About us

The aim of the Critical Information Studies (CIS) research group is to interrogate various informational and related phenomena such as algorithms, Big Data, machine learning, internet governance, the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and the ‘Digital Divide’ from a range of ‘critical’ perspectives – phenomenological, hermeneutic, political-economic, legal, ethical, feminist, critical race theoretical, decolonial etc. We seek to facilitate an understanding of how information and related phenomena are conceptualised and discursively articulated by different groups, and to explore the nature of power relationships between different stakeholders.

Areas of specific research interest include:
  • Social informatics – that is, the relationship between people and digital technologies – with a focus on the use of ICTs in civil society, community informatics, and learning technologies
  • Historical studies of system and cybernetic thinkers
  • Semiotic and narrative-based approaches to thinking about the provisional and contextual nature of informational phenomena
  • Studies of religious phenomena through an informational lens
  • Embodied cognition, information ecology and design
  • Internet governance, cybersecurity and privacy issues in relation to legal policy
  • Ethical and societal implications of digital technologies and algorithmic governance
  • Decolonial computing – that is, interrogating computing and ICT phenomena from a perspective informed by critical race theory and decolonial thought – with a focus on algorithmic racism
  • Sociotechnical systems modelling and complex systems
  • Community-based uses and appropriations of technologies for teaching and learning
  • Information retrieval, natural language processing, and the digital humanities
  • Gender and technology
  • Data science, AI and visualisation
  • Makerspaces
Historically, CIS emerged from the DTMD (Difference That Makes a Difference) research group whose remit was to further the understanding of the nature of information through interdisciplinary conversations, and to explore the insights that new ideas about information can bring to a wide and increasing range of disciplines. While CIS maintains the DTMD commitment to interdisciplinary – if not transdisciplinary – conversation, its ‘critical’ orientation means that considerations of power and its exercise along various lines (e.g. race, class, gender, religion etc.) have become focal.

CIS is based in the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at The Open University in Milton Keynes, UK (although we work closely with colleagues from other parts of the university).

How to contact us.

Core members

Dr Mustafa Ali (convenor) is a Lecturer in the School of Computing & Communications at the Open University. He has a background in artificial intelligence, with a PhD from Brunel University in computational philosophy. His current research focuses on the development of a hermeneutic framework that can be used to inform critical investigations of computational, informational, cybernetic, systems-theoretical and Trans-/Post-human phenomena. The framework is grounded in phenomenology, critical race theory and decolonial thought and is being used to engage with various areas in computing and ICT including artificial intelligence (Turing Test, situated robotics), Big Data / ‘datafication’ and the Internet of Things (IoT), and internet governance.

Ray Corrigan is a Senior Lecturer in technology at the Open University. He has worked with the UK parliament, European Commission, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, NGOs and the Korean Copyright Commission on technology, privacy, security, surveillance, education, intellectual property and its economics. He is the author of 'Digital Decision Making: Back to the Future' [Springer-Verlag, 2007] and shares random thoughts on law, the Internet and society at http://b2fxxx.blogspot.com/ and https://twitter.com/raycorrigan. Research interests include digital rights, interacting developments in law and technology and their wider effects on society, security, public understanding of technology and its regulation.

Dr Clem Herman is Professor of Gender and Technology at the Open University. She is the co-Director of eSTEeM, the OU's centre for STEM pedagogy which promotes innovation, scholarship and enterprise in STEM open and distance learning. 

Dr Tony Hirst is Senior Lecturer in Telematics at the Open University. With a background in electronics and artificial intelligence, he has authored on OU courses ranging from robotics to information skills and has research expertise in data science. 

Dr Magnus Ramage is a Senior Lecturer in information systems at the Open University. He has a background in information systems, with a PhD from Lancaster University in computer-supported cooperative work evaluation. His research interests include the lives and work of the key systems thinkers and the nature of information across multiple disciplines. He is co-author of the book Systems Thinkers, a guide to the major thinkers in the field of systems thinking, published in 2009 by Springer. With David Chapman, he was editor of a book on the nature of information across a range of disciplines, Perspectives on Information, published in 2011 by Routledge. He was formerly editor-in-chief of the journal Kybernetes.

