About

I am a Writer, Poet, Artist, and an ‘Ethnographer of Futures’ exploring how tech futures can be made otherwise from empirical evidence. As a Science & Technologies Studies (STS) and Anthropology scholar, and Interdisciplinary Senior Lecturer based in Geography & the Lived Environment, Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, my work explores the effect of landscape and writing on how the future is imagined and made in everyday practice. How might the future be made differently in different places, and through different writing methods? How is the future imagined and made differently at the edge?

Over the last fifteen years, I have collaborated with organisations in mobile telecoms, public transport, and renewable energy, to re-imagine how the future gets made in tech industries. At present, I am collaborating with people and places around marine renewable energy, and its futures, in the Orkney islands, Scotland.

I run writing workshops, particularly around writing energy futures, and am a professional speaker. Over the years I’ve worked with Intel Labs, IBM Labs, Hewlett-Packard, Barclays Bank. I’ve collaborated on industry projects and think-tanks with wonderful people from the Royal College of Art in London through to the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney. My work has been shown at CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona) and in The Pier Arts Centre, Stromness, Orkney (with Brae Editions, my collaborative publisher). And, right now, I’m exploring speculative futures with the heritage industry.

Collaboration…

As an ethnographer and artist I work in close collaboration with organisations and colleagues. My work supports both academic and creative interventions into future-making, from executive reports to performance to publication to poetry. As well as an academic, I am an experienced consultant, and artist.

My collaborations take many forms: short stories, artist-in-residence on academic projects, writing workshops, ethnographer-in-residence with industry, public speaker, poet, project investigator. Let me know if you have an idea. I’m always excited to work with new people in new places. Contact me via my university.

Laura Watts in Orkney

On Sand14…

Sand is largely constituted by Silicon, atomic number 14. Silicon is both a material at the edge (where the land meets the sea), and a material transformed into the technological: sand becomes glass in optical fibre cable, quartz becomes the piezoelectrics in a timer, silicon becomes a processor in a server farm.

So ‘Sand14’ is a mnemonic for me, for the edge, for the mixtures that makes up most of our technology, and the self-determined edge places that are inseparable from where technology is imagined and made.