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(Im)possible spaces


(Im)possible spaces

Many ideas and activities in research hinge on how we characterise systems and problems in terms of imagined spaces of possibilities and impossibilities. From optimisation and evolutionary theory to design, evaluation and personalisation, we frequently state and problematise objects, subjects and methods in terms of multidimensional spaces. CIM embraces diverse research interests that intersect in investigations of what combinations, solutions, forms, trajectories and topologies are possible, and what impossibilities remain.

The impossible space is a hub for methodological practices and our conception of processes such as prototyping, evolution, immersion, participation, simulation, evaluation, mapping, optimisation, and interface and visualisation design. The specification of a problem through ‘givens, goals and operators’ introduces a possible space for mapping routes to solutions. Navigating the possibilities of impossibility, our focus may be on optimal solutions (such as an optimal design or parameter estimates) or description of a set of cases against theoretical or descriptive frameworks (morphological or statistical analysis), or in theorising the space itself (problems spaces and compositional methodology).

In our research we consider impossible spaces as crucial in reflective and reflexive research practices, and for the critical analysis of knowledge, methods and interdisciplinarity itself. The impossible space is a preposition of how disciplines may be brought into relation with one another. Our work in this area is concerned with trajectories of innovation through impossible design spaces, how methods determine and constrain problem solving and innovation, how local optima may disrupt searches across impossible spaces, and what philosophical considerations are required if impossible spaces aren’t pre-stateable and where our knowledge is a proxy for a full description.

This work is drawn together by interests in algorithms and dimension reduction, design practices and claims, personalisation and populations, and philosophy of function and innovation. We also look at the criteria we impose on objects of study in order to critique knowledge claims and interrogate method ranking systems, and how epistemic relationships are developed and probabilistic likelihoods are inferred.


  • WAYS (What Aren't You Seeing)
  • Backfillz
  • Problem spaces
  • Scaling Trust: An anthropology of cyber security
  • Linking and Modelling Tempos for Complex Policy

Publications & other outputs


Staff associated with this theme: Celia Lury, Matt Spencer, Emma Uprichard, Greg McInerny, James Tripp