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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, data-driven technologies like IoT, AI and digital fabrication are increasingly being embraced throughout society, yet the wider environmental impacts of this rapid shift are little understood.

Michael's 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 support the future adoption of responsible low carbon physical-digital technologies and related practices.

He is an active research lecturer at Imagination, Lancaster University's open and exploratory design research lab - http://imagination.lancaster.ac.uk/person/michael-stead/

PhD supervision

Michael welcomes enquiries from potential PhD students.

Research Grants

Michael is collaborating with colleague Dr Adrian Gradinar and partners BBC Research & Development as Co-Investigator on the EPSRC PETRAS funded research project Edge of Tomorrow.

Current Teaching

PG Supervisor, Masters in Design Management, ImaginationLancaster (2020-)

Graduate Teaching Assistant, Creative Technologies programme, School of Computing & Communications (2015-2017).

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 -https://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/134921/1/Spimes_Not_Things_Design_Manifesto.pdf

Career Details

Prior to completing his Masters of Research and PhD at Lancaster University's HighWire Centre for Digital Innovation, Michael gained a diverse range of practical, commercial design expertise working as an industrial product designer. Alongside his doctoral research, Michael was design visualiser for two EPSRC funded research projects – Liveable Cities and PETRAS Internet of Things hub – and then for the AHRC funded research projects Living Design and Design Ecologies.


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