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Digital material transformations and infrastructures

Studying materials, objects, city infrastructures and health with The Open University

This research area considers cities not just as cultural and political sites, but also as sites where sociomaterial relations are enacted. We have several foci to our work. One strand considers religious sites in the city as places of attachment and belonging.

A second takes a cultural focus on water within an international perspective to explore the different cultural meanings attached to water in different cities, as well as the different significance and practices associated with the topic under discussion; be it consumption, sanitation, public displays, bathing pleasures, water technologies, urban waterfronts, religious practices and so on.

A third area investigates smart cities asking the following questions: How are smart technologies entering households? What are the processes through which households are made to change their behaviour and practices? What information do they receive? What are the reactions of household members, what are the resistances? How are citizens enrolled willingly or unwillingly in the installation of new water and energy-saving devices?

Within this strand also we have expertise in health. Here we ask what potential does the prospect of digital technologies within the smart cities offer for improvements in health and social care? We also study art in urban space and we engage in comparative work.

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) and an MA or MSc

Potential research projects

For guidance on choosing a research project, please visit the Faculty of Social Sciences Research website. Information there will help you identify and articulate your research project, and tells you who to contact to discuss it before writing your proposal and submitting an application.

Current/recent research projects

  • Smart cities
  • Thames Water Research project
  • Street markets as sites of inclusion, public space and urban development

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Discipline Convenor
+44 (0)1908 653947

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.