Technology and Human Capabilities in UK Makerspaces

Title: Technology and Human Capabilities in UK Makerspaces Authors: Cian O’Donovan and Adrian Smith Download full paper: 10.1080/19452829.2019.1704706 Abstract: The relationship between technology and human capabilities is an ambivalent one. The same technology can expand capabilities for some users under certain circumstances, whilst diminishing capabilities for others situated differently. In this paper we analyse human […]


Categories: journal article

Capabilities for doing transdisciplinary research

Large funders of research are increasingly framing their research investments in terms of societal challenges. When funders like UKRI in the UK look across their portfolios, they often talk about expanding research capacity in a certain area to tackle these challenges. Say in AI research, or climate change, or sustainability. or even economic productivity. This […]


Categories: working paper

The possibilities of robotics in situ

Backstage at the 2019 SciRoc Smart Cities robotics competition at the Centre:MK shopping mall in Milton Keynes, UK. What was inside this box was inevitably less intriguing than the possibilities of its exterior. But maybe that was the point of hosting a four day competition for robot developers inside of a shopping centre. Using a […]


Categories: research notes

How UK Research and Innovation projects imagine social care and accountability

Some ongoing data research on how innovation and technology projects funded by UK research councils consider understand social care. I wanted to know two things: How research about innovation in social care such as assistive living robotics, advanced data tech like AI and machine learning applications and tele-health conceptualised and imagined what exactly social care […]


Categories: research notes

AI ethics from the ground up

Presentation from a special workshop at #WebSci20. Presentation abstract: Interdisciplinary research has led to significant breakthroughs in the fields of AI, robotics and autonomous systems. Yet it has also been the basis of significant controversies. Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s amalgam of psychographics, data science and engineering at scale being perhaps the most infamous recent example. […]


Categories: presentation slides

They promised me robots

This article originally appeared in Alchemy. Science for the Real World. The magazine of UCL’s Department of Science and Technology Studies. June 2020. They promised me robots. What I wasn’t expecting was a foyer that was something between luxury spa and elderly day centre. I was in Stoke Gifford, ExtraCare’s still-under-construction retirement complex outside Bristol, […]


Categories: blog

Statues perform their politics in the present

Published in the Irish Times, June 13th, 2020, in response to “Once you start pulling down statues, where do you stop?”, Opinion & Analysis, June 12th. Sir, – Diarmaid Ferriter’s article on history’s complexities is well made. Yet it neglects the current controversy’s chief concern – that statues in our streets are political statements in […]


Categories: blog

Warehouse working conditions and the NHS contact tracing app

From a Twitter thread A question for @NHSX: Can you assure us of accountability, recourse and fairness all the way down the application stack? The NHS contact tracing app is using a tonne of technologies, platforms and infrastructures from private and public orgs to get this done. @NHSX tell us our data is safe, our […]


Categories: research notes

Modes of AI research: stealing old ideas

“This time is different” is a common refrain from AI’s more passionate advocates. Here’s Maggie Boden on the history of ideas in AI, from her incredible 1,000+ page history of cognitive science. If today’s AI researchers aren’t deliberately stealing and renaming old ideas, as Father Hacker advises, they are sometimes reinventing the wheel—and lack of […]


Categories: research notes

Human capabilities for innovation in UK makerspaces

Title: Human capabilities for innovation in UK makerspaces Authors: Cian O’Donovan and Adrian Smith Précis: Makerspaces can be a source of human capabilities that benefit people and society. But these capabilities will only lead to flourishing communities if they are accompanied by structural changes to our economies, cities and environment. Full blog at STEPS Centre.


Categories: blog

Reasons the UK doesn’t need an MIT of the North

From Twitter FT.com headline: Johnson plans to shift civil servants out of London. PM said to be keen to locate new government agencies outside capitalLink: https://www.ft.com/content/56230938-27d7-11ea-9305-4234e74b0ef3 Does UK science and technology need an MIT in the North? Wrong question. Rather, do we need an MIT model at all? Almost certainly not. Here are a few […]


Categories: research notes