Digital, material transformation and infrastructures

Qualifications Duration Start dates Application period
(MPhil also available)
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
February and October January to April
PhD (MPhil also available)
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
Start dates
February and October
Application period
January to April

This research area considers cities not just as cultural and political sites, but also as sites where socio-material 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?

The smart cities strand also has 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.

Finally, recent work investigates digital infrastructures and affordances in refugee camps in Europe and the Middle East, especially how smartphones and apps have become an essential tool in migration processes.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent) and an MA or MSc. If you are not a UK citizen, you may need to prove your knowledge of English.

Current/recent research projects

  • Smart cities
  • Thames Water Research project
  • Street markets as sites of inclusion, public space and urban development
  • Digital infrastructures and affordances in refugee contexts

Potential supervisors

Fees and funding

UK fee International fee
Full time: £4,786 per year Full time: £12,146 per year
Part time: £2,393 per year Part time: £6,073 per year

Some of our research students are funded via The Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership; others are self-funded.

For detailed information about fees and funding, visit Fees and studentships.

To see current funded studentship vacancies across all research areas, see Current studentships.


Smart meter in kitchen

How to apply

Get in touch

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

Professor Marie Gillespie
Email: FASS-Sociology-Enquiries
Phone: +44 (0)1908 653947

Apply now

If you’re interested in applying for this research topic, please take a look at the application process.