I am a scientist, academic and public engagement researcher who studies how new technologies shape us and how we in turn shape our technologies. I have written 19 books and collections and published over 220 scientific articles on topics ranging from the social impact and design of mobile phones, the future of search engines, to the latest incarnation of artificial intelligence. My H-index fluctuates at about 64. I invent as well, and have filed 27 of patents on a variety of new concepts including secure cloud-based interaction devices, mobile communication apps, wearable security systems and family life appliances. I regularly speak to the public, and to the research and business communities on all aspects of the Digital Society.
By way of background, I have led research teams at Xerox and Microsoft, and became the UK’s first professor of socio-digital systems when I was the director of The Digital World Research Centre at the University of Surrey. I am currently Director of the Centre for Material Social Futures at Lancaster University. This entails looking at the relationship between new material forms and the social arrangements they enable. Key to this research is seeking a balance between material possibility and environmental impact. I also lead the Future Places Centre, which is looking at how digital tools can enable us to better understand the way we shape our landscapes. When not researching for these, I also consult through Social Shaping Research, Ltd. I am a Fellow of the IEEE and of the Royal Society of Arts, and the ACM elected me a Fellow of its Academy in honour of leadership in the field of Human-Computer Interaction. I am a Visiting Professor in the College of Science at the University of Swansea, Wales.
I live in Cambridge and in Kirkby Lonsdale, North Yorks, I am married and have three children, the last of whom is still at University. I have published one auto-fiction book, The Scent of a Pool (Pegasus)
My academic books include the IEEE award winning Myth of the Paperless Office (with Abi Sellen, MIT Press: 2003) The Financial Times said this was the “only book worth reading on office technology that year” (2003). My 2011 book Texture looked at how the technologies of communication shapes how we express. Texture was the Association of Internet Researcher’s ‘book of the year’. Choice, examined everyday choice-making activities and considers these in light of scientific theories about the mechanics of the ‘mind’. Skyping the Family, an edited collection looking at how video connections are shaping the experience of domestic life. Essays on this and other topics can be found in my blog. I am currently working on 'The Shape of Thought'. (McGill Press) looking at the impact and role of AI, including the latest large language models begind such technologies as ChatGPT.
Recent papers have looked at Wittgenstein and communications technology; at the use of AI in affecting people's actions on the web; the future of HCI in the age of AI; and futures thinking about AI.
These and some sample chapters from these books can be found on the linked pages to the left).
My public engagements reflect the diversity of my publications. I have addressed the Scottish Parliament on culture and technology; lectured at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, on philosophy and society, and explored the social impact of mobile phones at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. I have spoken alongside the Second Sea Lord on how to design for ‘digital warriors’ at RUSSI, Whitehall, and ‘conversed’ on the subject of time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. As we move into an era of AI, the relationship between our technologies and our sense of self is something I have spoken on in the unlikely setting of Disneyworld, Florida.
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