Funded PhD: British Telegraphic work and spaces

A glitched image of a telegraph worker up a telegraph pole

My colleague Richard Noakes, Anne Archer and James Elder at BT Archives and I have a funded PhD position that will commence in September. Please see all of the relevant information below. Please also circulate widely and feel free to get in touch.

The duration of this studentship is 45 months (or part time equivalent) plus additional 3 months for professional development opportunities

Closing Date for applications is Monday 1st June 2020.

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship on British telegraphic work and spaces, 1846-1950 at the University of Exeter in partnership with BT Archives (London).  The studentship is awarded by the Science Museums and Archives Consortium under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme.  The project will commence in September 2020 and will be supervised by Prof Richard Noakes and Dr Sam Kinsley at Exeter and Ms Anne Archer and Mr James Elder at BT Archives, with further support from the Science Museum.

This project is a revisionist study of the largely forgotten operators of Britain’s inland telegraph network from the foundation of the first private telegraph companies in 1846, through nationalisation of the service in 1870, to 1950 when the service was in sharp decline owing to competition from telephony.  It plugs a considerable gap in the historiography of British telecommunications – the need for a systematic and detailed understanding of telegraphic work and the spaces within which it was pursued. The project will yield new insights into such key developments as the entry of women into telegraphy and the foundation of telegraphic workers’ unions.  The project involves the study of a wealth of largely unexplored primary source material, the bulk of which is held in BT Archives.  The systematic study of these materials will enable the CDA student to make a highly original contribution to historical scholarship and to help BT Archives in several important ways, including significantly enhancing the detail in its catalogue, producing website content and curating physical exhibitions.  The CDA’s research will also help enhance the Science Museum’s catalogue of telegraphic instruments.

A preliminary survey of BT Archives catalogue reveals an immense amount of material that can support this research.  It holds complete runs of periodicals dedicated to telegraphy and a wealth of unpublished documents relating to such issues as station organisation, employee recruitment, training, health and working conditions, and the experiences of female and male telegraphists. It is possible that the project will also uncover materials revealing the experiences of BAME and other under-represented telegraphists. The richness of the archival material that the student will be exploring means that there is much flexibility within the project for them to build on their own intellectual strengths and follow their own interests.

In addition to the 36 months spent on research, the CDA student will also spend a minimum of 3-6 months on professional development opportunities at BT Archives. How and when this time is used will depend on the student’s interests and goals and this will be agreed with them early in the project.  The time will be used to develop the student’s professional archiving and cataloguing skills.

Further information about the funding scheme and the institutions involved in this project can be found at the following links:

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme

BT Archives

Postgraduate Research at the University of Exeter

Science Museum Group Collaborative Doctoral Awards

UKRI research training

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor, Professor Richard

UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate of £15,285 per year.  Award holders will also receive a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership maintenance of £600 per year and a partial London weighting of £1000 per year.  The partner institution, BT Archvies, will also provide the award holder with up to £1000 per year to support travel and other research expenses.

AI Now’s Data Genesis programme – job opportunity

Facial tracking system, showing gaze direction, emotion scores and demographic profiling

The excellent AI Now institute have announced a fantastic new project titled ‘Data Genesis’ – I’ve copied some details below. Importantly – there are jobs, so – if you think you might fit the bill then apply!

 AI Now Institute has been developing new approaches to study and understand the role of training data in the machine learning field. Key research questions include: What type of information is used as training data? Who generates and collects it and for what purpose? What segments of society does it reflect? Who and what does it exclude? And how does that affect the functioning of AI systems themselves?

The Data Genesis program’s goal is to answer and demystify these questions through three core components:

  • Archiving and analyzing the origin and construction of key datasets that serves as foundations for today’s AI systems;
  • Producing visualizations, maps, and other designs to help crystallize and contextualize what this data is and what it means to communities, practitioners, companies, and policymakers; and
  • Convening experts from across disciplines to help build a field around this topic.

The rapid proliferation of AI into various social and political contexts demands a thorough understanding of the data that these systems are trained on, including the biases and flaws this data may encode. Our Data Genesis program will investigate the complex foundation on which AI is built and will call into question the perception of AI as a magical force that is superior to human judgement.

