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Dr Sorcha O'Brien

Senior Lecturer in Design History & Theory

About

I am a design historian interested in technology and identity, in both physical and digital forms. I am currently an AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow, working on a research project on the introduction of electrical products into the Irish home in the wake of rural electrification in the 1950s and 1960s, in partnership with the National Museum of Ireland. Although domestic electric products were seen as modernising technologies in many other countries, this project uses object analysis, archival research and oral history to consider to what extent these meanings held in the Republic of Ireland.

I joined Kingston in 2012, having previously taught Design History and Theory at the National College of Art & Design, Dublin and IADT in Dun Laoghaire. I completed my AHRC-funded PhD dissertation on the representation of electrical technology in 1920s Ireland at the University of Brighton, which was published in 2017 by Irish Academic Press.

Areas of specialism

  • History of Design
  • Material Culture
  • Visual Culture
  • Irish Design
  • eLearning

Qualifications

  • PhD History of Design, University of Brighton, 2012
  • PGCert Research Methodology, University of Brighton, 2008
  • MA History of Design, Middlesex University, 1998
  • BDes Industrial Design, National College of Art & Design, 1996

Professional membership

Design History Society

Society for the History of Technology (SHOT)

Institute of Designers in Ireland (Education section)

Research

My research interests focus around two main issues, that of technology and identity in design and material culture. I am also interested in wider issues surrounding technology and identity in design, whether digital or analogue. With a background in industrial and digital design, I am interested in issues surrounding the design of computers and networked devices at work and in the home, critical design and the creation of online and filmic worlds, as well as the pedagogy involved in using digital technology in education. I welcome research students pursuing research in any of these areas, as well as national or personal identity in relation to product or domestic design and technology. 

Research student supervision

Publications

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