Research course

Digital Material Transformations and Infrastructures

Open University · Department of Sociology

Entry requirements

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

Months of entry


Course content

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.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    full time
    36 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    72 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification
  • MPhil
    part time
    24 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    15 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Marie Gillespie
+44 (0)1908 653947