Check out the jobs associated with the project here.

Lectureship at Exeter geography – political/urban geographies and/or mobilities

People who read this blog may be interested to know that Exeter geography is looking for a new permanent lecturer in human geography, with a particular interest in applications from people that work in the areas of mobilities, political geographies or urban geographies.

Please find the advert here, the deadline for applications in the 16th July with interviews apparently expected in late July.

I am sharing this advert but I am not really the contact for this post, so if you are interested please get in touch with either John Wylie or Henry Buller.

‘Work Notes’ – an occasional academic journal

Pocket Remembrancer 1865

I’ve decided to do something slightly different from the research topic focused blogging I ordinarily do. I have occasionally written posts about ‘the job’, but inspired by reading Les Back’s Academic Diary this summer and with a slightly more keen sense of the passage of time I’ve decided to create a sort of sub-blog called ‘Work Notes’ that focuses on observations about working in academia. This is not an attempt to generalise but rather to reflect upon my own experiences. Likewise, this is not for self-promotion or whatever. You can find the posts on the Work Notes page. They won’t, for the moment, appear in this blog feed – they will remain separate.

Here’s what I wrote about my motivations in the initial post:

I have been reading Les Back’s Academic Diary and it provides an impetus for me to mark this passing of time. This will be my own, more modest, occasional academic journal – (I hope) not for pretentious reasons, for self-promotion and so on. Rather my motivation is because I think writing (for me) is like a muscle and it needs to be exercised. Just as my physical attempts at exercise are poor and I am trying to address that, I also feel the need to create a habit of writing again. I sincerely hope I can both stick to this and get better at doing it. It is a form of learning-by-doing. Ultimately, I want to write this. I want to because I love my job and academia, in spite of it’s (or ‘our’) weirdnesses.

Steal my sunshine – 15th August

Job> Research Fellow, Centre for Postdigital Cultures

A statue of three men hammering

Via Gary Hall. Looks like a good opportunity for someone…

Research Fellow, Centre for Postdigital Cultures

Centre for Postdigital Cultures (CPC) is a new Faculty Research Centre at Coventry University. We are looking to recruit a developer with knowledge of new technologies such as Xtended Reality and those associated with open access publishing. Our Research Fellow/developer will be equally happy with building platforms as they are with contributing to funding bids and academic papers. The person we employ will be involved in all technical aspects of the Research Centre from uploading website content to creating virtual reality scenarios and will have the people skills to work with those at all levels of technical understanding.

You will be qualified in object oriented programming languages such as c#, c++, Java, Java scripts and swift with proven experience of development in modern web development languages like PHP and HTML5. Plus you will possess some experience in 2D/3D modelling using software such as 3DS max and Photoshop and Maya for digital asset creation and Unity 3D or Unreal game engines for developing game-based and immersive experiences.

This is the chance for you to join the CPC team in the early stages of growth and to play a significant role in the development of impactful research activity within the emerging field of postdigital cultures. Led by Professor Gary Hall, the Centre explores how innovations in postdigital cultures can enable 21st century society respond to the challenges it faces at a global, national and local level.

  • how we receive, consume and process information
  • how we learn, work, and travel
  • how we engage and regenerate our communities and cities

What Do We Mean By Postdigital Cultures?

“The digital” can no longer be understood as a separate domain of media and culture. If we actually examine the digital – rather than taking it for granted we already know what it means – we see that today digital information processing is present in every aspect of our lives. This includes our global communication, entertainment, education, energy, banking, health, transport, manufacturing, food, and water-supply systems. Attention therefore needs to turn from “the digital”, to the various overlapping processes and infrastructures that shape and organise the digital, and that the digital helps to shape and organise in turn.

The CPC investigates such enmeshed digital models of culture, society, and the creative economy for the 21st century “post digital” world.

Research Areas covered by the centre include:

  • Post-capitalist Economies
  • Post-humanities
  • Affirmative Disruption and Open Media
  • Immersive and Playful Cultures, Creative Archiving and International Heritage
  • Digital Arts and Humanities
  • The 21st Century University and Art School

Members of the CPC include Janneke Adema, Adrienne Evans, Valeria Graziano, Kaja Marczewska, Marcel Mars and Miriam de Rosa.

