Urban Lightscapes/Social Nightscapes

Dr Don Slater, Sociology, London School of Economics and Mona Sloane, LSE Cities Centre

Co-presented with the Cities Network at the Sydney Environment Institute

Light and lighting design are fundamental to our everyday life. Light is an enabler of all social interaction and experience and plays a central role in how cityscapes are shaped. It also plays an increasingly prominent role in discussions around environmental issues, health and wellbeing, safety and security, technological innovation and arts and creative industries. Coinciding with a widespread adoption of the most fundamental technical revolution in lighting since Edison – LED – light also has a growing profile in urban design, planning and governance. Despite this centrality, light is invisible in social science; and social research currently has no place in lighting design.

How, then, can light as “stuff” be configured better or differently? How can lighting design consider social needs and contexts more seriously in overall design schemes? What difference can or should social knowledge make to the way designers and urban designers work with light? And what can social research contribute to “configuring light”?

These are the questions addressed by Configuring Light/Staging the Social, a London School of Economics multidisciplinary research program that forges an integral dialogue between social sciences, design, architecture and urban planning focused on light as one of the most fundamental features of social life. It was founded in 2012 by sociologists Dr Joanne Entwistle (King’s College London), Dr Don Slater and Mona Sloane (both London School of Economics).

In the International Year of Light join us for a presentation at Sydney Ideas as Don Slater and Mona Sloane present their most recent Urban Lightscapes/Social Nightscapes project (www.socialnightscapes.org) and talk about the role of social research in design.


Dr Don Slater

Associate Professor in Sociology, London School of Economics Don Slater is based at LSE Sociology and has co-founded Configuring Light/Staging the Social. His current research focusses on lighting design but he also researches and writes extensively on the sociology of material culture and economic life (consumption, consumer culture and marketing); new media and digital culture (ethnographies of media and development); and visual and material culture (photography, visual methods, fashion, community media). Major publications include: New Media, Development and Globalization: Making Connections in the Global South (2013); The Technological Economy (2005, with Andrew Barry); The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach (2000, with Daniel Miller); Consumer Culture and Modernity (1997).

Mona Sloane

Together with Don Slater and Joanne Entwistle, Mona Sloane is co-founder of Configuring Light/Staging the Social and works on the programme as programme manager and researcher. Based at LSE Cities, she develops new projects for Configuring Light and runs the programme’s wide range of activities. She is also a PhD candidate in LSE Sociology where she holds an LSE scholarship and works and publishes on the sociology of design and urban planning, material culture and aesthetics and economic sociology. Mona holds an MSc in Sociology from the LSE and has a background in communication and cultural management.