Tom Schofield

This thesis and the accompanying artworks articulate the following research question: What is the role of materiality in ecologies of technological experiences and how can (and do) artists and designers design for and with it?

Theories and practices which design for and with digital technologies have expanded from their roots in computer science and electronics to become involved in diverse areas of research across the humanities as well as scientific and design disciplines. With that expansion, and particularly since the birth of the world-wide-web, researchers have sought to analyse the impact of such technologies in culture.

From the late 1990's some influential research (such as (Negroponte, 1996), (Mitchell W. J., 2000)) stressed the immateriality of digital technologies focusing, for example, on the interchangeability of digital information and the de-spatialising effect of the net. This thesis argues that this view remains a pervasive one. More recently though, and in response, an interest has developed in the nature of the materiality of digital technologies.

This materiality is expressed and investigated in a number of different ways. Some research (such as (Wiberg, 2013) (Drucker, 2013)) has focused on formal qualities of materiality, such as physical shape, texture and colour. Others focus on a broader notion of materiality in terms of objecthood. Still others differentiate objecthood from 'thingness'; the quality of being a thing.

This thesis first examines a range of research on materiality and from analysis of this, and from practice-based research in the form of the creation of artworks, develops a formula of five separate facets of materiality. These are developed through making and analysis to form a framework to inform designing and making for and with technology. The facets of materiality developed are; performative; distributed; spatio-temporal; fragile; and future-oriented.

The framework developed positions design and making within a context of 'experiential ecologies' and theorises the role of materiality within such ecologies. Experiential ecologies build on and integrate previous strands of research which have emphasised the impact of infrastructure on experience (such as (Dourish & Bell, 2011), (Star & Ruhleder, 1994)), the agency of non-humans (such as (Latour, 1993), (Bennet, 2010) and the aesthetics of experiences with technology (such as (Dewey, Art as Experience, 2005 (1934)), (McCarthy & Wright, 2004)). This thesis adds a techno-historical dimension to the concept of an ecology, and proposes ways in which contemporary technological experience is historically founded in ecologies.

Publications and Exhibitions


  • July 2013 Null By Morse, Historical Optical Communication to Smartphones, Tom Schofield, Leonardo, Vol 46. No. 4. pp 344-352. 2013. Full paper.
  • Jan 2013 Machine Voices,Tom Schofield, Artnodes, n. 12. 2013. Short paper.


  • July 2013 - Null By Morse, Historical Optical Communication to Smartphones, Tom Schofield, Siggraph, 2013. Full paper.
  • June 2013 - Trigger Shift: Participatory Design of an Augmented Theatrical Performance with Young People, Tom Schofield, John Vines, Tom Higham, Ed Carter, Mehmet Akten and Amy Golding Creativity and Cognition, 2013. Full paper.
  • June 2013 - Indexicality and Visualization: Exploring Analogies with Art, Cinema and Photography, Tom Schofield, Marian Dork and Martyn Dade Robertson, Creativity and Cognition, 2013. Full paper.
  • June 2013 - Repeating the Past: Lessons for Critical Data Visualisation from the History of Computer Art, Tom Schofield, ISEA2013. Short paper.
  • Mar 2012 - Neurotic Armageddon Indicator: a Data Sculpture, Tom Schofield, Artsit, Milan 2013. Poster.
  • Sep 2012 - Macroscope and WikiVis: Two examples of data visualization inspired by material research practices, Martyn Dade-Robertson and Tom Schofield, Digital Research 2012. Short paper.
  • Sep 2012 - Material Macroscope: Merging digital and physical research spaces through interaction with research objects, Luis Hernan, Martyn Dade-Robertson and Tom Schofield, Digital Research 2012. Short paper.
  • Jun 2012 - Machine Autobiographies for Art Making, Tom Schofield, Trans-disciplinary Imaging Conference, 2012. Full Paper.
  • Jan 2011 - Data Materialism in Art Making, Tom Schofield, The Electronic Superhighway, Symposium, Tate Liverpool. Full paper.
  • April 2010 - Sticking Point, Tom Schofield, Proceedings of Smart Graphics, 2010. Short paper and exhibition artwor.


July 2013 - Neurotic Armageddon Indicator: a Data Sculpture, Electronic Visualization and the Arts, London

June 2013 - Null By Morse, Performing Optical Communication with Smartphones, XCOAX,

June 2013 - Optimism Skywards, Dear Angel, Globe Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Oct 2012 - Null by Morse, Mark Inscriber, Data Is Beautiful, Hungarian University of Fine Art, Budapest, Hungary

Aug 2012 - Burj Babil, Abandon Normal Devices Festival (A.N.D.), Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK

Jun 2012 - Trigger Shift Durham Brass Festival, UK

Dec 2012 - Burj Babil, Siggraph Asia, Hong Kong.

Dec 2010 - traceNorth, Newcastle University, UK.

Sep 2010 - Stupid Tw**t, Design Event, Newcastle, UK

Sep 2010 - Sticking Point, Unleashed Devices, Waterman Art Centre, London, UK.

April 2010 - Sticking Point, Smart Graphics, Banff Centre, Banff, Canada