The role of the Research Fellow Developer is to plan, develop and manage collaborative and individual research projects, using their specialist technical skills.

This will include implementing new technology platforms and applications integral to the research projects of the CPC (for example, those associated with open access publishing and immersive XR technology) which address issues at an international scale using research as a driving force for global change.  It is also to develop ideas for generating income and to seek funding opportunities for routes to disseminate research findings that inform teaching and build the reputation of the University whilst advancing knowledge in the field.

The Job Description and Person Specification is available here.

Great opportunity > Internship with the Social Media Collective (Microsoft)


Via Nancy Baym:

Call for applications! 2018 summer internship, MSR Social Media Collective


Microsoft Research New England (MSRNE) is looking for advanced PhD students to join the Social Media Collective (SMC) for its 12-week Internship program. The Social Media Collective (in New England, we are Nancy Baym, Tarleton Gillespie, and Mary Gray, with current postdocs Dan Greene and Dylan Mulvin) bring together empirical and critical perspectives to understand the political and cultural dynamics that underpin social media technologies. Learn more about us here.

MSRNE internships are 12-week paid stays in our lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During their stay, SMC interns are expected to devise and execute their own research project, distinct from the focus of their dissertation (see the project requirements below). The expected outcome is a draft of a publishable scholarly paper for an academic journal or conference of the intern’s choosing. Our goal is to help the intern advance their own career; interns are strongly encouraged to work towards a creative outcome that will help them on the academic job market.

The ideal candidate may be trained in any number of disciplines (including anthropology, communication, information studies, media studies, sociology, science and technology studies, or a related field), but should have a strong social scientific or humanistic methodological, analytical, and theoretical foundation, be interested in questions related to media or communication technologies and society or culture, and be interested in working in a highly interdisciplinary environment that includes computer scientists, mathematicians, and economists.

Primary mentors for this year will be Nancy Baym and Tarleton Gillespie, with additional guidance offered by other members of the SMC. We are looking for applicants working in one or more of the following areas:

  1. Personal relationships and digital media
  2. Audiences and the shifting landscapes of producer/consumer relations
  3. Affective, immaterial, and other frameworks for understanding digital labor
  4. How platforms, through their design and policies, shape public discourse
  5. The politics of algorithms, metrics, and big data for a computational culture
  6. The interactional dynamics, cultural understanding, or public impact of AI chatbots or intelligent agents

Interns are also expected to give short presentations on their project, contribute to the SMC blog, attend the weekly lab colloquia, and contribute to the life of the community through weekly lunches with fellow PhD interns and the broader lab community. There are also natural opportunities for collaboration with SMC researchers and visitors, and with others currently working at MSRNE, including computer scientists, economists, and mathematicians. PhD interns are expected to be on-site for the duration of their internship.

Applicants must have advanced to candidacy in their PhD program by the time they start their internship. (Unfortunately, there are no opportunities for Master’s students or early PhD students at this time). Applicants from historically marginalized communities, underrepresented in higher education, and students from universities outside of the United States are encouraged to apply.


The Social Media Collective is comprised of full-time researchers, postdocs, visiting faculty, Ph.D. interns, and research assistants. Current projects in New England include:

  • How does the use of social media affect relationships between artists and audiences in creative industries, and what does that tell us about the future of work? (Nancy Baym)
  • How are social media platforms, through their algorithmic design and user policies, taking up the role of custodians of public discourse? (Tarleton Gillespie)
  • What are the cultural, political, and economic implications of crowdsourcing as a new form of semi-automated, globally-distributed digital labor? (Mary L. Gray)
  • How do public institutions like schools and libraries prepare workers for the information economy, and how are they changed in the process? (Dan Greene)
  • How are media standards made, and what do their histories tell us about the kinds of things we can represent? (Dylan Mulvin)

SMC PhD interns may also have the opportunity to connect with our sister Social Media Collective members in New York City. Related projects in New York City include:

  • What are the politics, ethics, and policy implications of artificial intelligence and data science? (Kate Crawford, MSR-NYC)
  • What are the social and cultural issues arising from data-centric technological development? (danah boyd, Data & Society Research Institute)

For more information about the Social Media Collective, and a list of past interns, visit the About page of our blog. For a complete list of all permanent researchers and current postdocs based at the New England lab, see:

Read more.

