UCL Anthropology


PhD Studentship: Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing

4 July 2017

Duration: 1st October 2017 to 1st April 2021

The Department of Anthropology at UCL has secured ERC funding* for a 3.5-year PhD studentship on the Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing project, led by Professor Daniel Miller. The project starts 1st October 2017, with 15 months of fieldwork starting from 1st February 2018. The candidate is likely to be spending most of their time in London before and after fieldwork.

Project outline

Based at the Department of Anthropology, UCL, the project will employ twelve anthropologists to conduct simultaneous 15-month ethnographies in different regions. The project focuses on three core topics:

  • The changing experience and meaning of ageing for people aged between 45-70.
  • The impact of the smartphone on this age group, in the context of a general ethnographic understanding of the use and consequences of smartphones today.
  • A commitment to using this ethnographic knowledge to consider the social and cultural implications of smartphone health apps, including a long-term participant design process in which the anthropologist helps to make mHealth apps that are more socially and culturally sensitive to users.

This exercise in engaged anthropology will inform our intellectual advances in the field of digital anthropology which has not, so far, considered the smartphone from a global comparative perspective. Reflections on mHealth and the smartphone will in turn also contribute to the core aim of advancing our understanding of the experience of ageing in this new interstitial period of life between young and old, and to appreciate the major transformations in society and sociality represented by the new ubiquity of the smartphone. Both the intellectual and engaged components will be shown to depend upon sensitivity to the forms of cultural diversity uncovered by our comparative ethnographic approach.

The project follows the collaborative and comparative style of research and dissemination developed in Miller's recently completed Why We Post project about social media. 

We are particularly interested in candidates with:

  • Previous experience conducting qualitative research/ethnography in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • A proposed fieldsite in sub-Saharan Africa, ideally outside of South Africa.
  • Some knowledge and interest in either digital anthropology, medical anthropology, or both.
  • Knowledge of a relevant language for research in sub-Saharan Africa.

You should have attained, or be expected to complete in 2017, a masters degree in Anthropology or a related discipline that employs qualitative/ethnographic research. We will consider a candidate possessing only an undergraduate degree if they have additional relevant experience.

The successful candidate will receive a tax-free stipend for 3.5 years. In the first year the stipend will be £18,000, with increments in subsequent years.

Application requirements:

  • Cover letter (c. 750 words) describing how you are qualified and prepared for the position and how you would approach the proposed topic and your proposed choice of fieldsite.
  • A full CV (up to 2 pages).
  • A piece of work or selection from a longer work (c. 5,000 words). This can be from your masters dissertation or a similar piece of work.
  • Two references (at least one should be academic).

Applications should reach d.miller@ucl.ac.uk by midnight 25th July. For enquiries about the post email d.miller@ucl.ac.uk.

*Note: We are awaiting final confirmation from the ERC therefore there is a possibility that the start date may be delayed.