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The Future of Data Storage and the Future of Data Need - a fully funded PhD in Human Computer Interaction at Lancaster University

Lancaster University

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Lancaster
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Fully funded
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 14th June 2019
Closes: 16th August 2019

To start: October 2019
Deadline for Applications: August 16th 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 Training Centre in Material Social Futures at Lancaster University.

Topic: The invention of new materials, such as nanostructures, has created much excitement as well as concern. Nanostructures are in the size range of 1 to 100 nm; minute beyond everyday understanding and capable 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. This affects not just the way data might be stored and encrypted but the scale of data storage. 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 cost 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’. Is this ‘store everything’ future desirable? If not, why not? What is the alternative? Besides, is this ‘digital dirt’ scenario misrepresenting how users might leverage nano-storage? Their behaviours might be affected by, for example, innovative design that makes them think differently about purpose and value. New forms of HCI might be enabled. Indeed, how will people interact with data storage? ‘Digital housework’ that involves clearing out unwanted data might become a norm.

All these and more are legitimate topics to be investigated in this forward-thinking research project. The appointed candidate will undertake their PhD research alongside PhDs researching the materials science aspects of this topic, in particular related to the devising of nano-scale data storage materials. These and other PhDs will all be members of and participants in a multi-stranded PhD research training programme in Material Social Futures. The future of data storage and data need is one important part of this programme.

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 Institute for Social Futures ( and the Materials Science Institute ( Lancaster University is one of the top 10 universities in the UK.

The PhD will be supervised by Prof. Richard Harper; and/or Dr Bran Knowles and /or Dr Mark Rouncefield

Informal enquiries are warmly welcomed, please contact;; or

Application Information: Please send enquiries about the vacancy and applications by email to Richard Harper (

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