Welcome to new Core members, Professor Clem Herman and Dr Tony Hirst, and new Affiliates, Dr Mark Hall, Dr Andy Hollyhead, Dr Mark Gaved and Dr Nicole Lotz! See the About us section for brief descriptions of their respective research interests.

Following voluntary severance effective from July 2019, Dr David Chapman, co-founder of CIS predecessor research group DTMD, has become an Honorary Associate.

CIS Research Seminar

"Decolonising Computing (?)" by Dr Syed Mustafa Ali.

Thursday 16 January 2020, 12.30pm-2.00pm (Lunch at 12.00pm), JLB, Third Floor Room 10, Walton Hall, The Open University.


Does computing need to be decolonised, and if so, how should such decolonisation be effected? Isn’t it somewhat of a stretch to describe computing as colonial, especially since colonialism as a phenomenon tied up with imperial structures of domination and settlement is a thing of the past? How can computing be colonial if the ‘age of empires’ is over and we live in a postcolonial world?

In this talk, I will argue that computing is colonial in some sense because, as a modern phenomenon, it is founded upon, and continues to embody aspects of, colonialism. While I concede that the relationship between computing and colonialism is historically contingent, and that it is in principle possible to disarticulate computing from colonialism, I maintain that it is unlikely that such disarticulation is going to happen any time soon; on the contrary, I suggest that contemporary developments within computing and related fields point to an intensification of the ‘colonial impulse’ within mainstream computing.

In arguing along these lines, I build upon the following previously published research in the areas of Decolonial Computing and Algorithmic Racism:

CIS Research Seminar

Richard Barbrook will be talking about his 2007 Imaginary Futures book which analysed the Cold War origins of artificial intelligence and the Internet. He will reflect on why - in 2018 - the future is what it used to be.

Thursday 13 December 2018, 12.30pm-2.00pm (Lunch at 12.00pm), JLB, Third Floor Room 10, Walton Hall, The Open University.

Biography: Dr Richard Barbrook, Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages at Westminster University, is the author of a number of important, if not seminal, articles including "The Californian
Ideology", co-authored with Andy Cameron and published in 1995, "The Hi-Tech Gift Economy" published
in 1988, and "Cyber-Communism" published in 2007, the same year in which the essay "New York Prophecies:
The Imaginary Future of Artificial Intelligence" and Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to
the Global Village
were published. Imaginary Futures was selected by The Media Ecology Association as the winner of the 2008 Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book of the Year in the Field of Media Ecology.

CIS convenor, Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, has been invited to chair the session on "AI and Epistemic Injustice: Whose Knowledge and Authority?" at the one-day workshop Origin Myths of Artificial Intelligence: Histories of Technology and Power to be held at Cambridge University on Friday 30 November 2018. Further details here.

CIS convenor, Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, has been invited to guest edit a special issue of ReOrient: The Journal of Critical Muslim Studies dedicated to exploring “The Decolonial Question Concerning Technology”. For further information, including submission deadlines, visit CFPs.

CIS Inaugural Lecture

“Learning from Luther: 95 Theses about Technology” by Professor John Naughton (Cambridge University)

In this talk, John Naughton will reflect on four decades spent trying to improve the public understanding of technology, arguing with Internet companies and culminating with some ideas borrowed from Martin Luther.

Thursday 3 May 2018, 12.30pm-2.00pm (Lunch at 12.00pm), Meeting Room 1, Michael Young Building, Walton Hall, The Open University. [Please note the change of venue]

(NB: The talk will be accessible remotely online. Email for more information in this regard.)

This keynote talk launches the recently formed Critical Information Studies (CIS) research group within the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University.

Biography: John Naughton is Emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology at the OU. He is also a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at Cambridge, where he is co-Director of the Leverhulme-funded ‘Conspiracy and Democracy’ project. With David Runciman, he was co-Director of CRASSH’s ‘Technology and Democracy’ project which has recently concluded. He is also the Observer’s Technology columnist. He was a member of the Systems Group in what was originally the OU’s Faculty of Technology (now Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) from 1972 until 2011. After leaving the OU he served as Vice-President of Wolfson College, Cambridge from 2011-2015 and is currently Director of the college’s Press Fellowship Programme. His most recent book — From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: what you really need to know about the Internet — is published by Quercus.
The group has been renamed! We were, until 2018, the Difference That Makes a Difference (DTMD) but are now the Critical Information Studies (CIS) group. Watch this space for news of a series of talks to launch our new identity.

We sadly announce the death of a key member of the group, Professor Christopher Bissell, on 13th December 2017. Chris was an exceptional person, and his passing is a serious loss to the group as well as a sorrow to his many colleagues and friends. Please see this brief reflection of his contribution to the group and beyond.