Laura Watts

Associate Professor

Research interests

Science and Technology Studies (STS), futures, green society, ethnography, design anthropology, feminist technoscience, actor-network theory (and after), high-tech industry in practice, landscape, creative writing, future archaeology, mobile telecoms, marine renewable energy.

Website: | Twitter: @laurawatts

For the last fifteen years I have worked with the telecoms, transport, and renewable energy industries to reconsider how the future gets made in high-tech industry, and how it might be made otherwise. As an ethnographer I am interested in the effect of landscape on how the future is imagined and made in everyday practice. How might the future be made differently in different places? I am also interested in the effect of different ethnographic writing practices as part of an apparatus for making knowledge, and for making futures.


Details of all my publications and current research projects are available on my page, or on my website at (which also includes downloads of all my papers, poetry, presentations and podcasts).

Research projects

  • Relocating Innovation: Places and material practices of future-making What counts as ‘innovation’ and how does the ‘new’ come to be, in an era when ‘innovation’ is assumed to be an unquestioned good? This research project with Lucy Suchman and Endre Dányi (Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University) reconceptualised innovation through a comparison of three different sites of social, technological and political invention: an internationally recognised centre of technology in Silicon Valley, USA; small-scale high-tech industry on the remote Orkney Islands, Scotland; and the centre of democratic politics in Hungary. My fieldsite was made through a two year ethnography of how the future is imagined and made in the archipelago of Orkney, Scotland. Here, the landscape is filled with 5000 years of technological invention, from the Ring of Brodgar stone circle to the marine renewable energy test site of the European Marine Energy Centre.
  • A Future Archaeology of the Mobile Telecoms Industry How does the future of the mobile telecoms industry get imagined and made? How might it be made differently in different places? Doctoral research project comprising a four year ethnography of different sites of future-making in the UK mobile telecoms industry in and around the landscapes of London. This project also explored how ethnographic evidence can be a generative resource for reconstructing different versions of how the future gets made in high-tech industry. Outcomes have been published as podcasts, poems, papers, and posters.
  • Travel-Time Use in the Information Age We exist in a society within which ‘life on the move’ is increasingly common, and supported by a growing array of mobile information and communication technologies. This research project between Centre for Mobilities Research (Lancaster University) and Centre for Transport & Society (UWE), involved a diverse set of methods from a mobile ethnography to a national rail passenger survey to develop an understanding of how travel-time is used and experienced on public transport. The project also considered futures for travel-time use that could benefit both passengers and transport strategy.

Teaching & Supervision

Doctoral student, James Maguire, on the Alien Energy research project, doctoral thesis on 'Faultlines: Power, Purity and Conflict in Icelandic Geothermal Energy'.

Manage the DIM/DDK Kandidat Specialisation 'Green Design for Global Futures'.

Manage and teach on a variety of Master DIM, DDK, and Bachelor GBI courses.

At present, I am course manager for 'Writing Innovation Studio' a 7.5 ECTS DIM Masters course, available to all Masters students at ITU.

I am also available to run a Speculative Futures Writing PhD Workshop. This supports creative writing techniques for academic writing. I have run this workshop for both doctoral students, and for academic faculty.

Masters Thesis Project - Available

Title: International Sociotechnical Networks of Marine Energy

Type: Masters Thesis Group Project (30 ECTS), for 2-3 students

Project Description: How are different coastal sites around the world locally enacting a global marine energy industry? Coastal countries around the world, from China to Taiwan, USA to UK, Denmark to Chile, now have a marine energy test site to develop wave and tide energy. Some predictions suggest that tidal energy alone could generate 25 GW of global electricity ( However, most research remains focused on either just the technical or the environmental issues.

The International network for Social Studies of Marine Energy (ISSMER) was setup to bring together researchers interested in the social, technical, environmental, political, geographical and other ‘sociotechnical' issues related to marine energy (

This project will follow on from this paper to ask questions such as: how are different marine energy test sites around the world making a marine energy industry? What are the sociotechnical issues involved, for example, what knowledge infastructures are being established and through what practices? How do the different locations effect the making of this object ‘the marine energy industry’ (both the landscape and the national regulatory context)? Is there evidence for a singular ‘marine energy industry’ at all, in practice? What sociotechnical futures are imagined by these test sites for a climate changed world?

This group project is expected to engage with several marine energy test sites around the world via ISSMER, for which the project supervisor is the network coordinator. The group will collaborate as a cluster to do empirical data gathering together, such as skype interviews and document collection, as well as literature reviews. Each individual within the group will be expected to formulate their own specific research question, and write their own individual report, with the critical support of their colleagues.

Please contact me if you are interested in pursing this project.