Dr Matt Watson

Department of Geography

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography

Director of Research

Matt Watson
M.Watson@Sheffield.ac.uk
+44 114 222 7911

Full contact details

Dr Matt Watson
Department of Geography
Room F9
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
Sheffield
S3 7ND
Profile

Matt Watson’s work is concerned with understanding social change in relation to sustainability, through a focus on everyday life and the socio-technical systems that shape it. His research and writing engage with geographical and sociological theories of practice, materiality and everyday life and have covered issues relating to biodiversity, waste, food, mobility and energy.

Matt joined the department as a Lecturer in 2007 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2013. He gained a BSc in Geography from the University of Edinburgh. After a couple of years trying other things, he returned to higher education with an ESRC funded Masters in Society, Science and Nature at Lancaster University. This led on to an ESRC funded collaborative and interdisciplinary PhD, working with the National Trust and supervised across the Centre for Science Studies and the Unit of Vegetation Science at Lancaster University. After the PhD he worked part time as an Associate Lecturer for the Open University while being a full-time father, before a series of postdoctoral research jobs at Durham University.

Research interests

My work engages and develops practice theory to develop insights into shifting social practices to reduce resource consumption. Humanity each year is using around 150% of the resources the earth can produce each year, with the world’s relatively wealthy disproportionately responsible. Getting resource demand within sustainable limits and fairly distributed will take radical changes to everyday life and ideas of good living, and so will require changes to the social processes and structures which shape everyday life. Through my research, I seek to develop and work with practice theory and related approaches, to produce and communicate new insights into broader social change.

Different projects have covered issues relating to biodiversity, waste, food, mobility and energy, and involved interdisciplinary collaborations across History, Design, Architecture, Planning, Sociology, Physics, Engineering and more. Reflecting motivations to inform change, I have worked with a range of partners outside of the academy – see projects below for some examples.

Recent research

Change points

I led a team of researchers across Universities of Sheffield and Manchester, which is engaged with a range of partners, including Defra, Food Standards Agency, WRAP, WWF. Together we collaboratively developed a new approach to developing interventions to reduce resource use in the home.  This approach, called Change Points, draws on insights from social practice research to inform a workshop toolkit that enables the development of new insights into the diverse relations that come to shape household energy use, as a basis for identifying new sites of intervention. The work has been funded by the ESRC, most recently via University of Manchester and University of Sheffield Impact Accelerator awards.

This approach developed from ideas and insights generated by two funded research projects on the Nexus at Home (see below).

Redefining Single-Use Plastics

I was co-investigator on this major interdisciplinary project which is stimulated creative thinking across disciplines and explored novel social and technical solutions to the challenges of plastics. See more on the project at its web site.

Reshaping the domestic nexus

This was a project I led, bringing together academics from leading research groups with policy partners in DECC, DEFRA, FSA and Waterwise. The researchers are from research groups which have been at the forefront of new ways of understanding how householders’ routine activities end up demanding resources, including of energy, food and water. This project’s purpose is to make that understanding useful for informing actual policy processes with our policy partners. The project is funded by the ESRC Nexus Network.

The Domestic Nexus: interrogating the interlinked practices of water, energy and food consumption 

I was lead for this collaborative network across the Universities of Sheffield (Prof Peter Jackson and Dr Liz Sharpe) and Manchester (Prof Dale Southerton, Prof Alan Warde, Dr David Evans and Dr Alison Browne). It was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council Nexus Network, as a programme of workshops and other activities involving academics and non-academics through late 2015. It brought together prominent researchers taking a practice theory approach to understanding domestic resource consumption, to consider the implications of the ‘nexus’ concept currently apparent in research funding priorities across UK councils. The final report is available here.

DEMAND: Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand

The Demand centre advanced understanding of the processes and dynamics through which energy demand is constituted, and identify the opportunities for tackling it. The centre was a collaboration across of 9 academic institutions, led by Lancaster University, with non-academic partners including the European Centre and Laboratories for Energy Efficiency Research, the International Energy Agency and Transport for London. It was funded with £5m from the Research Councils UK Energy Programme for 5 years from summer 2013. I was co-investigator in the centre, and led the University of Sheffield’s contribution to it.

