My research has been about poking around how technology gets designed, made, used and talked about and how that has a hand in how we think about society, space and time. I like to think my work to span all sorts of ‘disciplinary’ delineations but I’m probably most at home as a ‘geographer’. My research broadly pursues three themes: first, geographies of technology – principally practices of innovation; second, spatial imagination and appeals towards a future, not least in relation to automation and ‘ubiquitous computing‘; third, the changing understanding and politics of technologies as mediators, characterised partially by work concerning ‘algorithms’, an ‘attention economy‘ and automation.
Algorithmic politics and administrative justice in the EU Settlement Scheme – ongoing. The EUSS is the UK government scheme designed to determine the post-Brexit UK immigration status of EU citizens and their families who are currently living in the UK under EU free movement law. The research aims to analyse the process of administrative reform associated with Brexit, and the intersection of this process with the digitalisation of administration and governance in the UK. It takes the evolution of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) as its empirical entry-point. By investigating how grievances and claims of injustice emerge from the operation of the EUSS and are monitored and challenged in the public sphere, the research will seek to understand how practices of administrative justice are reconfigured by the interaction of automated algorithmic systems with rights-based practices of monitoring, advocacy and litigation.
The automative imagination – ongoing. The aim of this work is to think about and write about the ways in which automation gets imagined – the sorts of cultural, economic and social forms of imagination that are drawn upon and generated when discussing how automation works and the kinds of future that may come as a result. The concept of an ‘automative imagination’ is proposed as a means of articulating these different, sometimes competing – sometimes complementary, orientations towards automation. The neologism ‘automative’ is not used here to assert discursive authority but rather as a pragmatic tool – to speak of an ‘automated’ or ‘automatic’ imagination does not describe the characteristics of automation but suggests the imagining is itself automated, which is not the argument I am seeking to make. My aim is not to validate/invalidate particular narratives of automation – but instead to think about how they are produced and what they tell us about how we tell stories about what it means to be ‘human’, who/what has agency and what this may mean for how we think politically and spatially.
Contagion – funded by the ESRC from Sept 2013-March 2015. Contagion investigated the conditions for movement of infectious disease as well as potent ideas. Using approaches derived from philosopher Gabriel Tarde to think about bio-sociality, the research used large databases on influenza and social media as well as investigations of financial analyses to compare contagion within different domains. The work is in conjunction with colleagues at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Food Standards Agency.
Computing Futures – funded by a British Academy Small Grant (2011-12). This project enabled follow-on research to my PhD on the ways in which futures are anticipated in ubiquitous computing research and development. This work principally focuses on the HP Labs project ‘CoolTown’ through interviews with people involved with the project. Supporting interviews were also conducted to offer contrasting positions from other projects conducted in a similar timeframe. Outcomes of this research included workshops with creative technology producers and public talks in Bristol and Cardiff.