Working with anxiety

People on a rollercoaster

Gillian Rose’s recently posted advice has sat with me for a few days, it’s been in the background of my thinking as I fail to get much proper work done. It’s got me thinking about the level of anxiety I have been working with, which I suspect is (sadly) not uncommon for many folk right now. I don’t know whether writing this is a good idea. It’s not like successful people write these sorts of admissions of weakness but there we go…

This is sort of public taking-stock, with the hope that it may help me along and maybe other folks who feel similar things may feel like they’re not alone, I don’t know…

Gillian Rose’s blogpost happened to come along at the same time I’ve been failing to write my first proper annual appraisal type document after passing through our formal probation system. Until that point I only had to do a much abridged version. Now I’m supposed to a full ‘PDR’, with six sections of a page each that ask you to provide an account of what you’re doing about: “Career Goals and Plans”, “Research and Scholarship”, “Impact”, “Education” (4th! *sigh*), “Internationalisation” and “Other significant contributions to the university” (not to your discipline, to scholarship, to academia, but to the institution – make of that what you will). I have been stuck. I was looking at the pages and while I have written some halfhearted bullet points about the few things I’ve done, it worried me to the extent that I kept putting it off.

The grown-up thing to do is, I think (and I’ve received advice about from someone I trust), to fill out these kinds of benchmarking/monitoring forms positively but realistically – trying to keep in mind an understanding of your own worth. So, not just chasing the targets (goodness knows there are plenty of them), but also politely saying where you could use more support to realise the things that are mutually beneficial – things you want to do and the university thinks are good too. In truth, my department is very supportive. The university has it’s jargon and paperwork but it has always been (for me anyway) mediated by good people. Nevertheless, I wasn’t taking my own advice. In part this is because I am tired (due to illness/ sleeplessness), in part because I’ve felt a bit lost with what to prioritise and what, following Gillian, my ‘brand’ is/ should be.

Drawing upon Gillian’s blogpost, I guess what I am reflecting upon then is how life-changes affect how you see yourself, how you plan and manage time, and how you judge what’s ‘good enough’ as Gillian put it. In the last three years, my time in my current position, with my family I’ve moved city to enable my commute, there’s been a very serious family illness, we became a ‘family’ – I have two children (15 months and nearly four years old[!!]), I have changed my working pattern (to compressed hours one week in four days) to enable childcare, and while I know I am incredibly lucky (I really do and remind myself of that frequently): I am exhausted.

This feeling of exhaustion is mostly due to non-work things, which I’d rather keep private, but there are work elements to that exhaustion. This comes from an accumulation of several factors that seem to play out in my mind regularly: Thinking about ‘keeping up’ – with targets, with debates, with expectations (FOMO, apparently). Trying to come up with ideas that don’t feel like they’re already being done, by those quicker to write. Attempting to be as supportive as possible to others whilst worrying about your own stalling career.

I have been feeling that I cannot seem to come up with a convincing narrative ~ what Gillian discussed as ‘brand’. I’ve tried a few times but I cannot seem to get momentum. This is where my anxiety lies. I do my best not to compare myself to others but what with social media, gossip and so on, it’s hard not to do so. I see others ‘networking’ but I feel less-confident about doing it. So I feel in a contradictory position: by most measures I am no longer ‘early career’, but I still feel like I haven’t really got started.

Where I’ve got to is this: I have a plan for a sort of narrative around automation. I know I am late to the party and this is already other people’s ‘brand’ but it’s what I’m interested in reading and thinking about. I have some ideas about how I can write about this in order for me to remain interested but also to meet expected targets. So, I know it’s not especially ‘ambitious’ or cutting edge or anything but that’s where I am.

I regret none of my choices and I am really thankful I had them. I have received support from colleagues and my institution to enable me to spend as much time as I can afford with my young children. I wouldn’t change that for anything. Nevertheless, I didn’t realise how ‘professionally’ anxious I would become. As things are settling down, in my new-ish work pattern, I feel like I am at a point of being able to prioritise more clearly.

