Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Making sense of the social world


profile image for Dr Vince Miller

Dr Vince Miller

Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Cultural Studies

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

CNE 103
School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Cornwallis North East
Canterbury , Kent, CT2 7NF


I am a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Cultural Studies at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.

I am interested in four broad themes:

  • The information society, media and new media: Political economy of new media and the concept of “digital capitalism”; “intimacy”, “friendship” and “communication”, the construction of relationships and presentation of self in the post-modern information age and how these are mediated through digital technologies such as the internet and mobile phones
  • Social theory of space. My work here has been influenced by some of the usual suspects in Henri Lefebvre, Foucault, Harvey and the like
  • Belonging, community and forms of association. This interest spans both broad interests in urbanism and ICT. In particular, I'm looking at the ad hoc construction of “we”-ness which emphasises the phenomenology of “belonging” that takes place on a level between the “individual” and “community”, whether in the construction of urban place or in virtual spaces on the internet
  • Theories of urban social change and fragmentation. The developing forms of “gated” lifestyle, ethnic, religious and other enclave communities in contemporary urban space.

For further details, please see my research tab.


I completed my PhD in sociology at Lancaster University (under John Urry and Bulent Diken) and my BA and MA in geography at the University of Alberta, Canada. 

Find me:

On Academia

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

    Miller, Vince A. (2011) Understanding Digital Culture. Sage, London, 264 pp. ISBN 9781847874979.


    This is more than just another book on internet studies. Tracing the pervasive influence of 'digital culture' throughout contemporary life, this text integrates socio-economic understandings of the 'information society' with the cultural studies approach to production, use, and consumption of digital media and multimedia. Refreshingly readable and packed with examples from profiling databases and mashups to cybersex and the truth about social networking, "Understanding Digital Culture": crosses disciplines to give a balanced account of the social, economic and cultural dimensions of the information society; illuminates the increasing importance of mobile, wireless and converged media technologies in everyday life; unpacks how the information society is transforming and challenging traditional notions of crime, resistance, war and protest, community, intimacy and belonging; charts the changing cultural forms associated with new media and its consumption, including music, gaming, microblogging and online identity; and, illustrates the above through a series of contemporary, in-depth case studies of digital culture. This is the perfect text for students looking for a full account of the information society, virtual cultures, sociology of the internet and new media.

    Clough, Roger and Leamy, Mary and Miller, Vince A. et al. (2004) Housing decisions in Later Life. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 256 pp. ISBN 9781403912879.


    Miller, Vince A. (2012) A Crisis of Presence: On-line Culture and Being in the World. Space and Polity, 16 (3). pp. 265-285. ISSN 1356-2576.


    This paper is a discussion about presence and its relationship to ethical and moral behaviour. In particular, it problematises the notion of presence within a contemporary culture in which social life is increasingly lived and experienced through networked digital communication technologies alongside the physical presence of co-present bodies. Using the work of Heidegger, Levinas, Bauman and Turkle (among others), it is suggested that the increasing use of these technologies and our increasing presence in on-line environments challenges our tendencies to ground moral and ethical behaviours in face-to-face or materially co-present contexts. Instead, the mediated presences we can achieve amplify our cultural tendency to objectify the social world and weaken our sense of moral and ethical responsibility to others. In that sense, an important disjuncture exists between the largely liminal space of on-line interactions and the ethical sensibilities of material presence which, as these two spheres become more intensely integrated, has potential consequences for the future of an ethical social world and a civil society. The examples are used of on-line suicides, trolling and cyberbullying to illustrate these ethical disjunctures.

    Miller, Vince A. (2010) Mapping and the colonization of the lifeworld. Lo Squaderno (15). ISSN 1973-9141.


    Many critical theorists from the Frankfurt School onward have echoed Weber’s argument that the development of modern capitalism has been tied to the development of an instrumental rationality in human relations and communication. This view asserts that thinking, planning and action have become more focussed on the most efficient means to achieve a specific end, with little critical reflection on the end itself, or the context in which that end is embedded. In this regard, maps are perhaps the most powerful and pervasive tool of instrumental rationality.

    Miller, Vince A. (2008) New Media, Networking and Phatic Culture. Convergence: The International Journal of Research Into New Media Technologies, 14 (4). pp. 387-400. ISSN 1354-8565.


    This article will demonstrate how the notion of ‘phatic communion’ has become an increasingly significant part of digital media culture alongside the rise of online networking practices. Through a consideration of the new media objects of blogs, social networking profiles and microblogs, along with their associated practices, I will argue, that the social contexts of ‘individualization’ and ‘network sociality’, alongside the technological developments associated with pervasive communication and ‘connected presence’ has led to an online media culture increasingly dominated by phatic communications. That is, communications which have purely social (networking) and not informational or dialogic intents. I conclude with a discussion of the potential nihilistic consequences of such a culture.

