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Message posted on 08/02/2019

The Future of Data Storage and the Future of Data Need: a PhD in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) - Material Social Futures, Lancaster University

                The Future of Data Storage and the Future of Data Need: a PhD in Human 

Computer Interaction (HCI)

To start: October 2019

Deadline for Applications: Friday, March 29th, 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 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. 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 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’. This is to put it colourfully,
but 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 Mark Rouncefield:

Further Details
- The PhD is for 3 years duration and is awardable to any EU citizen;
- Payment of academic fees;
- A Maintenance Stipend (£14,777 pa);
- Access to a Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) (£800 pa) for
reimbursement of research-related expenses including – but not limited
to – conference attendance, training courses and equipment.
- Additional research costs (such as entailed in fieldwork) will be
supported as appropriate;
- Access to a range of training and development provided by Lancaster
University, the Material Social Futures PhD Programme, and the Institute
for Social Futures and the Materials Science Institute;
- The Material Social Futures PhD programme will offer optional
internships (including international placements) in the second and or
third year of training.

Person Specification:
- Candidates will preferably have a background and academic interest in
any combination of HCI and computer science, sociology, anthropology or
related science and technology studies;
- Candidates must have qualifications of the standard of Bachelor’s
degree at first or upper second class level, and may also benefit from
having a suitable Master’s degree or equivalent (or will have completed
a Master’s degree by the starting date October 2019) in a relevant

Application Information: Please send enquiries about the vacancy and
applications by email to Richard Harper (r.harper@lancaster/ac/uk) or
Mark Rouncefield (

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).

Email applications to either of the supervisors above.

Deadline: March 29th 2019

Candidates invited for an interview will be eligible to claim reasonable
UK travel expenses to attend.

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