Dr Sam Kinsley
Senior Lecturer in Human Geography

Research

Research interests

Sam’s research pursues geographies of technology, contributing to how we understand the increasing importance of mediating technologies in our lives.  Key here are two themes: how we understand spatial experience and how we understand 'mediation' and technology. Sam's research activity has led to the production of events and activities for creative public engagement with technology development, not least through links with the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol. In 2015 Sam was awarded (jointly) the Progress in Human Geography Best Paper Prize for his article "The matter of 'virtual' geographies". Sam’s research comprises three key strands:

(1) How geography/geographers think 'technology'. In particular, thinking about the simultaneously supportive and disabling capacities of mediating technologies in everyday life. There are three particular empirical and conceptual focuses for this work. First, commitments to particular ideas that take on a currency or power, such as: 'algorithms', ''robots', or 'the digital', are a focus of critical interrogation in Sam's current work. Second, Sam has researched conditions of movement of ideas and performances of spatiality through technically mediated systems (as part of the ‘Contagion’ project), Third, a longer strand of Sam's theoretical work has investigated the various ways in which different forms of automation are said to be commodifying the human capacity for attention. 

(2) Exploring the spatial imaginaries and anticipatory practices of technology development. The current focus of this work is the claims being made for processes of automation (through claims about 'algorithms', 'AI', 'robots' and so on) and the kinds of spaces and spatial experience those processes both are imagined to create andhelp bring into being. Earlier work focused on industrial research and development of ‘ubiquitous computing’ in Silicon Valley California. Sam’s PhD research investigated the rationales and practices for anticipating particular kinds of technological future within research labs. This was extended with a historical case study of a large commercial research project and led to a project for the European Capital of Culture 2012 in Guimarães (Portugal), working with citizens to realise an alternative vision of a ‘smart city’.

(3) Understandings of the materialities that underpin our uses of technology in everyday life. This research focuses on what has been called the technicity of the diverse array of sociotechnical systems we increasingly use in our everyday lives. Emerging work addresses the ways in which sensory capacities are technically trained. Conceptually, this work significantly draws on Sam’s ongoing engagement with the work of the philosophy of technology.

Sam’s research convenes and addresses an audience across geography, in particular bringing together theoretically informed social and cultural geographers and those conducting research broadly associated with a 'digital turn'. His work also critically engages with broad interdisciplinary debates concerning the agency of technologies through the lens of everyday life, the growth of ‘pervasive media’ that adjust according to location and context through a variety of devices and systems, and the growth of discussion about 'automation', all of which extend significantly beyond academe.

Research projects

Contagion - funded by the ESRC from Sept 2013 - March 2015
Contagion investigates the conditions for movement of infectious disease as well as potent ideas.  Using Tardean approaches to bio-sociality, the work uses large databases on influenza and social media as well as investigations of financial analyses to compare contagion within different domains. The work is in conjunction with colleagues at the AHVLA and FSA.

Grants/Funding:

2013 ESRC

Contagion - transforming social analysis and method

2011 British Academy
Computing Futures – institutional cultures of innovation in Silicon Valley

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