I usually describe my research as a fusion of media theory and urban theory, in that it seeks to address the nature of urban social and political life in an increasingly mediated world. The trajectory I’ve taken to get to this point has been interdisciplinary and full of accidents, taking in media and cultural theory, urban sociology, human geography, science and technology studies, urban planning and political theory. My most developed area of research is on the ways in which urban life has been a longstanding focus for, as well as a milieu of, professional and amateur journalism. I am currently working on a book titled Media and Urban Public Life which explores these themes, using the transmuting relationship of the newspaper and the city as its lens. A related project explores recent experiments in city-focused and ‘hyperlocal’ journalism practices, which deploy networked and mobile media to document, map, portray or engage city life.
I have also tended to return to some recurrent fixations. First, I continue to be interested in the idea of a specifically ‘urban’ politics, and in particular, how media and public action are unique ‘ways in’ for understanding the politics of urban life. Second, I usually look at media theory through the lens of spatial theory, while conversely obsessing about the blind spots geographers tend to have when approaching the subject of media. Finally, I usually do my theoretical and methodical with a focus on social practices and their material settings and technologies, and am especially interested in the interrelationships of media as a field of practices and media as technological forms. This is exemplified by interests in broad areas such as ethnomethodology, actor-network theory and phenomenology, as well as specific writers such as Wittgenstein, Heidegger, McLuhan, Latour, Bourdieu, Garfinkel and others.
I consider joint projects to be a great way to break out of and challenge any certainties in my thinking. Clive Barnett, Allan Cochrane and I co-organized a successful interdisciplinary workshop in June 2008 entitled Mediapolis: Media Practices and the Political Spaces of Cities, which has led to some fruitful recent and ongoing writing projects, largely focused on theorizing urban politics (see Publications). With Tim Markham, I am co-organising Conditions of Mediation: Phenomenological Approaches to Media, Technology and Communication, a conference sponsored by the Philosophy, Theory and Critique section of the International Communication Association (ICA), and scheduled to take place on 17 June 2013. Susan Moore and I are also developing projects on the implications of new media for urban economies and built environments. The first of these looks at how media increasingly, yet unevenly, shape the practical knowledge of producers and consumers of housing, through for example geospatial house search tools, or DIY television programming. The second project focuses on emerging uses of various social media tools and platforms in controversies around urban change, such as those focused around local planning decisions.
I am also very fortunate to be involved in the supervising some excellent doctoral students, including Elaine Speight (‘From placemaking to place listening: practice-based research into public art, people and place in contexts of urban change’), Matthew Morgan (‘Art museums in Las Vegas: a city with no place for art museums or a city in which art museums have no place?’), Peter Jeary (‘Let me tell you a story: a phenomenological study into the uses of narrative within television newsrooms’) and (much…) more informally, Paul Caplan (‘JPEG: the quadruple object’).