It seems to me that Gillian’s closing remarks are really important – caring for yourself is crucial. I think you have to try and be kind to yourself as well as trying to be all of the other things. You may be thinking “it’s alright for you as: a man/ someone [with a ‘permanent’ contract]/[in the UK]/[in a ‘good’ department]”, and you are right but I can only be honest about how I’ve been feeling. I recognise I’m fortunate and I’ve tried to help others and make the most of that good fortune to the extent that I am able.

I hope that these reflections are in some way useful to someone. It may be unwise to write in this public confessional manner, and maybe I’m simply delivering myself to the ‘attention economy’.

Time to finish that form…


People on a rollercoaster

Gillian Rose has written a helpful blogpost on her blog following a talk at Maynooth about developing a career as an academic for the Supporting Women in Geography Ireland group, which I recommend reading. I value the advice Gillian gives (and wish I’d had it earlier in my career), so definitely give it a read.

I don’t wish to draw equivalences of experience (either in the sense of expertise or stuff that you do/happens to you) not least cos that experience/those experiences are clearly different, yet Gillian’s blogpost made me think of a couple of things about academic ‘brand’…

Goodness knows you can put all sorts of pressure on yourself to somehow live up to the ‘superhero‘ (*oh dear*) that seems to be asked for in job adverts (as Rachel Pitt and Inger Bewman have discussed), sooo… in my limited experience, it seems to me that developing what Gillian calls a ‘brand‘ (with those scare quotes, mind) is both necessary and problematic.

It’s a positive thing insofar as other people need to be able to understand what you do so if you have a clear and accessible ‘brand’ then it may well help with applying for jobs, for grants and so on. As Gillian puts it, try to work out:

the kind of geographer/academic that you are or you aspire to be

As Gillian goes on to identify – a mentor can help (and that can be fantastic). If you’ve got a sort of narrative that binds together, however loosely, the things you’ve done, written and taught then other people can easily make sense of who you are as an academic. Likewise, if you respond to thematic funding calls it can give you a way in. It may lead to other people actually inviting you to give talks, collaborate and so on… so that’s all pretty good – it can feel nice to be recognised and (hopefully) respected. Also, if a theme becomes a ‘big thing’ then you can get a head start, for example if you ‘brand’ yourself as someone who does ‘the geopolitics of media’ then you may have an advantage when pitching into thematic calls about the machinations around ‘fake news’ and so on…

I hesitate to say this, again from my limited experience, however – ‘branding’ can also, I think, be problematic when pursued over-zealously. I am not being derisory about ambition, I think/ hope there are positive versions of it. Nevertheless, there are strategies for career advancement that may work but may also come at a cost – sometimes to yourself and sometimes more widely. I’d like to think these are the sorts of issues a mentor can help you identify and hopefully negotiate without negative effects.

Being specific about your ‘brand’ may start out helpful but could become restrictive. For example, you might position yourself as someone who does research on a particular area (like the ‘geopolitics of media’ example above) or on/with a particular theory or theorist – you might write the journal article or book on it – but you may want to have one eye on whether you’re pigeon-holing yourself restrictively… after all, we have careers that can last decades (hopefully).

‘Brand’ carries the possible, unfortunate, connotation of monopoly – trying to become the person who does [x] (I know that’s not what Gillian was suggesting). It may be tempting to try to achieve that status too, but I think I would caution against it personally. If you have tough enough skin I suspect it’s possible to gain that status in some circumstances, I doubt anyone will tell you not to (you may just face more-than-usually unpleasant anonymous peer review comments as you ratchet up the ‘outputs’), but I wonder at what cost..?

One of us might somehow bash out eight articles in a year all on-‘brand’, they might manage a few more in subsequent years, firmly staking a claim to that theme/ set of ideas/ empirical focus. They might organise conference sessions and events, carefully billing themselves as the gatekeeper or key speaker. A group building a ‘brand’ might collectively do these things, spur one another on – they even ‘boost’ each other through citation rings. However, we might also want to think about what such practices and that level of productivity means in terms of expectations we set for ourselves or our employers, perceptions of the quality of our work, or sustainable work load.

