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Installation Theory
The Societal Construction and Regulation of Behaviour


  • Author: Saadi Lahlou, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Date Published: June 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316502747

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About the Authors
  • Installation Theory: The Societal Construction and Regulation of Behaviour provides researchers and practitioners with a simple and powerful framework to analyse and change behaviour. Informed by a wide range of empirical evidence, it includes an accessible synthesis of former theories (ecological psychology, activity theory, situated action, distributed cognition, social constructionism, actor-network theory and social representations). 'Installations' are the familiar, socially constructed, apparatuses which elicit, enable, scaffold and control - and make predictable most of our 'normal' behaviour; from shower-cabins or airport check-ins to family dinners, classes or hospitals. The book describes their threefold structure with a new model enabling systematic and practical analysis of their components. It details the mechanisms of their construction, resilience and evolution, illustrated with dozens of examples, from restaurants to nuclear plant operation. The book also provides a detailed analysis of the processes of creation and selection of innovations, proposing a model for the maintenance and evolution of social systems.

    • Proposes a new theory of social construction, based on massive empirical evidence obtained with a powerful technique of digital ethnography, from fields as diverse as family meals, road traffic, policing, nursing or piloting nuclear plants
    • Presents a synthesis of many theories of the determinants of behaviour in an original and easily applicable framework
    • Introduces a new unit of analysis, 'installations', which supercedes previous models in explanatory power for everyday situations
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Installation Theory: an impressive, powerful synthesis and a bold, wide-encompassing theory that any social scientist will need to consider.' Claude Fischler, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris

    'Installation Theory offers an ambitious, wholly original, and timely contribution to social science's engagement in rapidly changing, technologically driven lifeworlds. Lahlou brings to his theoretical framework an extraordinary transdisciplinary skill set (social psychology, biology, statistics, economics, cognitive science, industrial engineer, management, to name a few). Installation theory is new to me, as it will be to most readers, but the framework is worth opening the intellectual door. The paradigm assembles subjective, material, and institutional affordances of socio-technical devices to explain how coordination of human behavior is induced, sustained, and transformed and offers practical insight into pressing design roadblocks to achieving health, civic, and economic goals.' Elinor Ochs, University of California, Los Angeles

    'Increasing attention is devoted to understanding the genetic and neural basis of human behaviour. This book explores behaviour in the multiple, every-day settings of social life. By linking the physical environment with our cognitive interpretative flexibility and with social norms and regulation a non-deterministic understanding emerges how living together can be better managed and (re)designed. For everyone interested in how innovation and change can be re-assembled with the continuity of the old, Lahlou offers a solid and practice-oriented approach - novel and exciting!' Helga Nowotny, Former President European Research Council

    'Installation Theory achieves an important integration of the behavioral and social sciences by calling attention to a number of obstacles behavioral/social scientists prefer to ignore, by achieving ecological validity. Lahlou's important book is a careful study of a wide range of daily life practices and reveals the complexity of 'ruled behavior'. The book will challenge all behavioral/social science disciplines.' Aaron Cicourel, University of California, San Diego

    'Saadi Lahlou offers an ambitious, expansive and highly original theoretical synthesis to account for the social regulation of human behaviour. Installation Theory deserves the full attention of social scientists for its fecund approach to understanding of and practical intervention in the social world.' Alan Warde, University of Manchester

    'While I am confident that Lahlou's Installation Theory will be of lasting value for the scientific enterprise, I am hopeful it will also be a basis for the radical changes our world requires.' James D. Hollan, Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego

    'Lahlou presents a bold and innovative theory of social stability and change. At the centre is a multi-level model analysing the opportunities and constraints on behaviour of the physical, institutional and psychological environments. The many implications for, and examples of, behaviour change remind me of Kurt Lewin's dictum 'there is nothing so practical as good theory'.' George Gaskell, London School of Economics and Political Science

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316502747
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 27 mm
    • weight: 0.703kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Installation: a synthetic theory to explain how humans construct systems that support and format individual behaviour
    2. The problem of human action and the problem of social regulation: two sides of the same coin
    3. Theoretical frameworks grounding installation theory
    4. The structure of installations
    5. Endurance of installations: the reconstructive cycle of practice
    6. Selection mechanisms in societal evolution: two cases, science and industry
    7. The evolution of installations
    8. Redesigning installations to change behaviour
    9. Conclusion
    10. References cited.

  • Author

    Saadi Lahlou, London School of Economics and Political Science
    Saadi Lahlou is Chair in Social Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in the department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, of which he was formerly Head. Trained initially as a statistician and economist, then a student of Serge Moscovici, he developed methods in large surveys, text mining, participative design and digital ethnography. Lahlou directed the Consumer Research department of the Centre for Lifestyles and Social Policies (Crédoc, Paris), the Laboratory of Design for Cognition at EDF R&D (a whole building instrumented as a living lab), and was a member of the board of the Commissariat Général du Plan (French Prime Minister's office). He has written over 150 papers, books and published reports.

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