Staff Directory

David Mellor known as Senior Lecturer in Sociology

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Qualifications

BA (York), MA (Goldsmiths), PhD (Cardiff), DPhil (Oxford – ongoing)

About

TEACHING

I am the course leader for the BSc Sociology in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. I teach across several modules on the course and provide tutorial and dissertation supervision to undergraduate and masters level students.

RESEARCH

I work at the nexus of philosophy, social theory, cultural analysis, and policy and technology studies. In short, I would probably describe myself as a philosophical sociologist.

My current project involves the development of a ‘cybersecurity anthropotechnics’: a theoretical and political approach to the ‘super wicked problem’ of the integration of humans and digital machines. It considers how humans and technics are essentially entangled, how cyber-technics inform and shape our social imaginary and technological anticipations, and how the securities of cyber are broad civilizational and existential issues.

Cybersecurity anthropotechnics therefore focuses on how we might better consider the constitutive effect of this digital integration process on humanity, so both philosophically and methodologically it draws on a liberal arts approach of ‘encircling’ the problem using analytic tools that cross the rigid boundaries of disciplines.

There are four key themes to my current work: 1) immunology, which draws on the work of Peter Sloterdijk and Bernard Stiegler to form an onto-political position concerning the formation of humanity through and with technics; 2) the android imaginary, which concerns how technics flourish as aspects of modern social imaginaries, with particular emphasis on the figure of the android, or artificial person; 3) the Technosphere, which examines the contemporary planetary reality and world-view of technology, especially the techno-scene, the political-ethical realm of speculation and debate; 4) futurity, which concerns the design ethics for the future, and our need for strategic, imaginative, pragmatic approaches to the integration of humans and digital machines.

Here is the abstract for my DPhil thesis, which I’m currently writing up:

Title: Cybersecurity Anthropotechnics: Social immunology, future ethics, and the digital technosphere

Abstract: It can be argued that cybersecurity is a holistic form of security, the security enabling all other securities, given the digital realities and interconnectivities of the globe today. As the contemporary is full of technological powers and trends that are rapidly changing the world, the character of cybersecurity has profound implications. Moreover, we are in the midst of emergent digital-technical processes that are defining our futurability, that is, the cluster of potentials that shape what happens next. We therefore need a holistic perspective of this holistic security, one that sets the ground for considering cybersecurity as the basis of our societal and existential security in the world-to-come.

Building from the question ‘what is cybersecurity?’, this thesis argues that networked computing and global digitality has produced a ‘moral emergency’. It argues that cyber is always already security because these technologies provide fundamental resources and structures for defining how we ought to live, while significantly disrupting and metamorphosing our social and political lifeworlds. Much of this is currently speculative or in early development, so we must investigate how these potentials and possibilities are likely to unfold, asking questions about the effects of certain designs and desires. We therefore need a ‘general cybersecurity’ through which to consider the fundamental dynamics of this situation and, from this, how we might choose different techno-societal designs and compose alternative ways of acting to make these possible.

This is considered through the concept of ‘cybersecurity anthropotechnics’. Here, cybersecurity means the totality of interconnected digital technologies and their effects, including our mythic relations with computers; while security means the stability, safety, and certainty of the ordering of the structures and processes of the social world. Anthropotechnics concerns the co-productivity of humans and technics, and the unavoidable spatial and symbolic technologies of self and community formation within which humans create secured domesticity. Crucially however, this is a dynamic process always in excess of itself, always causing further disruption and insecurity.

Employing a transdisciplinary approach anchored in social theory, philosophy, and cultural critique, and incorporating history, politics, and design theory, the thesis comprises a series of linked investigations that expand the concept of cybersecurity anthropotechnics. These are organized around four thematic chapters. The first concerns immunology, which draws principally on the work of Peter Sloterdijk and Bernard Stiegler to form an onto-political position concerning the formation of humanity through and with technics; the second concerns the android imaginary, looking at how technics flourish as aspects of modern social imaginaries, with particular emphasis on the figure of the android, or artificial person; the third considers the technosphere, examining the contemporary as historical period and planetary reality, and the resultant radical transformation in the possibilities for immunology; the fourth is about futurability, the politics of time, and engagements in the ‘imaginary reconstitution of society’, with the objective of designing anthropotechnical futures that prioritise human flourishing and technical health. The thesis concludes by arguing that cybersecurity anthropotechnics be seen as the grounds for fostering forms of sapiential design; creative spaces of ethical wisdom that enable the arts and techniques of living in the digital technosphere.

Experience

I previously worked as a Senior Manager in Research Resources for the Economic and Social Research Council.

I also worked in Sociology and Education Studies, holding research positions at Bristol University, Leeds University, and Cardiff University.

Responsibilities

Course Leader BSc Sociology
Global Ethics in a Globalized World – MSc Global Governance

Publications

Mellor, D. (2017) ‘Should Robots Commit Crimes?’ British Society of Criminology, Cardiff University, 17th May

Mellor, D. (2017) ‘Machines and Automation: Welcome address’, Machines and Automation: Perspectives on Labour, Surveillance and Warfare. Capitalist, Ideology and Crisis research cluster symposium, School of Modern Languages, Cardiff University, 5th May

Mellor, D. (2017) ‘On Technical Health: Design principles for the future’, Being Responsible in Research: Opportunities and Challenges. ZOON Project Workshop, St Cross College, University of Oxford, 28th March

Mellor, D. (2017) ‘What is Cybersecurity? On Anthrobotics and Anthropotechnics’, Anthrobotics European Workshop, University of Edinburgh, 21st March

Mellor, D. (2017) ‘Cybersecurity Anthropotechnics: Engaging with the World-Size Robot’, Informatics Forum, University of Edinburgh, 3rd March

Mellor, D. (2016) ‘Cybersecurity and the growth of the technosphere’, Where are we now? Temporalities of Globalisation conference, University of Amsterdam, 15th December

Mellor, D. (2016) ‘Meat the machines: hopes and fears’ AHRC Being Human Festival, De Montfort University, Leicester, 18th November

Mellor, D. (2016) ‘Fallen robots and the android imagination’, Fantasies of Contemporary Culture symposium, School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University, 23rd May

Mellor, D. (2016) ‘In the cyber war to come, your face will be a weapon’, Fiction and the Social Imaginary conference, Department of Sociology, University of York, 14th March

Mellor, D. (2015) ‘Speculative cybersecurity and the future defence of virtual worlds’, Cyber Security workshop, University of Warwick, 14th October

Mellor, D. (2015) ‘When humanity is enslaved, don’t say I didn’t warn you’, Early Career Research Symposium, Cyber Security Oxford, 1st October

Mellor, D. (2015) ‘Cybersecurity and Philosophy: New problems and concepts’, Public Research Showcase, CDT Oxford, 30th September

Mellor, D. (2015) ‘”Hello World”: The future of humans, computers and machines’, Cheltenham Science Festival, 12th June

Mellor, D. (2015) ‘What if robots are our future?’ Cheltenham Science Festival, 12th June

Mellor, D. (2015) ‘Science Fictions and Network Aesthetics’, Human Centred Computing Group Conference, Department of Computer Science, Oxford University, 15th January

Memberships

British Sociological Association – I’m a previous trustee and was one of the membership directors

Research

EPSRC funded DPhil ‘Cybersecurity anthropotechnics’ 2013-2017, Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford

Anthrobotics Reseach Cluster, University of Edinburgh

Human Centred Computing Group, University of Oxford

Areas of Expertise

Social and ethical implications of technological development
Responsible research and innovation
Politics, policies, and orientations towards the future
Science fiction and the technological imagination

Twitter

@ThatDavidMellor

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