    Miller, Vince A. (2006) The unmappable: vagueness and spatial experience. Space and Culture, 9 (4). pp. 453-467. ISSN 12063312.


    This article contributes to current discussions of the spatial inspired by complexity theories that emphasize the multiple and relational qualities of space. It introduces the concept of vagueness and “vague objects” and relates these to spatial theory through the intersubjective theory of Alfred Schutz. The author argues that a consideration of vagueness, especially as constructed in Schutz’s version of intersubjectivity, can provide insights (outside complexity theorizations) into the continuous and multivalent nature of social space and the relationships between spatial experience, practice, representation, and power.

    Miller, Vince A. (2005) Intertextuality, the referential illusion and the production of a gay ghetto. Social & Cultural Geography, 6 (1). pp. 61-79. ISSN 1464-93651.


    This paper challenges Lefebvre’s distinction between Representations of Space and Spaces of Representation. Most current work in this area has assumed modernist conceptions of power, thereby interpreting representations of space (conceived space) as the property of the powerful who alone possess the ability to abstract space for their particular ends. Contrary to Lefebvre, I suggest that representation and abstraction are not the agents of state capitalism alone but are also manifested in ‘counter’ discourses. As an example of a ‘counter discourse’ I draw upon a series of editorial articles written in a local gay-oriented newspaper about a gay enclave in Vancouver, Canada. I argue that these depictions cloud the distinctions as practised between conception, abstraction and the imaginary in urban space. They also serve to promote one interpretation of space above others, and in that sense they colonize the experience of everyday life in their own way. The act of ‘speaking for’ presupposes a certain power, and in these cases, highlights the fact that the power of representation and abstraction does not only occur at the state or ‘system’ level. I suggest that by overcoming the assumption of a zero-sum ontology of power, one can see how a variety of agents in the urban context engage in the attempt to carve out their ‘own’ spaces of stability in the urban social imaginary.

    Miller, Vince A. (2004) Mobile Chinatowns: the future of community in a space of flows. Electronic Journal of Social Issues, 2 (1). ISSN 1474-2918.


    In recent urban studies literature, it has been recognised that ethnic settlements in cities have undergone significant transformations, largely as a result of the 'globalisation' process. The term ethnoburb, for example, has begun to be used recently in reference to new suburban Chinese settlements in North American cities (particularly Los Angeles). These settlements have proved to be quantitatively different from traditional 'Chinatowns' in a number of ways. While accepting this new model of the Chinese ethnoburb (Li 1998), this paper goes on to ask how these changes, resulting largely from globalisation, and the rise of transnationalism and cosmopolitanism, impact on the experience of this new space of immigration. That is, how is living and being in an ethnoburb different from living in a Chinatown? Through the use of in-depth interview data of Chinese-Canadian residents and users of the Richmond, British Columbia Chinese ethnoburb, I argue in this paper that the fundamental experiential characteristic of the Chinese ethnoburb is one of mobility (Urry 2000), which results in a fundamentally different ethnic social space, characterised by the experience of movement and the ability to be 'elsewhere'. In this sense, Richmond can be seen as a 'space of flows' rather that an 'ethnic enclave'. This is illustrated through and an examination of the mobilities of bodies, objects, and imaginations within the 'space' of the Richmond ethnoburb.

Book Sections

    Miller, Vince A. (2009) Social and cultural geography: gay geographies. In: Thrift, Nigel and Kitchin, Rob The International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Elsevier Science Ltd, Oxford. ISBN 978-0080449111.


    In past centuries, extreme prejudice and repression meant that gay life was restricted to only the largest cities, and to clandestine networks of private and public spaces which were largely unknown to ‘straight’ society. However, the urbanization process of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the social and legal reforms of the late 1960s onward, have allowed spaces which are much more visibly oriented to the gay community to develop. These spaces have now become an increasingly common feature within the inner areas of medium-sized and larger cities of North America, Europe and Australasia, as well as the largest cities of South America and Asia.

    Carney, Phil and Miller, Vince A. (2009) Vague Spaces. In: Jansson, Andre and Lagerkvist, Amanda Strange Spaces: Explorations into Mediated Obscurity. Ashgate, Farnham, pp. 33-56. ISBN 9780754674610.


