Two Phd Studentships Available in Big Data Surveillance

Funded by SSHRC and St Andrews University

St Andrews Management School in conjunction with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded ‘Big Data Surveillance’ project would like to invite applications for two PhD scholarships based at the St Andrews University, Scotland, United Kingdom.

Big Data has a number of key elements: personal devices which stream data to business organizations; data intensive organizations which buy and sell data to users; scientific spin offs which develop algorithms and seek practical applications for them; and a world of new marketing practices seeking to reach individuals and persuade them to consume in a particular way. In this project we view big data simultaneously as a scientific innovation, as a management practice and as a practice which seeks to modify human behaviour and constitute everyday life. 

The project is seeking two PhD students, based in the UK, to investigate two facets of big data practices.

Understanding the diffusion of big data driven marketing practice.

For commercial firms, Big Data is a seductive idea which offers opportunities to get closer to the customer, tailor their offerings and differentiate their marketing strategies. However, many marketing professionals feel intimidated by the scientific complexity of the algorithms and overwhelmed by data. Moreover it has both procedural and distributive consequences for consumers. Principles of discrimination, entitlement, inclusion and exclusion can now be instantaneously applied, without redress, leaving customers vulnerable. This studentship will address how marketing professionals in key industries make sense of big data. It will question how ethical concerns about distributive and procedural justice consequences of big data surveillance can be mobilized into marketing practice.

The Dynamics of Data Donation.

‘Consumer data donation’ involves consumers parting voluntarily, even altruistically, with their consumption data in return for customized products and services. Such initiatives exist in energy, transport and healthcare sectors and the concept is growing in importance. Data donation adds to the multiple data streams now analysed by marketers under the rubric of ‘big data’, but promises to circumvent ethical problems around consent, purpose specification and data limitation. However its potential may be limited by the practical and ethical challenges facing big data analytics. The PhD will address the barriers to the uptake of data donation in different commercial contexts? Consumer, corporate, data broker and policy maker views will be taken into account.

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to work with a number of scholars and students associated with the Big Data Surveillance project at Queen's University, the University of Victoria, the University of Alberta, the University of Ottawa and University of Toronto (all Canada), as well as those at St Andrews University Management School and the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy. The successful applicant will also be expected to contribute to conferences, workshops and on-line fora associated with the Big Data Surveillance project. Both students will be supervised by Professor Kirstie Ball.

The successful applicant will be eligible for fee waiver for home/EU students, a research training support grant of £2,000, plus a stipend of £14,482. Funding is available for three years. The studentships will commence in September 2016.

You should have a first class or 2.1 degree in a relevant subject, and a distinction at Masters level with a significant component of advanced study in the intended area of specialism. Your Masters should include demonstrable training in research methods. You should submit a 500 word proposal for your research project as part of your application. Please state in your application that that you are applying for a Big Data Surveillance studentship.

Informal enquiries may be made to Formal applications should be made via the university portal by Friday 29 April.