Institute for Social Futures is run by three Directors and three Anniversary Lecturers, each of whom lead research at the interstices of major new areas for interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in all research relating to creative futures - how different forms of creative practice exist in society and how the techniques we can learn from the arts might help us make better worlds for the future. This is a licence to care deeply about the multiple contexts we inhabit, from those of our imagination through to the very real circumstances in which we live, think, and act. So far, I have developed this work in relation to concepts of world literature and world authorship, as well as exploring the actual practice of graphic fiction as a research method.
Originally trained as a sociologist but now a computer scientist, I am concerned with how new technologies shape us and how we in turn shape our technologies - in the space that is often known as Human Computer Interaction or HCI. I have written 13 books, including the IEEE award winning "The Myth of the Paperless Office"; “Texture”, (the A.o.I.R. book of the year 2011); and “Choice” (2016). The latter examines everyday choice-making activities and considers these in light of scientific theories about the mechanics of the ‘mind’. I have also published over 160 scientific articles on topics covering a wide range of topics, from the social impact and design of mobile phones, to the future of search engines, to the latest incarnation of artificial intelligence.
Prior to becoming Co-Director of the Institute for Social Futures at the University, I am also a Professor of Computer Science and Communication. I became the UK’s first professor of Socio-Digital Systems at the University of Surrey in 2002.
Previously, I have led research groups at Xerox (Euro) Parc and Microsoft, and was the director and founder of The Digital World Research Centre at the University of Surrey. I have founded and jointly led start-up companies with clients that have included Hewlett Packard, Vodafone, and Stora Enso, and continue to consult for many of the world’s most ambitious companies through Social Shaping Research (Cambridge). I am a Fellow of the IET and of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2014, the ACM elected me a Fellow of its Academy in honour of leadership in the field of Human-Computer Interaction. I am currently a Visiting Professor in the College of Science at the University of Swansea, Wales.
My personal website is here.
My work looks at futures thinking and future forming through the lens of cities, ruins and infrastructure. I have studied cities like London, Paris and Shanghai, using history as a means of thinking about what theories and which methods are relevant to understanding their future today and in the past. I am interested in research that is comparative and collaborations that combine disciplinary rigour with cross-disciplinary openness.
Emily Spiers is Lecturer in Creative Futures. Her work focuses on future-oriented, innovative trends in communicative and literary practices. She explores how futures are being envisaged, anticipated and made through art and literature -- and how creative narratives can help articulate multiple futures in fields as diverse as defence, education and climate change.
Her research into authorship focuses on spoken-word poetry as an aesthetic and political practice, and as a world literary phenomenon. Underpinning her work is the question of how, through the presence of the author-performer, performance poetry foregrounds the question of agency in relation to literature: the active shaping of a world in time that literature carries out.
My work encounters and addresses questions about how futures of decarbonised mobility could and should be achieved. My approach is to explore and develop material cultures of future mobility. This involves: an inquisitiveness in the multiple, often mundane materials, which make and shape past, present, emergent and imagined forms of travel and transportation (e.g. painted lines, parked cars, rain, sun and snow, daylight and darkness, landscape and built environment); engaging with and developing theories of practice, the new materialisms, and futures thinking; creating methodologies to follow things-in-practice through the past, present and into the future; and, approaches concerned with emergence, intervention and experimentation (e.g. Interventions in Practices; Parking in Utopia).
Engagement with multiple stakeholders and publics is central to my work. I am one of a panel of five Commissioners on the national Commission on Travel Demand. To date we have produced two influential reports: 'All Change' and 'Shared Mobility: where now, where next?'.
I am Co-I on Lancaster work package in the DecarboN8 network, with Prof. Monika Buscher in CeMoRe (Centre for Mobilities Research). This is a 3 year EPSRC-funded Network Plus (2019-2022) involving eight universities in Northern England, in which we are pioneering a place-based approach to rapid decarbonisation of the transport sector.
In 2016 I founded an international, cross-sector network Everyday Futures. I held a visiting Fellowship on 'Everyday Futures' at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Nov-Dec 2017.