The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


Spotlight On: Duncan Hay

24 April 2017

Duncan is a Research Associate at CASA. He has worked on both the Survey of London Whitechapel and the PETRAS/Tales in the Park projects.

SoL Whitechapel

How would you summarise your personal research?
I’m a bit of a strange fish in that my PhD is English Literature, but I’m a web developer by profession. I’d therefore describe my research as exploring how we can use digital tools to explore the relationship between people, places, and culture.

Tell us a little about the research you’re doing at the moment?
In my PhD, I wrote about the writer and filmmaker Iain Sinclair, who’s probably best known for his writing about the buried histories of East London. I joined CASA in 2016 to work as a web developer and researcher on the Survey of London Whitechapel initiative (surveyoflondon.org), a project which aims to use digital tools to map the history of Whitechapel in collaboration with the people who live there. This project has the (very) unusual characteristic of combining both my professional and research interests.

Since November last year I’ve also been working on ‘Tales in the Park’, part of the EPSRC PETRAS Research Hub, which is about exploring people’s fears and expectations concerning security and trust around ‘Internet of Things’ devices. We’re using a new technology from Google - the Physical Web - to gather people’s stories about the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London. Using a chat interface, people will be able to ‘talk’ to a family of 3d-printed garden gnomes scattered throughout the Park; however, as you interact with them, you’ll also find out what they’re learning about you. It’s an exciting project, but it’s also safe to say that it’s not quite like anything I’ve ever worked on before!

What has been your experience of living in London?
I was born in London, but have lived for most of my life in Yorkshire and the North West. My experience of the city is therefore a funny combination of newcomer and native: I love it, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s evil.

Where can people find out more about your work?
My most recent digital output is the Survey of London Whitechapel website at surveyoflondon.org. If you live in Whitechapel, or know about its history, please sign up and tell us what you know!