    Strange Spaces Explorations into Mediated Obscurity; Certain bizarre spaces, where disruption or disarray rule, leave us estranged and 'out of place'. This book examines such spaces, highlighting the emotional and mediated geographies of uncertainty and in-betweeness; of cognitive displacement, loss, fear, or exhilaration. It expands on why space is sometimes estranging and for whom it is strange. Overlapping with affections evoked by otherness, such as the 'exile', the 'obscene', the 'deviant', or the 'queer', strange spaces also call for a separate discussion ranging from decadence or disorder to spaces glowing with celebrification and wonder. Strange spaces in this book are conceived of in terms of change; involving processes when the consciousness registers a form of loss or difference as the habitual suddenly, or by degrees, is transformed into the site of exile, discomfort and sometimes novelty, astonishment and awe. While literature exists which covers both strangeness and spatial production, as well as empirical explorations of strange spaces, these have previously been dispersed and most often non-explicit. This book is the first to link such work within a profound theoretical discussion of 'what is strange about strange spaces' and how they evolve in a modern media age.

    Miller, Vince A. (2009) The Internet and everyday life. In: Jewkes, Yvonne and Yar, Majid Handbook of Internet Crime. Taylor & Francis Ltd. ISBN 9781843925231.

    Miller, Vince A. (2004) Stitching the Web into Global Capitalism: two stories. In: Gauntlett, David Web.Studies: Rewiring Media Studies for the Digital Age. Arnold/Oxford University Press, London and New York, pp. 171-184.

    Miller, Vince A. (2000) Search engines, portals and global capitalism. In: Gauntlett, David Web.Studies: Rewiring Media Studies for the Digital Age. Arnold/Oxford University Press, London, pp. 113-121. ISBN 0340760494.


    This chapter examines the claim made by Michael Dawson and John Bellamy-Foster that the Internet will fail to produce a perfect marketplace. Their claim lies in the political and economic history of communications, an indistry increasingly dominated by oligopoly. They believe that the information highway will be no exception to this trend, especially considering its increasing attractiveness to global capital. My argument is that within the development of portals and search engines, we can see Foster and Dawson's thesis played out. These companies show how the development of the Internet has been one of commercial interests, how they have the potential to be powerful marketing tools and how thier continuing financial saga is evidence of a trend towards oligopoly on the information highway.

    Miller, Vince A. and Valentine, Jeremy (1998) What happens if nothing happens? Staging Euro '96. In: Merkel, Udo and Lines, Gill and McDonald, Ian The Production and Consumption of Sport Cultures. Leisure Studies Association, Brighton, pp. 89-109. ISBN 0906337720.


    This paper critically engages with perspectives on globalisation, and the globalisation of sport in particular, in the light of research conducted on the European football championships held in England in the summer of 1996 (Euro '96). Our research focusses on two aspects of Euro '96. Firstly, we indicate the problems and sucesses entailed in the attempt to intervene on the English football 'imaginaire' in order to structure subjectivity around the event. Secondly, we investigate the relationships between the organisers and one of the localities, Manchester, in which the event was staged, and where antagonistic relationships between local organisers and international governing bodies led to a series of tactical semiotic moves on the part of Manchester local authorities to carve out a share of sponsorship revenues from the event, while international football governing bodies followed a strategy of having the burden of the costs distributed down to localities like Manchester, while securing for thermselves large profits through exclusive sponsorship deals.

Edited Books
Total publications in KAR: 16 [See all in KAR]
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Research interests

My current research interests focus on four broad themes: 

  • The information society, media and new media: Political economy of new media and the concept of “digital capitalism”; “intimacy’, “friendship” and “communication”, the construction of relationships and presentation of self in the post-modern information age and how these are mediated through digital technologies such as the internet and mobile phones. One result of this work has been my discussion that new media technologies, and in particular social networking and microblogging sites, are a symptom of the development of a "phatic" media culture. 
  • Social theory of space: My work here has been influenced by some of the usual suspects in Henri Lefebvre, Foucault, Harvey and the like. However, from my PhD onward I have been looking at a number of ways to integrate the sociological phenomenology of Alfred Schutz (and other approaches influenced by pragmatism) into Lefevre's characterisation of “spaces of representation”, which I find to be the most enigmatic part of his work. This has led me to build upon a notion of “vagueness”  and the practices associated with it (such as wandering, rambling, borderless existence), as political activities that run counter to the hegemonic powers of modernity, opening up possibilities for other forms of space and practice.
  • Belonging, community and forms of association: This interest spans both broad interests in urbanism and ICT. In particular, I'm looking at the ad hoc construction of “we”-ness which emphasises the phenomenology of “belonging” that takes place on a level between the “individual” and “community”, whether in the construction of urban place or in virtual spaces on the internet. To this end, I have been writing and presenting papers on “resonance” and “presence” recently.
  • Theories of urban social change and fragmentation: The developing forms of “gated” lifestyle, ethnic, religious and other enclave communities in contemporary urban space. The social impacts of networks, as well as intra-urban and inter-urban mobility (air travel, mobile classes, global cities) on individual identity, and community.


