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PhD Studentship - The Future of Data Storage and the Future of Data Need: a PhD in Design and HCI

Lancaster University

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Lancaster
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Not Specified
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 31st January 2019
Closes: 31st May 2019

To start: October 2019

Deadline for Applications: Friday May 31st 2019

This is a call for applications for a three-year fully funded PhD studentship for UK and EU citizens in the Leverhulme Trust PhD Centre in Material Social Futures at Lancaster University.

Topic: The invention of new materials, such as nanostructures, has created much hyperbole as well as concern. Nanostructures are in the size range of 1 to 100 nm; minute beyond everyday understanding yet capable, in theory at least, of being assembled into new shapes and structures. In the computing industry, these structures are expected to be revolutionary; offering, amongst other things, the promise of quantum data storage. What does this mean for design? This characteristic affects not just the way data might be stored and encrypted but the scale of data storage and the way we might design products, services, and places. Indeed, with nanotechnology, manufacturers might be able to produce data storage materials at costs that are so low that the data storage becomes virtually free. However, and as any economist would observe, when the value of a commodity becomes almost nil, demand for it is likely to become infinitely large. In this case, users (whether individuals, companies or governments) might stop asking why they want to store data or what they want to do with it once stored, and instead start saving everything – irrespective of worth or value. Indeed, with ‘nano-data-storage’, the world might become flooded with ‘digital dirt’.

What is the role of design for speculating how such material social futures may emerge? How can design enable us to understand whether this ‘store everything’ future is desirable? What opportunities are there to experiment with alternative futures and how might design support the production of different scenarios through different methods, for example: design fiction? How might design and HCI enable us to explore different behaviours concerning the purpose and value of nano-storage? Indeed, how will people interact with data storage? What are the design questions in this space? All these and more are legitimate topics to be investigated in this forward-thinking research project. The appointed candidate will participate in and contribute to a multi-stranded research programme in Material Social Futures in which the future of data storage and data need is one important part.

The Leverhulme PhD Training Centre for Material Social Futures brings together concepts and approaches from across the disciplines to help produce futures that people want and the world needs. The doctoral training is a major new strategic collaborative partnership between the vibrant research community of the University’s Institutes.  for Social Futures ( and the Materials Science Institute ( And ImaginationLancaster (


The PhD will be supervised by Prof Nick Dunn,; and Prof. Richard Harper Informal enquiries are warmly welcomed, please contact us.

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