Accepted paper:

Reconfiguring motivation as emerging motives in evolving collectives


Morten Nissen (Aarhus University)
Sebastian Tobias-Renstrøm (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

Enhancing 'motivation' for a preconceived activity or 'change' is a limited approach to developing subjectivities. Better to individuate agents, actions, desires and knowledges in emerging collectives. We perform such reflexive self-making as a way of developing social youth work and its knowledges.

Paper long abstract:

'Motivation' is currently in vogue. The discourse presents itself in simplistic and banal ways (e.g. as self-efficacy or intrinsic motivation), but it structures forms of guided self-fashioning that present new social technologies. The implications and effects of these technologies are complex and largely unarticulated. They are easily dismissed as inconsequential pragmatics, or debunked as individualizing self-management. Techniques such as 'motivational interviewing', 'self-tracking' or 'nudging' suggest easy pragmatic solutions to power issues that we can either accept, or reveal as manipulative, but to no avail. Part of the problem is the insufficient recognition that desires and motives evolve as part of the ongoing, reflexive individuation of subjects and collectives (cf. Simondon). If we think of subjectivity thus as becoming, we can begin to engage in an affirmative critique that re-articulates such 'motivating' practices. However, we can also widen the perspective considerably. Instead of 'motivating' (recruiting, aligning) people to existing activities, places, institutions, or ethics, we can engage in a tinkering of care (cf. Mol). This is one way of describing our current project. The project continues a long-term collaboration between researchers and professionals who experiment with new forms of social youth work in Copenhagen. See We have worked with user-driven standards, spaces and aesthetics. Now we construct a reflexive and interactive model of and for 'outreach' - an emergent design of collectives and activities with new users and new professional collaborators, in which the 'epistemic objects', and the desires they awaken, are undecided at the outset.

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