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.
Room CNE 116
Cornwallis North East
University of Kent
Kent CT2 7NF
Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
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
- Urban Sociology
- Qualitative Methods (postgrad)
- Current Problems in Sociology
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.
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 also here: