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Matt Spencer (Associate Professor)

Matt Spencer (Associate Professor)

My research sits at the interdisciplinary intersection of Science & Technology Studies and Cyber Security. Most broadly, I am interested in understanding the relations between digital technologies, knowledge practices, and society. I work primarily with qualitative materials, including interviews, workshops and texts.

My research falls into two main areas:

Cyber Security

Most of my research in recent years has been devoted to developing a sociocultural analysis of cyber security, focused in particular on exploring the kinds of reasoning and justification applied to digital infrastructures as targets of real (or hypothetical) attack. Topics I work on include:

  • the changing face of cyber security assurance policy and the role of government in creating schemes for the evaluation of the security of technical products;
  • the emergence of new security models, in particular the rise of 'de-perimeterised' ways of thinking in information security;
  • the use of models and modelling in security reasoning more generally;
  • the nature of vulnerability as it emerges in cycles of revelation and repair;
  • the problematisation of security as an organisational function within the context of software delivery, and new ways of thinking about secure delivery informed by lean and high reliability theory.

Across these areas, I return to a number of core themes, including the historicity of technology and of the forms of reasoning entwined with it, as well as the importance of 'sensemaking,' how the stories practitioners tell about securing inform their work.

As an anthropologist by training, I regard participation in my field of study to be a key component of my research practice. My own 'security practice' in this vein includes contributions to cyber security guidance and specialist threat reports, as well as the development of applied workshop methodologies for the benefit of security practitioners - see the Trust Mapping workshop methodology.

Further details on my security related work are available on the project page for Scaling Trust: An Anthropology of Cyber Security (and in various publications).

Models and Simulations

Many fields of science and engineering have been revolutionised by the rise of new digital techniques for simulating systems. Working with, and reasoning with, computation, software and data presents a distinctive set of challenges for practitioners, particularly at scale, with high performance computing, large software projects, and big datasets.

During my PhD, I conducted fieldwork with a research group in London, examining the nature of computational science research projects, scientists' attitudes towards visualisation, and the practical challenges of scientific software development. In addition to the publications listed below, my PhD thesis, Reason and Representation in Scientific SimulationLink opens in a new window is available open access.

Academic Profile

I joined CIM in June 2017. I was awarded my PhD in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2013. Prior to that I studied Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

In addition to my academic research, I have worked in IT and digital technology delivery, across a number of areas, including web, mobile, e-learning and information systems, for clients in media, transport and public sectors.

I am a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, and an Expert Fellow in the EPSRC SPRITE+ network.

Research Students

I am interested in hearing from potential doctoral students with an interest in any of the areas mentioned above.

Selected Publications

Spencer, M. 2022. 'Characterising Assurance: Scepticism and Mistrust in Cyber Security.' Journal of Cultural Economy

Spencer, M. 2022. 'Engines, Puppets, Promises: The Figurations of Configuration Management.' in Lury, C, Viney, W. & Wark, S. Figure: Concept and Method. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan. pp105-125.

Spencer, M. 2021. 'Creative Malfunction: Finding Fault with Rowhammer.' Computational Culture: A Journal of Software Studies, 8

Spencer, M. 2019. 'The Difference a Method Makes: Methods as Epistemic Objects in Computational Science.' Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory

Spencer, M. 2015. ‘Brittleness and Bureaucracy: Software as a Material for Science.’ Perspectives on Science 23.4: 466-484

Spencer, M. 2013. 'Doing Science Justice: Speculative Materialism and the Facticity of Research'. Symploke 21.1: 163-177

Spencer, M 2012. 'Trouble with Images in Computational Physics'. Spontaneous Generations 6.1: 34-42

Spencer, M. 2012. 'Image and Practice: Visualisation in Computational Fluid Dynamics Research'. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. 37.1: 96-111

Matt Spencer (Assistant Professor)


Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies
B0.26 Social Sciences
University of Warwick

Email: M dot Spencer dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk