on participation in technological societies and made important contributions to interdisciplinary methods development, notably issue mapping. Marres was trained in the sociology and philosophy of science and technology at the University of Amsterdam and the Ecole des Mines (Paris), and has led several funded research projects in the area of AI and society, public participation in controversial science and technology (climate change, renewable energy), and digital social research methods. Her work also contributes to the emerging field of digital sociology, notably through methods and methodology development. In the late 1990s, Marres co-created online issue-network analysis. In collaborative work with tech and society organisations, she developed issue mapping as a participatory method, and she is currently working on situational analytics, an attempt to update digital social methods for the AI era. Marres has published two single-authored books, Material Participation (2012) and Digital Sociology (2017) and is now writing her next book, a social study of intelligent technology testing beyond the laboratory. Marres was a member of the REF2021 sociology panel and has been a visiting professor in the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, the University of Leiden and the Berlin Social Science Centre, and is currently an external faculty member of the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Amsterdam.
  • Carrie Friese
    Associate Professor of Sociology London School of Economics and Political Science
    Dr Carrie Friese (discussant) is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is a co-developer of situational analysis, a methodological extension of and refinement to grounded theory. She has co-authored one book and two edited collections on situational analysis with Adele Clarke and Rachel Washburn. Carrie was the Paul Lazarsfeld Visiting Professor in 2020 in the Department of Political Science, University of Vienna as well as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Tuebingen University, Department of Sociology from 2020-2023. She was awarded the Distinguished Dissertation Award from the International Association of Qualitative Inquiry for her use of situational analysis.
  • Rachel Coldicutt
    Rachel Coldicutt is a researcher and strategist specialising in the social impact of new and emerging technologies. She is founder and executive director of research consultancy Careful Industries and its sister social enterprise Promising Trouble. She was previously founding CEO of responsible technology think tank Doteveryone where she led influential and ground-breaking research into how technology is changing society and developed practical tools for responsible innovation. Prior to that, she spent almost 20 years working at the cutting edge of new technology for companies including the BBC, Microsoft, BT, and Channel 4, and was a pioneer in the digital art world. Rachel is an advisor, board member and trustee for a number of companies and charities and, from 2020-2023, served as a non-executive director at Ofcom. In 2019, Rachel was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours for services for the digital society.