Dr Steve Walker is a Senior Lecturer in Social Informatics, and Staff Tutor, in the School of Computing and Communications at the Open University. His PhD by Published Works focussed on the use of ICTs in international trade union organisation and in civil society more widely. Earlier in his career, Steve collaborated in establishing a worker co-operative providing digital communications to civil society organisations in the UK and internationally. His current research interests include learning technologies viewed as information systems, particularly in the context of open and distance learning.


Dr David Chapman is an Honorary Associate of the Open University (formerly Senior Lecturer), a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He was a design engineer working on optical fibre communication systems with Plessey Telecommunications before joining the Open University in 1986, where he completed a PhD in Optical Fibre Networks and contributed material on telecommunications and ICT to a wide range of courses. Having served as Director of the ICT Programme Committee and Head of the ICT Department, he is now developing his research interests in semiotic and narrative-based approaches to information as reported in his Intropy blog.

Dr Mark Gaved is a Lecturer in the Institute of Educational Technology (IET) at The Open University. His research focuses around community-based uses and appropriations of technologies for teaching and learning, particularly in non-formal and informal settings. Mark has long standing interest in exploring how local neighbourhoods and groups self-provision and take their own approaches to building and developing network infrastructures, and how these are part of broader sociotechnical conversations.

Dr Mark Hall is a Lecturer in the School of Computing & Communications at the Open University. His background is in interactive information retrieval, natural language processing, and the digital humanities. His research focuses on helping users explore large data-sets that they are unfamiliar with or where the users lack the expertise to know what they could find and how to find it. Recently he has also developed an interest in improving methodological clarity, questions around the canon, and biases in the Digital Humanities. As part of this he is involved in the Under the Surface project which aims to increase the visibility of those authors who have for various reasons (gender, religion, culture, ...) been overlooked in the Digital Humanities.

Dr Andy Hollyhead is a staff tutor, associate lecturer and practice tutor within the School of Computing and Communications, Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. His industry experience spanned fifteen years as an analyst/programmer and IT project manager. His research interests are in systems modelling, particularly through sociotechnical theory, and he is exploring the use of the principles of Lego® Serious Play to model complex systems. Andy is currently supervising a PhD student in the field of Governance and was formerly an Associate Professor in Risk Management.

Derek Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Design at the Open University, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and former course chair for U101: Design Thinking, the innovative and award winning Level 1 entry course for the university’s Design and Innovation degree. His research interests include: the education and development of creativity in education, Building Information Modelling (BIM) design processes in practice and education, Virtual architecture and place, Archetypes in architecture. Derek is also a qualified architect with over 15 years of experience in the construction design and procurement industries. In his spare time, Derek is also an Associate Lecturer with the Open University.

Ganiat Kazeem is a PhD student in the School of Computing and Communications in association with the Centre for Policing Research and Learning (CPRL). Her research looks at Risk prediction and decision making in policing - Humans, Algorithms and Data, and is supervised by Magnus Ramage, David Chapman and Alex Bristow (Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at the Open University Business School and the Deputy Director of Research Degrees for the Faculty of Business and Law).

Dr Nicole Lotz is a Senior Lecturer in Design at the Open University where she chairs U101: Design Thinking. Her research aims at understanding and supporting lay and novice designers to engage, persevere and succeed in challenging situations, and in this connection, she has worked with marginalised communities in South East Asia, Latin America and Africa. Her unique approach is to uncover and strengthen community shared values and creative insights in order to to drive engagement and collaboration. Nicole has a special interest in Makerspaces.

Ronald Macintyre is an educational researcher and designer. He has worked for the OU for over a decade on various education programmes, most recently as the Research and Development Manager on a Scottish Government funded programme Open Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS). OEPS aim was to raise awareness and build capacity in online and open education in Scotland across sectors.  Subject areas of interest range from sustainability to innovation, and from community development to volunteering. His overall focus remains on helping organisations with a clear social and environmental purpose to develop learning journeys that challenge existing social and structural relations by putting critical approaches from systems, information and design into practice.