Research Seminars

Our Research Seminars are open to academics, researchers and students from across the University (unless otherwise indicated). They provide an informal setting for intellectual debate, sharing ideas and collaboration.

Upcoming seminars

29 April 2019 - 1pm - The Intelligence of Things

Dr Mercedes Bunz, Kings College London

Artificial intelligence – data analysis and machine learning - drives many internet of thing devices from the speaking Siri on our phones to self-driving cars or smart cities. Devices are tracking and tracing their users and communicating with them, processing data and learning about their environment. In her talk, Mercedes will analyse how the agency of technology introduced by intelligent things is currently negotiated. Using critical discourse analysis, the first step will be to contrast technologies that are making things ‘intelligent’ with the way tech companies but also the media address this intelligence. In her second step, she will then focus on the potential of things which that sense their environment, which they offer through their data.

Mercedes Bunz is Senior Lecturer in Digital Society at the Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London. She came to London in 2009 to work as the technology reporter of The Guardian. Her research explores how digital technology transforms knowledge and with it power; a question she explores currently specifically regarding medical knowledge with the Wellcome Trust grant for the project ‘Public data, private collaborator: will machine learning relocate medical knowledge?’ Recent publications: The Internet of Things (Polity 2017) co-published with Professor Graham Meikle, and the small Open Access publication Communication with Finn Brunton (University of Minnesota Press 2019), in which they discuss how contemporary communication puts us not only in conversation with one another but also with our machinery.

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29 April - 2pm - The Future of Healthcare: Automation, Computerisation, and General Practice Services

Dr Matthew Willis, University of Oxford

Dr Matthew Willis

NHS Primary Care faces numerous challenges: increased workload, greater service use, skill shortages, decreased patient consultation time, budgetary constraints, to name a few. Automation is typically seen as a threat to many industries but provides an opportunity to address these challenges in NHS primary care and beyond. This talk presents results from a multi-year and multi-method project designed to develop a linear scale of automatability, then, applies the scale to primary care tasks gathered through ethnographic observations. The project uses a machine learning framework to create a functional mapping between the skills, knowledge and ability characteristics of work activities and the ground truth of automatability elicited from an expert survey. Dr. Willis will discuss the quantitative framework and results along with his ethnographic observations and analysis of work practices in primary care. This project provides insight into tasks that can technically be automated but for social and organisational reasons, may encounter resistance to automation. The talk concludes with implications for the future of primary care.

Dr. Willis earned his PhD in Information Science & Technology from the Syracuse University School of Information Studies where he worked closely with Professors Steve Sawyer and Carsten Osterlund. Dr. Willis has experience as a researcher in academic, government, and private institutional settings including Sandia National Laboratories, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and several university affiliated research centres where he was a contributor to multiple grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).

Currently Dr Willis is at the University of Oxford at the Oxford Internet Institute. He is interested in healthcare applications of AI, machine learning, blockchain, health data, and emerging technologies in healthcare. He is specifically interested in how the day-to-day use and design of these technologies impacts on patients, providers, and organisations. His approach to these interests is through the lens of Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Human-Computer Interaction, Social Informatics and Sociotechnical Systems.

Please email to reserve a place for this event.

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  1. 20 May 2019 - Time TBC - Information Sharing in Online Health Forums: the importance of Trust and Empathy

    Professor Peter A. Bath and the Space for Sharing Sheffield team (Sarah Hargreaves, Julie Ellis and Melanie Lovatt)

    This research seminar will present findings from the project, A Shared Space and a Space for Sharing ( The aim of the project was to examine the role of sharing in online health forums among people with a life-threatening or terminal illness and the importance of trust and empathy. The study used a qualitative approach in which a sample of posts from two online health forums, provided by Breast Cancer Care and the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association, were used to generate data. Semi-structured interviews were also undertaken with users of these forums. Thematic analysis of the forum posts was to anlyse the forum and interview data (Braun and Clarke, 2006). The seminar will report our findings on how people develop trust in others while using the forums and how this affects the information they share and use (Hargreaves et al., 2018; Lovatt et al., 2017). It will consider how information sharing among users supports the development of empathic connections and the development of friendships online. The talk will also report on the impact work we are undertaking to promote online health forums among patients, the public and healthcare professionals.


    Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.

    Hargreaves, S., Bath, P. A., Duffin, S., & Ellis, J. (2018). Sharing and empathy in digital spaces: Qualitative study of online health forums for breast cancer and motor neuron disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(6), e222.

    Lovatt, M., Bath, P. A., & Ellis, J. (2017). Development of trust in an online breast cancer forum: A qualitative study. Journal of Medical Internet Research,19(5), e175.

  2. 3 July 2019 - Time TBC - Critical views on open scholarship - an African perspective

    Speakers will include Florence Piron and Professor Stephen Pinfield.

    The Open Access movement, like many other egalitarian initiatives inspired by information and communication technologies, promises a “level playing field” for African scholarship, however, those concerned with knowledge asymmetries and continuing digital divides are not as optimistic about this outcome. Piron et al. (2017) have argued that whatever the positive potential in the global North, some forms of open access might actually increase the exclusion of scholars in the global South through a form of “cognitive injustice” (dominance of forms of knowledge emanating from the global North, thus eclipsing locally-derived contextual forms of knowledge). Barriers to open scholarship in Africa include lack of basic connectivity, poor infrastructure, lack of training in appropriate methods and in digital skills, the domination of English as the language of science and the exclusion of many open access initiatives from privileged indexing and abstracting services, thus leading to a potential “Open Divide”(Herb & Schöpfel, 2018). In this context, Piron et al. consider some forms of open scholarship to be a vehicle of neo-colonialism, since they allow rich institutions in the global North to continue to control the scholarly record. Research collaborations are often one-sided with African scholars effectively data gathering for global North partners. Research funding predominately goes to scholars in the global North. Outputs in African journals are all but invisible within indexing and abstracting systems. Nevertheless, there is the potential for certain forms open scholarship to address cognitive injustice (Nkoudou, 2016).  

  3. Past event: 15 February 2019 - The Role of Information Science

     Professor Tom Jackson, Loughborough University

  4. Past event: 27 March 2019 - Understanding Digital Inequalities: Applying Bourdieu

    Understanding Digital Inequalities: Applying Bourdieu

    Professor Simeon Yates, University of Liverpool

    Wednesday 27 March, 4pm (Joint event with the Digital Society Network)


    "In this talk I will present data from a variety of studies conducted over the past decade into issues of digital inclusion and exclusion. The work is framed around the idea of “digital inequalities” but also by both policy issues and social theory concerns. The work addresses across social, economic and cultural aspects of inequality. The empirical studies I draw on range from statistical analyses and modelling of digital technology use across a range of demographic factors, through to qualitative and action research interventions in support of digital inclusion policy and practice. Analyses of data on digital media use are framed within Bourdieu’s model of social class formation and include similar and developed methodologies (Multiple Correspondence Analysis, Latent Class Analysis). Importantly this work critiques the currently popular idea of “digital capital” as sitting alongside social, cultural and economic capital of Bourdieu’s work – pointing out that this idea conflates both theoretically and empirically the contemporary role of ‘digital’ in all three elements of Bourdieu’s model. This empirical research has supported policy interventions within regions (South Yorkshire and Merseyside) as well as nationally and internationally through collaboration with GoodThings charity and Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport."


    Simeon is Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research Environment and Postgraduate Research at the University of Liverpool. His research on the social, political and cultural impacts of digital media includes a long-standing focus on digital media and interpersonal interaction. More recently, he has worked on projects that address issues of digital inclusion and exclusion. He was recently seconded to the UK Government's Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to act as research lead for the Digital Culture team. He remains the joint-chair of the DCMS Research Working Group on Digital Inclusion and Skills. His prior work covered topics such as the use of socio-linguistics of online interaction, digital technologies in the workplace, digital media use during crises and ICT use by the security services. The majority of his research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), EU and industry. Simeon’s work has often been interdisciplinary and has predominantly involved creative and digital industry partners.