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
  • Problem-oriented engineering and stakeholder relationships
  • Embodied cognition, information ecology and design
  • Internet governance, cybersecurity and privacy issues in relation to legal policy
  • 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
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.

Dr David Chapman is a 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.

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.

Derek Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Design at the Open University, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and 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.

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.

Professor Chris Bissell a former core member of the group, sadly passed away on 13th December 2017.