We might want to think about the positive and negatives of ‘reputation’ that may come from all this. We might also want to think about whether we’re perpetuating problematic expectations for other colleagues – “Well, if Bloggs can write so many articles in a year why can’t you?” etc etc. It becomes competitive. Personally,  I hope that we can find ways of celebrating one another’s work rather than competing. I’d like to think that academia is a collective and collaborative enterprise…

I worry (too much! heh) that if we were to focus too much on ‘brands’ we open ourselves to the negative sides of competition that so many colleagues have criticised in terms of the negative effects on wellbeing [e.g.]. I think the advice Gillian gives in her blogpost takes us some way towards doing so, and I’m grateful she shared it.

Maybe you disagree with my ramblings? I’d welcome comments below…

In terms of how to manage our own wellbeing I wrote some stuff on here a while ago about ‘the job’ that may or may not be of interest too…
Academic emotional labour
Illness, reflecting on work…

AI Now post-doc positions

Holly from the UK TV programme Red Dwarf

This looks like a great opportunity for someone interested in the sorts of things the “AI Now” Institute (NYU) does. Link.

AI Now is looking for two to three postdoctoral researchers whose work resonates with the Institute’s mission. This position is an ideal opportunity for scholars who are interested in understanding the growing role of AI and related technologies within social and political institutions, and who are excited by the idea of shaping a new and far-ranging research field.


The AI Now Institute at New York University is an interdisciplinary community researching the social and economic implications of artificial intelligence and related algorithmic systems. We focus on producing foundational research illuminating the social contexts as automated decision-making moves deeper into core institutions like health, education, and criminal justice.

Founded in 2017 by Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker, AI Now is housed at NYU, where it fosters vibrant interdisciplinary engagement across the University and beyond. AI Now’s current partners at NYU include: the Tandon School of Engineering, the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the Law School, the Stern School of Business, and the Center for Data Science.


As an interdisciplinary institute at NYU, AI Now will provide postdocs with the opportunity to develop their scholarship at a top academic institution with an explicit remit to collaborate with researchers and practitioners across different fields, whether in NYU, at partner institutions, or within relevant industry and civil society organizations. AI Now has a strong network across these sectors, and will make this network available to postdocs where relevant and useful.

Postdocs will devote time to their own research and collaborative projects and will contribute to AI Now programs and events related to their research portfolio. Teaching is not expected, but may be an option, depending on a candidate’s availability and interest.

AI Now is committed to mentorship and support and to accommodating and resourcing research agendas that fit within its core mission. Postdocs will become a core part of a growing research community that includes reading groups, expert workshops, international conferences, regular salons, and site-specific travel. Fellows will also have the opportunity to help shape the annual AI Now Symposium.


  • Competitive salary and benefits
  • Access to an exceptional network of mentors and established researchers spanning NYU and beyond, including civil society and industry practitioners
  • A generous research stipend for conferences (including international), fieldwork, and research materials, available as needed
  • Relocation assistance available as needed

See the full text of the call here. as an instrument of analytical discipline

Saw a paper, shared (perhaps ironically) on ResearchGate, concerning and the ways it can be seen as a means of self-discipline around ‘impact’, self-promotion and how these may relate reward and recognition. May be of interest to some…

“Facebook for Academics”: The Convergence of Self-Branding and Social Media Logic on

Brooke Erin Duffy and Jefferson D. Pooley.

Given widespread labor market precarity, contemporary workers–especially those in the media and creative industries–are increasingly called upon to brand themselves. Academics, we contend, are experiencing a parallel pressure to engage in self-promotional practices, particularly as universities become progressively more market-driven., a paper-sharing social network that has been informally dubbed “Facebook for academics,” has grown rapidly by adopting many of the conventions of popular social media sites. This article argues that the astonishing uptake of both reflects and amplifies the self-branding imperatives that many academics experience. Drawing on’s corporate history, design decisions, and marketing communications, we analyze two overlapping facets of (1) the site’s business model and (2) its social affordances. We contend that the company, like mainstream social networks, harnesses the content and immaterial labor of users under the guise of “sharing.” In addition, the site’s fixation on analytics reinforces a culture of incessant self-monitoring–one already encouraged by university policies to measure quantifiable impact. We conclude by identifying the stakes for academic life, when entrepreneurial and self-promotional demands brush up against the university’s knowledge-making ideals.