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Current Postgraduate Research Students

Michael Stead supervises 2 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Dr Michael Stead

Lecturer in Sustainable Design Futures

Michael Stead

Research overview

The decarbonisation of global economies is imperative for the long-term sustainability of the planet. From energy production through manufacturing to within the home, emerging so-called ‘smart’ data-driven technologies like the Internet of Things, Edge ComputingDigital Fabrication and Artificial Intelligence are increasingly being embraced throughout society, yet the wider environmental impacts of this rapid shift are little understood. 

Michael's current research applies and advances approaches including Research through Design and Speculative Design to prototype and evaluate radical new visions for low carbon futures which critically and creatively interrogate the evolving relationship between emerging data-driven technologies and key sustainability challenges such as Net Zero 2050 and the Circular Economy.  

In doing so, his work aims to develop innovative design approaches and tools in collaboration with industry, policymakers and publics which raise awareness and support the adoption of sustainable and equitable data-driven technologies and related practices. 

With emphasis on the responsible decentralisation and democratisation of technologies, his research investigates cross-cutting themes including Right-to-Repair, Data Sustainability, Distributed Manufacturing and Post-scarcity Economies.

He is an active research lecturer at Imagination, Lancaster University's open and exploratory design research lab.

PhD supervision

Michael welcomes enquiries from potential students interested in researching new ways for designing and adopting more sustainable technologies, practices and infrastructures across society. This work will contribute to our better understanding of the deepening relationship between sustainability issues (environmental governance, social equity and economic resilience) and emergent technologies (like the Internet of Things, Edge Computing, Digital Fabrication and Artificial Intelligence) and how this relationship is impacting climate change now and into the future. Such research could draw upon and advance research fields including Design for Sustainability, Sustainable Human-Computer Interaction, More Than Human-Centred Design, Designing for Transitions, Cradle to Cradle theory and Biodesign.

Research Grants

Michael is currently collaborating with partners: 

The Making Rooms on the IAA ESRC EPSRC funded The Repair Shop 2049 project which is exploring the Right-to-Repair IoT devices and pathways for developing local repair infrastructures and circular economies.

BBC Research & Development on the EPSRC PETRAS funded Edge of Reality project which is investigating the sustainability and cyber-security of data generated by our interactions with Edge-IoT technologies. This builds on the previously funded Edge of Tomorrow project.

Current Teaching

LICA240: Interactions 

LICA241: Visualisations 

PG Supervisor – LICA426: Design Management

Thesis Outline

By negating means for repair, recycling and upgrades, most Internet-connected physical devices - commonly termed the Internet of Things (IoT) - are unsustainable. As such, the IoT actively contributes to global e-waste streams and material scarcity issues. Michael's PhD research demonstrates the growing need to recharacterise future IoT devices as spimes. Through practice-led design research, Michael developed the spimes concept into a multidimensional lens which other designer-researchers can readily harness in order to radically reframe their IoT praxis to have sustainability baked-in from the outset. Michael's research and its outputs are summarised in form of a design manifesto entitled Spimes Not Things.

Career Details

Prior to his lectureship, Michael was a Post-Doctoral Research Associate on the Research England funded Beyond Imagination project. Alongside his doctoral research, Michael worked as a Research Associate on two EPSRC funded research projects – PETRAS Internet of Things hub and Liveable Cities – and then as Design Visualiser on the AHRC funded research projects Living Design and Design Ecologies. Before completing his PhD and Masters at Lancaster, he gained practical, commercial design expertise working as an industrial product designer.



PhD in Digital Innovation (Design), HighWire Digital Economy Centre for Doctoral Training, Lancaster University. 

Master’s in Research (Digital Innovation), HighWire Digital Economy Centre for Doctoral Training, Lancaster University. Distinction.

Master’s in Product Design (New Product Development), University of Salford. Distinction.

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