Who are we?

We are all researchers who work at Newcastle University and in different ways we explore various things about the social world and the people in it. We don’t all look at the same things or in the same way, but that makes us an interesting team to work in and means we all add something to what we do. Below you can find out a bit about each us, what we research and who we are.


Janice McLaughlin


I work in the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre and I lead the project. I am a sociologist, which means that I am interested in understanding the many social contexts that influence people’s lives. Within that I am particularly interested in contexts that can create inequalities and unfairness and how people who are affected by such things respond. For example, in the past I have looked at gender as something that influences people’s lives a lot, from the games they play as children, to the clothes they wear as adults, to the caring role they have within their families, to the jobs they have throughout their lives. This project came out of my interest in disability, in particular how disability is something that is influenced a lot by society. For example, what people call someone – a child or an adult – who they think is disabled. Or how experiences of education, or friendships, or getting a job, or even getting into a building, can be influenced by disability. So it isn’t so much the specific disability that I think is important, but the way society responds. This doesn’t mean I am not interested in gender anymore; instead I look at how other factors such as gender, or family income, or where someone lives, interact with disability to help shape a disabled young person’s life. Finally, within all that I am interested in how disabled young people respond to the social contexts they live within, because such responses can help us think about how society might do things differently, such as support people better, or think differently about disabled people.


Edmund Coleman-Fountain


I used to work in the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre. I now work in the Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at York University. I was the main researcher on the project, so was the one who did all the interviews with the young people who took part in the project, and helped them carry out the photography work. What I am interested in, and what I have learnt from doing this project, is how all the things that make us different to others (such as being disabled or non-disabled, where we grow up, what race or ethnicity we are, being male, female or somewhere in-between, or lesbian, gay, bi or straight, for example) shape who we are, who we become, and how we are treated by others. Young people are not all the same, but have different lives because of these things. What I am interested in is how these things matter to young people, and what they mean. Doing this project has taught me a lot about things that disabled young people experience in their lives that other young people might not. But also that disabled people also have some of the same concerns as other young people, about growing up, getting a job, having a family. In my work I try to think through those differences, but also what makes people the same as others.


Allan Colver

I am a children and young person's doctor in the NHS and a Professor at Newcastle University. I undertook a large research project across Europe in which we interviewed 818 children aged 8-12 years with cerebral palsy. That was 10 years ago and it was a surprise then to us and others that so many children reported much pain; and clearly this effected their quality of life. People go to the doctor if they get a new worrying pain, but people with long term conditions and regular pain may not and doctors may fail to ask about pain. This may be more likely for children with a condition present from birth, such as cerabral palsy. 

Janice and I started to talk about this and realised how little was known about the meaning of pain to a person as they entered their teenage years - how does it affect their view of themselves and their body and their relationship with others? What might influence what they think of as pain and what other aspects of their experiences of their bodies are important to them? 

Many researchers, including myself, tend to get stuck in a groove, finding out more and more about less and less. In this study we tried to leave out grooves and brought together the experiences of the European children, and a children's doctor, a sociologist and some other social science colleagues to ask an important question which none of us would have thought of on our own. 


Patrick Olivier


‌I work in the area of computer science call human-computer interaction (HCI), which is principally concerned with understanding, and designing for, people's interaction with digital technologies. The scope of my work is broad, ranging from design approaches for engaging non-standard (for the computer industry) in participatory design activities (e.g. older older people  and people with dementia) to technological innovation such as development of massively instrumented environments like the Ambient Kitchen in which ever object can sense it's own motion and communicate which each other. As a field of study HCI has gone through some radical changes in the last 15 years, with a shift from thinking about the usability of digital technologies to thinking about people's lived experience of technology. This shift in thinking can be seen in the diversity of disciplines with which HCI now engages and embraces; something that is nicely reflected in the membership my research group in Culture Lab  which includes psychologists, sociologists, designers, engineers, artists,  clinical scientists and of course computer scientists (website:


Jayne Wallace

I am Reader and Research Fellow at the University of Dundee, which for me means that I’m a designer, contemporary jeweller and researcher. The ways in which our bodies and the objects that we associate with them (such as jewellery) represent different things about who we are and our relationships with other people have fascinated me for a long time. For many years now I’ve been making digital jewellery to explore how we can make things that are personal, beautiful and digitally enabled to give us new ways to understand ourselves and to connect us to each other and things that hold meaning for us. This has led me to run design research projects with fascinating people, for example: exploring intergenerational family relationships between mothers and daughters, exploring sense of self, personal significance and beauty with people who have dementia and even in collaborating with NASA to explore how we can make space data meaningful on earth.

There are many threads to the embodied selves project that struck a chord with me, but a central one was how we present ourselves in order to convey certain things about who we are and at times to mask, or to confront challenging things such as a disability. I was lucky enough to run two creative making workshops with some of the project’s participants where we made jewellery objects together that not only represented something highly significant for and about each person but also became a way of talking about some of the things that can be hard to talk about (like ‘pain’ for example). The pieces that were made had many layers of meaning to them and I think were an indication of the potential of using making as a process (and jewellery as a medium) to explore intricate aspects of our sense of who we are and how this is connected to our bodies (website:


Abi Durrant

I am a design researcher in the Digital Interaction group, based in the Culture Lab at Newcastle University.  I am interested in understanding how technologies shape people's everyday lives and experiences, and how to better support them through design. My research over the last few years has explored how people use digital photography to express who they are in different domains of life - at home, at school, at work, with friends, with family. I am currently exploring how people think about managing their digital identities across their lifespan. I am also interested in how design practice - making things - can be used as a way to communicate ideas and experiences within a research context, and engage those with a vested interest. This explains my interest and involvement in the Embodied Selves project, to think about what methods could help participants be involved and express themselves (website:


Jonathan Hook

I’m a researcher in the Digital Interaction research group, which is based in Newcastle University’s interdisciplinary research center Culture Lab. I currently work on the RCUK funded Social Inclusion for the Digital Economy (SiDE) project. My SiDE research principally explores the design of technologies and services that encourage and support children with disabilities, and their families, friends, teachers and carers, in making their own DIY assistive technology. I’m also involved in a variety of other exciting research projects that investigate topics including: reflection on participatory arts practice, originality in digital art, reflective design education and notions of liveness in interaction design (website:


Róisín McNaney


Róisín McNaney is a PhD student in the School of Computing Science at Newcastle University. A trained speech and language therapist, her main focus of work is on the design and application of pervasive technologies for clinical use in the monitoring, management and quantification of specific aspects of care. She has applied clinical and research experience working with individuals with  motor disorders and a range of complex communication issues.

Others who have helped put the website together

Heather Wilson produced all the drawings used in the website. We would like to thank her for doing such a great job

Thanks to Day8 Productions ( - a North Tyneside theatre production company - who produced the audio recordings for the website.

Actors: Michael Williamson and Thea Dodds.

Artistic Director: Karen Knox

Editing and production: Stu Stocks

Thanks to Studios

Paul Thompson provided the web support for putting the site together, thank you for your patience