Dr Alexander R. E. Taylor
Lecturer in Communications
I’m an anthropologist of communications infrastructure. I work at the intersection of critical data studies, media and communication studies and infrastructure studies. I’m currently the Marconi Fellow in the History and Science of Wireless Communication at the University of Oxford. I'm also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
My research concentrates on the material, temporal and environmental dimensions of communications infrastructure, with a focus on data storage and security. I have conducted fieldwork in the data centre industry, primarily working inside nuclear bunkers that have been repurposed as ‘disaster-proof’ data storage sites for cloud computing companies.
My methods are ethnographic, media-archaeological and historical-archival. I study human-technology relations by observing and working with engineers, data security technicians and infrastructure maintenance workers. The analysis of media representations and archival materials plays a central role in my research, as does the materiality of digital infrastructure.
I’m an Editorial Assistant for the Journal of Extreme Anthropology and I am a founding member of the Social Studies of Outer Space (SSOS) Network, a research network joining social scientists working on topics related to Outer Space. I’m also the founder of the Cambridge Infrastructure Resilience Group, a cross-disciplinary research network that brings scholars together with industry leaders, security practitioners and policymakers to explore critical infrastructure protection in relation to emerging global catastrophic risks.
My work has been funded by the Royal Anthropological Institute, The Royal Geographical Society and the Economic and Social Research Council. My essays have been published in journals such as The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Ephemera, Culture Machine and Roadsides. I have also written for Failed Architecture, The Conversation and The Resilience Shift, among others.
My research interests include: data, technology, futures, outer space, techno-apocalyptic narratives, digital preservation, digital sustainability and pre-digital nostalgia.
I invite inquiries from potential PhD students who are thinking of working on any relevant subject that falls within my areas of interest:
- Media infrastructure
- The data centre industry (geopolitics, environmental impact)
- Cloud computing
- Techno-apocalyptic narratives
- Critical data studies
- Digital materialities (labour, e-waste, infrastructure)
- Data-driven and algorithmic media (e.g. Netflix recommendation systems)
- Pre-digital nostalgia and digital detoxing/disengagement
- Digital sustainability (carbon relations of media consumption)
- Social studies of outer space
If you have only vague ideas for a project in any of these or related areas, I might be able to suggest something that would build on your interests and skills. Please feel free to get in touch.