Publications

Books

  • Jackson P, Brembeck H, Coles, B , Fuentes, M , Gong Q, Lee R, Meah A, Milne R, Piper N, Watson M & Wenzer J (2013) Food Words: essays in culinary culture. London: Bloomsbury. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shove E, Pantzar M & Watson M (2012) The Dynamics of Social Practice: Everyday Life and How it Changes. London: Sage. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shove E, Watson M, Hand M & Ingram J (2007) The Design of Everyday Life. Oxford: Berg Publishers. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles

Chapters

  • Chiles P, Krzywoszynska A, Holmes H, Buckley A, Watson M & Mawyin J (2021) The place and space of power: Mess, uncertainty and change over time, Enabling the City: Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Encounters in Research and Practice (pp. 48-63). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M (2020) Waste Management, International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (pp. 225-231). Elsevier RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shove E, Watson M & Trentmann F (2018) Infrastructures in Practice: A Word on the Future In Shove E & Trentmann F (Ed.), Infrastructures in Practice: The Dynamics of Demand in Networked Societies (pp. 224-330). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shove E, Trentmann F & Watson M (2018) Introduction - infrastructures in practice: The evolution of demand in networked societies, Infrastructures in Practice: The Dynamics of Demand in Networked Societies (pp. 3-9). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shove E, Trentmann F & Watson M (2018) Introduction – infrastructures in practice, Infrastructures in Practice (pp. 3-9). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shove E, Watson M & Trentmann F (2018) Infrastructures in practice, Infrastructures in Practice (pp. 210-215). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson MT (2016) Placing Power in Practice Theory In Hui A, Schatzki T & Shove E (Ed.), The Nexus of Practices: Connections, constellations and practitioners London: Routledge. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson MT (2013) Building future systems of velomobility In Shove E & Spurling N (Ed.), Sustainable practice: social theory and climate change London: Sage. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M & Lane R (2011) Mapping geographies of reuse in Sheffield and Melbourne In Lane R & Gorman-Murray A (Ed.), Material Geographies of Household Sustainability (pp. 133-156). Farnham: Ashgate. RIS download Bibtex download
  • () Routledge Handbook on Consumption Routledge RIS download Bibtex download

Conference proceedings papers

  • Mawyin J, Krzywoszynska A, Gregson N, Holmes H, Chiles P, Lidzey D & Watson M (2014) Development of community led renewable energy projects. Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings MRS Fall Meeting. Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Meah A & Watson M (2011) What does provenance bring to the table? Why it sometimes matters where foods come from in domestic provisioning. Annual Meeting. Washington DC RIS download Bibtex download
  • Meah A & watson M (2010) Anxiety in the kitchen? managing conflicting concerns about food safety and waste. SOAS Food Studies Centre. London RIS download Bibtex download
  • Meah A & Watson M (2010) Anxiety in the Kitchen? A cross-generational study of the making of domestic kitchen practices. .. London RIS download Bibtex download

Reports

  • Foden M, Browne A, Evans D, Sharp L & Watson M (2019) Food waste, food safety and kitchen practices: implications for policy and intervention RIS download Bibtex download
  • Hoolohan C, Browne A, Evans D, Foden M, Sharp L & Watson M (2018) Change Points: A toolkit for designing interventions that unlock unsustainable practices RIS download Bibtex download
  • Foden M, Browne A, Evans D, Sharp L & Watson M (2017) Energy use, flexibility and domestic food practices: implications for policy and intervention RIS download Bibtex download
  • Foden M, Browne A, Evans D, Sharp L & Watson M (2017) Food waste and kitchen practices: implications for policy and intervention RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M, Foden M, Browne A, Evans D & Sharp L (2017) Fats, oils, grease and kitchen practices: implications for policy and intervention RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M, Browne A, Evans D, Foden M & Sharp L (2017) Final report for the Reshaping the Domestic Nexus project RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M, Browne A, Evans D, Jackson P, Sharp L, Southerton D & Warde A (2016) The Domestic Nexus: interrogating the interlinked practices of water, energy and food consumption RIS download Bibtex download
  • Holmes H, Buckley A, Chiles P, Gregson N, Krzywoszynska AD, Mawyin J & Watson M (2015) Interdisciplinary toolkit: Getting the most from interdisciplinarity View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M (2008) Review of literature and research on public attitudes, perceptions and behaviour relating to remanufactured, repaired and reused products RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M (2008) Inquiry Based Learning and University Geography Teaching RIS download Bibtex download
  • Medd W, Watson M, Olsen E & Hopkins P (2007) Cultural diversity, social practice and sustainable water management RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M & Shove E (2006) Materialising consumption: products, projects and the dynamics of practice RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bulkeley H, Askins K, Watson M, Hudson R & Weaver P (2005) Governing waste sustainably – challenges and opportunities, Final project report RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M & Bulkeley H (2004) Governing sustainable waste management: interim findings summary RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M & Bulkeley H (2004) Governing sustainable waste management, Newcastle case study report RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M & Bulkeley H (2004) Governing sustainable waste management, Durham case study report RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bulkeley H, Watson M, Hudson R & Weaver P (2004) The governance of municipal waste management. Working paper RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bulkeley H & Watson M (2004) Governing sustainable waste management, Stockton case study report RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shove E, Southerton D, Watson M & Blyth S (2003) Folder of ideas for the Unilever workshop on toothbrushes and toothbrushing RIS download Bibtex download

