UCL Anthropology


AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Studentship: WorkplaceDesign in the Digital Age

31 March 2016

The UCL Department of Anthropology is delighted to announce a fully funded 3.5 years (starting from 01 October 2016) collaborative doctoral studentship on Workplace Design in the Digital Age.

Subject to AHRC eligibility criteria, the scholarships cover tuition fees and an annual grant (stipend) towards living expenses. The 2016/17 value of the stipend is likely to be £16846 (including London weighting). The scholarships also include an additional £6000 to cover costs associated with field research and collaborations with the industrial partner.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to conduct collaborative ethnographic fieldwork with the design and engineering firm AECOM and their client organisations as part of a project to better understand changing work practices in the digital age and their implications for workplace design.

The research project

The project 'Workplace design in the Digital Age' will be supervised by Dr Hannah Knox, Lecturer in Digital Anthropology and Material Culture at University College London, in collaboration with Hilary Jeffery, Regional Director for Strategy Plus, AECOM's research division. The project emerges out of a shared interest in the way in which digital technologies are reorganising people's experiences and practices of work. As digital technologies make activities that we have conventionally labelled 'work', blur with other spheres of life (family, leisure, community) new questions are raised for both workplace designers and for social scientists about the very idea of what work is. For workplace designers these changes pose a particular challenge: for if work is no longer a place, what is it? And if workplaces are no longer the objects of design, then what does this do to the methods and expertise of designers? These challenges also provide a broader opportunity for anthropological questions to be posed as to what digital technologies are doing to both work and to design as a social practice. What is work and what is design in the digital age? Who or what affects people's experiences of work? What are relative roles of technologies, social practices, infrastructures and built environments in determining people's experiences of work? And who or what has the capacity to transform worker experiences in the digital age?

The successful candidate will spend 14 months conducting fieldwork with AECOM and their clients. Up to 6 hours a week during the period of fieldwork will be spend collaborating directly with AECOM on their projects and learning how to incorporate ethnographic research findings into workplace design processes. By the end of the studentship it is anticipated that the candidate will be able to successfully conduct both academic and applied anthropological research. An extra six months funding is provided for the development of a methodological toolkit and a series of position papers which will explore the potential for ethnographic research to inform design practice.

In addition to participation in AECOM activities during field work, the successful candidate will also be expected to fully participate in the stimulating intellectual environment at UCL including the Anthropology department's research training seminar. The student will be part of the material culture section of the anthropology department at UCL where there is a lively research culture in topics including digital anthropology, design anthropology, and the anthropology of architecture.

The studentship will run for 3.5 years from 01 October 2016. This includes an additional six months of funding on top of the standard AHRC PhD funding, to support the development of a methodological toolkit and a position papers on the role of ethnography in workplace design.

Person specification

We are looking for a highly motivated student with a strong academic record at undergraduate and masters level, who will relish the opportunity of combining academic research on this topic with involvement with an international design and engineering consultancy. We would welcome students with a strong background in anthropology, and a demonstrable interest in digital technologies, work design, and applied anthropology. The appointee will be expected to attend relevant training courses within UCL.

It is expected that applicants will have a good first degree (minimum 2.1 or equivalent) in anthropology or a related discipline, and be due to complete a Masters degree by no later than September 2016


The successful candidate must meet AHRC eligibility criteria. Full details concerning eligibility are available on the AHRC website.

The studentship funding is subject to final confirmation by the AHRC.

The successful candidate will be required to complete a UCL research student application on-line in order to enrol at UCL and be formally registered to receive the studentship.

How to apply

Please email your application in pdf format to Martin O'Connor (Martin.oconnor@ucl.ac.uk) who is the departmental administrator for UCL Anthropology. Please include a full CV and a piece of work (c. 5,000 words) from your masters or a related dissertation, along with a statement (750 words) describing how you are qualified and prepared for the position and how you would approach the proposed area of research.

Please arrange for TWO academic referees to write confidentially to Dr Hannah Knox, c/Martin O'Connor; to be received no later than the closing date. References can be emailed.

Informal enquiries should be sent to Dr Hannah Knox (h.knox@ucl.ac.uk) or Dr Hilary Jeffery (Hilary.jeffery@aecom.com)

Closing date Extended to 5pm on Friday 29th April 2016.