IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Q&A with Professor Carey Jewitt

Carey is Professor of Learning and Technology at IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society, and works with the UCL Knowledge Lab.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am a Professor at the UCL Knowledge Lab, an interdisciplinary research centre based in IOE. My research explores how technologies shape the ways that people interact and communicate, I look beyond language alone to understand the multimodal character of interaction. My current 5 year ERC Consolidator project IN-TOUCH investigates digital touch communication.

More generally the lab undertakes interdisciplinary research and design on digital technologies in education and beyond, including research on games and playful learning, smart technologies, creativity and coding, digital cultures and media literacy, multimodal interaction, and designing for diversity. 

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I joined as a junior contract Researcher in 1997, working with Professor Gunther Kress on the 'Multimodal Science Classroom' project. We explored how school science teachers use image, gesture, body posture and interact with modal, as well as talk, to teach science concepts. It is an inspiring and exciting place to work and its excellent research environment and colleagues that have helped me to develop my career.

Before coming here, I worked as a social researcher in health and sexual health for a variety of health and primary care trusts to understand how GPs and other health practitioners and patients communicate with one another.

What's the most important thing you've learned from your students about the subject you teach?

That understanding and engaging with a diverse range of views on a research problem can be the best way to moving forward and that notions of 'coherence' can be unhelpful when understanding the chaotic new-ness of the digital. Through my IN-TOUCH project, for example, I collaborate with engineers, computer scientists and Human Computer Interaction (HCI), designers, psychologists, neuroscientists, and artists to understand touch.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I am really proud of MODE, a large grant funded by the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods. It enabled me and a team of colleagues (Professor Jeff Bezemer, Professor Sara Price, Professor Gunther Kress, and others) to push at the frontiers of digital and multimodal research by exploring how new digital technologies remediate how people communicate and interact in relation to learning, work, health and well-being, and personal relationships.

MODE also resulted in many research outputs and training materials as well as the first ever textbook on multimodal research: Introducing Multimodality (Jewitt, Bezemer, and O'Halloran, 2016). I am also really proud to have been awarded a European Research Commission (ERC) Consolidator grant; it is a real recognition of my work.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list.

I want to contribute to the understanding of touch as it is digitally mediated through my IN-TOUCH project, an ERC Consolidator Grant over 5 years (2016-2021). My team and I are examining how the expansion of digital touch technologies is influencing touch and the tactile in new ways – and its social significance for communication as it re-shapes what can be touched – leads to new touch-based capacities, practices and new forms of knowledge about the world.

We are developing theoretical insights and innovative methods to generate a social account of touch in digital contexts by integrating ideas from the micro-lens of multimodality, the broad-ethnographic lens of sensory anthropology, and the experiential-lens of the arts. You can follow the project on twitter @IN_TOUCH_UCL.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Not much, I am a pretty open book!

What other piece of research outside of your own subject area interests you?

I find most things interesting, and as an interdisciplinary researcher, I tend to think everything is in or near my subject area, or try to bring it in somehow! Research that is really outside of my subject area that I admire – the historical work of Svetlana Alexievich that explores the collapse of the USSR.

Last updated 27 July 2023.