Who got that job?

October 26, 2007

Stuart Walker. Co-director Imagination@Lancaster, Lancaster University.

Position advertised in The Times Higher , October 20, 2006

Stuart Walker must have one of the widest yet least tangible research remits in academe.

As co-director of Imagination@Lancaster, he has been appointed to help run what is being billed as an interdisciplinary "imagination laboratory".

The mission of the £2.5 million facility, which was officially launched at London's Design Museum this week, is to bring together scientists, engineers, artists and designers to "explore places, products and systems for the future".

"We want to examine the impact of mobile phones and the internet and the types of communication they have to offer," Professor Walker said.

This raises a long list of questions: "How do these allow for the democratisation of ideas? What does this mean to the typical roles of designers in what we design? What lessons can we learn about power structures being challenged?

"The worldwide audience on YouTube is very influential, and it is very empowering and dynamic. Should we worry that there is no longer so much control? What does it mean for the future?"

For now, there are no decisions on how such questions will be tackled. "Over the coming months we will be deciding what to do," he said. And the team of eight academics will not at first worry about implementing their ideas: "Our outputs will be on a theoretical and conceptual basis," he said.

Professor Walker has joined Lancaster from a post as associate dean (research) at the postgraduate faculty of environmental design at the University of Calgary in Canada, where he also ran an industrial design programme.

"Lancaster has a wonderful research reputation, and the open atmosphere will really help with developing an interdisciplinary centre," he said.

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