My current focus is on what I am referring to as “the crisis of presence in contemporary society”. I hope to present a monograph on this in the next year or two.

I am also working on a theory of “resonance” and have presented in a few venues. This work has been submitted and with hopefully be published soon.

Recently, I received a small faculty grant from the University of Kent for a project entitled “The North-West London Eruv”. I conducted a number of interviews among members of the Orthodox Jewish community inside the Eruv boundary who observe the Eruv. Some preliminary work on this can be seen in this book: 'Strange Spaces: Explorations into Mediated Obscurity'. Ashgate (2009).


I’ve worked on a number of research projects, the largest one being 'Biographies of Cultural Objects' with Scott Lash, Celia Lury, Dan Shapiro and Dede Boden.

This project was funded by the ESRC within its “Media Economies and Media Cultures” programme. The aim was to track the shifts, transformations and transactions which characterise the globalised context of contemporary cultural production. We examined in detail the transformations of several mediated cultural objects and these included the Euro’96 European football championships, the Wallace and Gromit film series, Trainspotting, Nike, Swatch, the internet, and contemporary British art. Methods included in-depth interviewing, participant observation, and visual (photographic and video and internet) data analysis.

The results of this project can be seen in the book 'Global Culture Industry: The Mediation of Things', by Scott Lash and Celia Lury (Polity, 2007) and available here

While at Lancaster University, I worked on “Housing Decisions in Later Life” with Roger Clough and Mary Leamy in the Department of Applied Social Science.

The project was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and focused on people's housing pathways after retirement age. We examined whether differences in decision-making and satisfaction are accounted for by a series of socio-economic and health variables. While the emphasis was mostly qualitative, concentrating on the process of decision-making and on the perspective of individuals' accounts of their housing careers since retirement, a number of research methods were employed: interviews, auto-biographical stories, focus-groups and a large mail-out survey questionnaire. 

The results of this project can be seen in Housing Decisions in Later Life (2004) Clough, R.; Leamy, M.; Miller, V; Bright, L. Basingstoke: Palgrave/Macmillan. 


I currently supervise a number of PhD students on a variety of topics, largely within my research areas of urban studies or digital culture. Below is a list of PhD students of which I play a major part in supervision:

  • K. Newby: “Facebook, Friendship and Recognition: Everyday Impression Management Online and its Real Life Consequences” (with Frank Furedi)
  • J. Ward: “Urban Development and the Precarity of Cultural Work” (with Phil Hubbard).
  • D. Yates: “Identity and East Street Market, South London” (with Balihar Sanghera).
  • G. Amadei: “The Evolving Paradigm of the Victorian Necropolis” (with Gordana Fontana-Gusti in Architecture)
  • P. Ramingwong: “Social Integration of Thai Urban Ethnic Minorities” (with Miri Song).
  • Z. Kontaxi: “The Socio-Political Construction of Terrorist Threat in Post 9/11 Olympic Environment” (Awarded 2011, with Frank Furedi).

I also play a minor role in the supervision of several other PhD students here in the SSPSSR, and have supervised many MA theses in the past on a wide variety of topics.


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I currently convene SO657: Digital Culture

I also teach on a number of modules within all areas of the school, including Sociology (Sociology Part 1; Research Methods), Cultural Studies (Part 1), Criminology (Crime, Media and Culture; Crime, Culture, Control), and postgraduate (Secondary and Qualitative Research, Current Problems in Sociology and Contemporary Social Theory)


I have convened the following modules:

  • Information Society and Digital Culture
  • Globalisation
  • Urban Sociology
  • Qualitative Methods (postgrad)
  • Current Problems in Sociology
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In August 2010, I was hired as a consultant speaker by London-based marketing company Skyrite to discuss the potential of social media to a large group of marketers and well-known brands.

In 2006, I worked on a consultancy project, together with Frank Furedi, with French telecom company Orange to investigate the phenomenon of blogging.


I have been a frequent peer reviewer for ESRC funding applications for the last four years, primarily on urban studies-related applications, and I have refereed articles for many journals including: The British Journal of Sociology; The European Journal of Social Theory; Ethnicities; Space & Culture; Convergence: The International Journal for Research into New Media Technologies; Continuum: The Journal of Media and Cultural Studies; and Social & Cultural Geography.

Media appearances

In the past three years, I have appeared on a number of radio programmes including BBC’s The Today Programme and Nightwaves, as well as other more local BBC programmes, Irish radio, and local Kent radio (KMFM).

In 2009, I appeared in two learning documentaries (“ICT’s and Business”, and “ICT’s and Society”) for the production company TV Choice and alos here:

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Websites of interest in this field:

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Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 26/01/2015