Practice theory

A form of social theory which takes practices (such as cooking, playing a game, etc) as a unit of analysis.

In it society is viewed as a collection of practices, and all human action is the enacting of one or more practices.

This is a middle ground between a social theory that foregrounds either individuals or structures.

Practice theory does not offer a model that explains human actions according to causal relations and factors, but a conceptual framework to get a general and abstract account of a topic.

From Kuijer, L. 2017. ‘Practices-Oriented Design’, in Design for Behaviour Change: Theories and Practices of Designing for Change, ed. by Niedderer, K., Clune, S., Ludden, G. (London and New York: Taylor & Francis Group), pp. 116–127. ProQuest Ebook Central

Practice as configurations of elements

Practices are a configuration of elements. Elements are grouped into three types:

  • Materials - eg: pots, food, cooking book, kitchen space, body
  • Competencies - skills and knowhow applied (eg: when cooking)
  • Meanings - rationales for engaging in practice (eg: hunger)

Practice-as-entity and Practice-as-performance

  • Practice-as-performance: observable, situated practice.
  • Pratice-as-entity: the organizational dimension of practices, the loose guide by which practices are performed

Implies that practices exist as entities even when not performed at this moment - and they can travel through space and time as entities. They are recursively related and influence each other.

Behaviour change as reconfiguration of elements

  • You can change practices by introducing or reconfiguring elements. This is hard. The new configuration must make sense. Reconfiguration of practices can only happen in performance.

Last update: 2022-02-26 22:24