Keynote speakers

We are delighted that the following expert speakers will be providing keynotes at DISCo 2019:

Professor Andy Miah, University of Salford, UK (9 July)


Andy’s research focuses on the big questions facing the future of humanity. From artificial intelligence to outer space, he writes about the philosophical and cultural questions that new science and technology compel us to consider, before it is too late.

Steve Benford, Professor of Collaborative Computing, Mixed Reality Lab, University of Nottingham, UK (10 July)

A story of Products and their Stories

Products are no longer simply goods, services or even fleeting experiences, but rather are combinations of all three that establish longstanding and meaningful relationships with people. I will explore the idea that – through emerging digital technologies such as augmented reality and the Internet of Things – products can become roving bards, telling us stories, helping us tell our own stories and sharing these with others as they pass through the world. I will draw on the example of The Carolan Guitar, a traditional acoustic instrument that was digitally augmented to share stories of how it was made, where it had travelled and who had played it. I will draw on Carolan to illustrate key ideas of digital layering, appropriation and socially connected brands that will lie at the heart of designing future storytelling products.

Steve is a Professor in the Mixed Reality Laboratory at the University of Nottingham where he directs the Horizon Centre or Doctoral Training and the Smart Products research beacon. He previously held an EPSRC Dream Fellowship, has been a Visiting Professor at the BBC and was elected to the CHI Academy in 2012. 

Susan Halford, Professor of Sociology, University of Bristol, UK (12 July)

Doing the Future Differently: Artificial Intelligence and the promise of a new ‘response-ability’

The future is upon us, or so it seems. Not for the first time, and surely not for the last, bold and far-reaching claims are being made about how new technologies will change the world.  Artificial intelligence will solve previously intractable problems – climate change, cancer and inequality – or, alternatively, will lead to the downfall of the human race. The reality of course will lie somewhere in between. Where, exactly, is far from inevitable.  At present, our capacity to intervene in these potential futures is limited by the separation of expertise into discrete disciplines within the Academy, and beyond. This talk proposes an interdisciplinary approach to digital futures in three parts. First, it builds on social science theory to establish a sociotechnical approach to the future. This insists that how we think about the future, in the past and the present, is critical to how particular futures will emerge. Second, it evaluates current thinking about AI futures to find gaps and uncertainties that offer promise for intervention.  Third, it considers how we might approach AI futures differently, to challenge determinism through speculative design, inclusive capacity building and public dialogue. Together, these hold the promise of a new collective ‘response-ability’ that may allow us to approach the future differently.

Susan is a Geographer by training, has been a Sociologist for the past 25 years and over the past decade has worked across the social and computational sciences to with a research focus on the politics of digital data and infrastructures. As Professor of Sociology at the University of Southampton until December 2018, she was a founding Director of the Web Science Institute where she also co-directed the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Web Science. In 2019 Susan joined the University of Bristol as Professor of Sociology and co-Director of the newly established Digital Futures Institute, which will be a central part of the University’s new Temple Quarter innovation campus.  Susan is a member of the UKRI Digital Economy Programme Board, of the UK Cabinet Office Digital Government Partnership and the International Social Media and Society Board Programme. She is a Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences and the Royal Society of Arts and is currently President of the British Sociological Association 2018-20.