PhD in Material Social Futures: The History and Future of Data Storage and Data Use

Lancaster University - Sociology Department

This is a call for applications for a three year fully funded Leverhulme Material Social Futures PhD studentship in the Sociology Department at Lancaster University.

The Leverhulme centre for Material Social Futures

Lancaster University’s Leverhulme Doctoral Training Centre in Material Social Futures is a major new strategic collaborative partnership between two of the university’s recently formed research Institutes – the Institute for Social Futures and the Material Science Institute. Based in the Sociology Department you will be part of a growing team of PhDs who will examine how to create more sustainable and socially beneficial futures, and who will work to bring together concepts and approaches from science and technology studies, material culture and the sociology of everyday practice with processes of materials discovery. In short, the goal of PhDs in Material Social Futures at Lancaster University will be to help produce futures that people want and the world needs.

Lancaster University is one of the top 10 universities in the UK. The Sociology Department http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/sociology/ was ranked 1st in the UK for research intensity in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2014), recognizing its inclusive approach and world-leading research. The project will also benefit from access to the vibrant research community of Lancaster’s Institute for Social Futures (http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/social-futures/)

Background

We live in a world where technology is developing at a pace previously unseen. Individuals and institutions produce more and more information and use it in ever more subtle ways, for example, and this, in turn, is creating demand for ever smaller, more powerful computing devices. Manufacturers of these devices search for new materials that can revolutionize the storage of this information, making it smaller, cheaper, more powerful. Nanotechnology offers one way forward to achieve these goals. Yet these manufacturers, just like these institutions and individuals, are not always fully aware of the ecological and social consequences that this demand for more data, more storage and new materials, might produce.

This PhD

In response, this PhD investigates the relation between innovations in data storage technology material and questions of what ‘data’ is, why and how it is stored, accessed and even forgotten. Its concerns are at once sociological and material, social and environmental, though in this PhD the emphasis is on the social. It will focus on exploring different configurations of technology, data and storage in the past, present and future – from filing cabinets and floppy discs historically, through to cloud computing today, and in the imagined future of quantum data storage which nanotechnology anticipates. To enquire into this, the PhD project will draw on innovative combinations of concepts and methods and team-based collaborations with PhDs in nanotechnology and data storage that will allow explorations of different configurations of data storage materials (such as nanotechnology) and data use. It will enable analysis of anticipated and less certain or predictable social and environmental consequences of these diverse configurations of use and material technology. Ultimately these potentially exciting conceptual and empirical understandings will be brought together to shed new light on the consequences of such advancements in material science.

For further details and information on how to apply please visit:

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

Northern England