Browne, A. L., Medd, W., Anderson, B. & Pullinger, M. (2014) 'Methods as intervention: Intervening in practice through quantitative and mixed methodologies', in Maller, C. & Strengers, Y. (eds.) Social Practices, Intervention and Sustainability: Beyond behaviour change, Routledge/Earth, pp. 179-195.

As Law and Urry (2004) reflect, methods matter. The enactment of methodology is inherently one of performance – we make (multiple) realities, we make those realities real or less real, and as such intervene in political and social worlds. This chapter reflects on how expanding the range of methods used to actualise theories of practise can be a form of interference and intervention. By using new methods to disturb the relatively unexamined way that ‘consumers’ and their resource consumption is represented in policy worlds, research methods not only disturb what is ‘known’, but also reveal new political realities and possibilities. This process of revealing the multiplicity of ways of representing social phenomenon, and then enacting different ways of knowing into a political space, is what is referred to as ontological politics (Mol 1999). In this paper we argue that the use of quantitative and mixed methodologies that reflect practises (as performance, and as entities) disturbs the dominant way that the resource industries and related political spaces represent the consumer. However, we also argue that such a use of research methods creates an alternative politics about, and instrumentation of, processes of consumption as represented through theories of practise.

These reflections about the ontological politics of method centre on the mixed methodological approach we developed to explore domestic water demand: namely, a quantitative survey to capture the diversity and patterns of everyday practise and qualitative interviews. Our mixed-method approach, combined with extensive stakeholder engagement, became our ontological politics and intervention. We argue that these methodological decisions shifted the debate with key stakeholder groups from epistemology (where what is known depends on perspective) to ontology (where what is known is made different). Playing politics with methods, we argue, will help social scientists working on practise and sustainability overcome the epistemological debates of ‘ABC’ (attitudes, behaviour, choice) versus ‘practise’ (e.g. Shove 2010; Whitmarsh et al. 2011) and allow different ontological realities to be brought into political space (Law 2009).

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