Website content

  • Shove E & Watson M (2015) No more meters? Let’s make energy a service, not a commodity. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Blue S, Shove E & Watson M Matt Watson on Power. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M & Southerton D Multi-Level Perspective and Theories of Practice: a mistaken controversy?. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M & De Coninck F Changing behaviour for a low-carbon future. RIS download Bibtex download

Theses / Dissertations

  • Watson M (2001) Knowledge, practice and materiality. Making place in nature reserves. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M (1997) Science and Authenticity: Reforestation of Scotland as Discourse Coalition. RIS download Bibtex download

Working papers

  • Watson M (2015) Built stuff and systems of practice. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M (2014) Placing power in practice theories. DEMAND working paper, 6. RIS download Bibtex download

Dictionary/encyclopaedia entries

  • Watson M (2009) Waste Management. In International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography. Oxford: Elsevier. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson MT Do-it-yourself. In International Encyclopedia of Housing and Home (Vol 1) Elsevier. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson MT Appropriation. In Encyclopaedia of Consumer Culture (Vol 1) Sage. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson MT Household Waste Recycling. In International Encyclopedia of Housing and Home (Vol 3) Elsevier. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson MT Do it yourself. In Encyclopaedia of Consumer Culture (Vol 1) Sage. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson MT De-skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling. In Encyclopaedia of Consumer Culture. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson MT Ordinary Consumption. In Encyclopaedia of Consumer Culture (Vol 2) Sage. RIS download Bibtex download

Other

  • Watson M (2001) Nature Contested. Environmental History in Scotland and Northern England since 1600. T C Smout., 26(2), 181-182. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watson M (1999) Political Theory and Ecological Values, Tim Hayward 1999, 6(4), 444-445. RIS download Bibtex download
Teaching interests

In much of my teaching, the topics, concepts and knowledge which I help students learn about are related to my own research on themes of sustainability, governing, technologies and consumption. Through modules like Consumption and Sustainability or Confronting the Anthropocene, a key aim is to engage students critically with big geographical themes, like climate change, food security, wellbeing and social justice, and with contemporary ways of thinking about them, by reflecting upon their own lives as members of the society which produces and responds to these challenges.

I taught with Open University, Lancaster University and Durham University before arriving in Sheffield. In addition to topical teaching like that above, I have taught research methods from 1st year undergraduate through to PhD training. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Teaching activities

Consumption and Sustainability

I convene this third year module, which critically engages both ‘consumption’ and ‘sustainability’ and work with key debates and approaches that help us to understand what produces and maintains patterns of consumption.

Confronting the Anthropocene

This third year module, which I convene, explores the critical, contested and controversial debates about environmental and ecological issues framed by the problematic of the Anthropocene. Using a range of examples of research undertaken by staff in the department from a variety of different countries this module develops a critical geographical approach to understanding environmental controversies.

Nepal Field Class

This Masters module takes an international group of students for a 12 day field class in Nepal. At the core of the field class is 5 days primary research by students, working in small groups with a Nepali research colleague and local guides, to research topics like maternal health, migration or forestry with communities in Dhading district. I have written an account of leading one of these field classes here.

Professional activities

I have been invited to advise national and international governmental and non-governmental organisations, recently including the G7, the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (to inform the UK Net Zero Strategy), the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee.

I am pleased to have had a lead role – as chair of a University Task and Finish group on travel decarbonisation – in shaping the University’s ambitious Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan.

I have provided peer review and have served in reporting and advisory roles for national and international research councils including the European Commission, UK Economic and Social Research Council, the UK Research Councils’ Energy Programme, Research Council of Norway, Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences, the Leverhulme Trust and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. I am a member of the EPSRC Peer Review College, and I am a registered expert with the European Commission.

I have been a PhD external examiner for international Universities including Stockholm University (Sweden) Aalborg University (Denmark), Copenhagen University (Denmark), Aalto University (Finland) and RMIT (Australia) as well as Manchester and Lancaster Universities, and the University of East Anglia, in the UK.

I have been an invited peer reviewer for over 30 scholarly journals and reviewed book manuscripts and proposals for publishers including Sage, Routledge and Polity 

Current and recent advisory and working group roles include:

  • International Advisory Board member for the Centre for Practice Theory at Lancaster (2022-)
  • International Advisory Board member for ERC Advanced Investigator eCAPE, “New Energy Consumer roles and technologies – Actors, Practices and Equality” Kirsten Gram-Hanssen, Copenhagen University, Denmark, 2018-22

Within the department I am currently Director of Research and part of the Department’s Executive team as well as chairing Research Committee. I have previously served as Faculty co-Director of PGR, Departmental Director of Masters Programmes and Departmental Director of PGR Tutor.