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Future Practices of Data Storage and Data Use - a fully funded PhD in Sociology at Lancaster University

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  • Full or part time
    Prof R Harper
    Dr N Spurling
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

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 hyperbole as well as concern. Nanostructures are 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. In this context, the PhD investigates past, present and future technologies and practices of data storage and data use to explore if a future in which we ‘store everything’ is desirable, and its potential social and environmental implications. The appointed candidate will decide the focus of the PhD in line with their specific interests and enthusiasms. Data storage and use associated with the explosion of social media and apps which now permeate all aspects of everyday life, or in the context of smart cities and digital urban environments would be appropriate topics. Likewise, it would be possible to focus on a specific sector(s), such as education, heritage or health, to explore imaginatively future practices of data storage and use therein. The point though, is to understand the relationships between different configurations of data storage materials and technologies, and practices of data storage and use: from filing cabinets and floppy discs historically, through to cloud computing today, and in imagined futures of quantum data storage.

All these and more are legitimate topics to be investigated in this forward-thinking research project. The appointed candidate will undertake their 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.

Lancaster University is one of the top 10 universities in the UK. The Sociology Department 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 (

The PhD will be supervised by Prof. Richard Harper; and/or Nicola Spurling

How to apply:

A full CV, including two named referees (one of whom should be your most recent academic tutor/supervisor).
A copy of Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree transcript (or copy of equivalent qualifications).
A letter of application (not exceeding two pages of A4) outlining your suitability for a PhD and explaining how you would approach the research.
An example of postgraduate level written work (e.g. a research article, chapter, or essay).

Application information:

Please contact Richard Harper ([Email Address Removed]) or Nicola Spurling ([Email Address Removed]).

Informal enquiries are warmly welcomed.

Funding Notes

The PhD is for 3 years and is awardable to any EU citizen.

Funding includes:

Payment of academic fees.
A Maintenance Stipend (£14,777 pa).
Access to a Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) (£800 pa) for research-related expenses (e.g. conference attendance, training courses and equipment).
Additional research costs (e.g. Fieldwork-related) supported as appropriate.

Candidates must have a Bachelor’s degree at first or upper second class level, and a suitable Master’s degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline.

A background / academic interest in any combination of HCI and computer science, design, sociology, anthropology or related science and technology studies is preferable.

Related Subjects

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