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Concept work

July 9, 2009

Excerpt from a text by the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory, or ARC.


A third design principle for collaboration concerned concept work. Concept work consists in constructing, elaborating and testing a conceptual inventory as well as specifying and experimenting with multi-dimensional diagnostic and analytic frames. We hold that concepts are tools designed to be used on specified problems and calibrated to the production of pragmatic outcomes both analytic and ethical. As such, concepts must be adjusted to the changing topology of problem spaces. Concept work involves archaeological, genealogical, and diagnostic dimensions. Archaeologically, concept work involves investigating and characterizing concepts as part of a prior repertoire or structured conceptual ensemble. Genealogically, concept work frees concepts from their field of emergence by showing the contingent history of their selection, formation, as well as their potential contemporary significance. Diagnostically, concept work involves a critical function: testing the adequacy and appropriateness of a given concept or repertoire of concepts to new problems and purposes.


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