Shaping the future of ICT research


Graeme Mearns was one of thirty-eight early career researchers invited to the EPSRC’s ‘Future Leaders in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)’ workshop hosted at Warwick University, February 16-17th 2011. As well as providing a space for interdisciplinary networking and tapered sessions for early researchers on engagement and impact, the main purpose of this event was to help the EPSRC shape the strategic objectives of its ICT programme. Attendees were asked to consider and present their thoughts on emerging research imperatives in ICT. For Graeme, this meant underlining a need for greater levels of attention to the social and cultural complexities of ICT beyond the social sciences. He discussed this with reference to the ongoing uptake of social media and the convergence culture this is situated within and contributing to. Drawing upon his research on sexuality and online social networking, he talked about some of the subtle ways in which individuals often appropriate digital technologies in divergent ways, and how this presents both opportunities and challenges for the future design and development of inclusive ICT. Queer men’s experiences of mobile social media in the North East of England A key argument of Graeme’s PhD thesis was the need to re-consider claims about the importance of spaces for sexual minorities (such as those on the commercial ‘gay scene’) given their increasing dependence upon online social media for their functioning and meaning. Working with Tuck Leong of SiDE’s User Perspective, this research is exploring the growth of location-based social networking platforms aimed specifically at queer men. Focusing on experiences within the North East, this research involves empirical work that understands the nature of connections being made through these technologies, the motivations behind the connections being forged and most importantly, their places. Situating community through creative technologies and practices, following a successful bid to the AHRC with SiDE’s Creative Industries team, Graeme is contributing to a hybrid desk-based and practice-led scoping study which seeks to problematise the notion of community in light of the complex relationships between digital technologies, their creative uses, and the socio-cultural impacts of this use. Recognising new transnational forms of connectedness and the potential of digital technologies to connect people across different social groups, this work seeks to shed new light at the nexus of emerging technology mediated communities and traditional place-based communities, both conceptually and empirically.

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