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Dr Matt Watson

Dr Matt Watson

Lecturer in Social and Cultural Geography

Room number: F9
Telephone (internal): 27911
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7911
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7911

Current research

My work is concerned with the complex systemic processes which make, shape, shift and stabilise practices with consequences for sustainability and wellbeing, and with exploring the routes and institutions through which those practices are governed. Addressing themes including consumption, energy, waste, mobility and biodiversity, my research engages with geographical and sociological theories of practice, materiality and everyday life, as well as with science and technology studies, and literature on the structures and processes of governing. My research programme springs from the basic insight that social interventions designed in response to the challenges of sustainability and wellbeing must be grounded in an understanding of the dynamics of what people do. Questions about how expectations escalate, how environmentally damaging behaviours become normal or how more sustainable ways of life can be propagated require methods and perspectives that go beyond individualistic and rational-choice based paradigms and that confront the embeddedness of everyday practices in spaces, social relations, routines, norms and socio-technical systems. Current funded research takes this programme forward through two projects.

  • Consumer culture in an age of anxiety (CONANX) A four-year research programme led by Professor Peter Jackson and funded by the European Research Council. As co-investigator on the programme, I am leading a three-year work package, working with Dr Angela Meah to explore negotiations of anxiety in mundane domestic provisioning practices. Through exploring the uncertain relations between official messages around food and the routinised coordination of what goes on in the kitchen, this research will illuminate key issues in the relations between governing and everyday practice.
  • PV-Futures A University funded, cross-faculty network focused around three linked PhD projects on photovoltaics (solar electricity technologies), supervised between Geography, Physics and Mathematics, and associated with the Sheffield Solar Farm. The project aims to bring critical social science approaches to bear on the development of novel 2nd generation photovoltaics (solar electricity generating panels) before they become technically 'stabilised', to enable new sustainable technologies to be socio-technically, rather than simply technically, effective.
  •  Photovoltaics for future societies A four-year interdisciplinary project on which I am Co-Investigator. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council the project brings together academics from Physics (including the Principal Investigator, Alastair Buckley), Electrical Engineering, Architecture and Human Geography. Working across disciplinary boundaries and with communities in South Yorkshire and in Bangladesh, the project sets out to develop new insights for the development and effective implementation of novel sustainable technologies. This project runs from late 2011 to 2015.


In keeping with the research-led teaching strategy of the University and of the Department of Geography, my teaching is closely aligned with my research. In much of my teaching, the topics, concepts and knowledge I help students learn about are related to my own research on themes of sustainability, governing, technologies and consumption. Through modules like Environment, Society and Policy or Geographies of Consumption, a key aim is to engage students critically with big geographical themes, like climate change, food security, well being and social justice, and with contemporary ways of thinking about them, by reflecting upon their own lives as members of the society which produces and responds to these issues. The other side of my teaching focuses on the processes of doing research. A fundamental part of becoming a graduate from this department is gaining both understanding and practical experience of producing geographical knowledge. Contributing to this, I am able to draw upon my experience as a researcher to teach social research methods and research design, and enable students to learn by doing, from first year undergraduate through to early stage doctoral researchers.

Key publications

  • Watson, M. and Lane, R. (2011). Mapping geographies of reuse in Sheffield and Melbourne. In: Lane, R. and Gorman-Murray, A. (eds.) Material Geographies of Household Sustainability. Ashgate, Farnham. 133-156. ISBN: 9781409408154
  • Watson, M. and Shove, E. (2008). Product, competence, project and practice: DIY and the dynamics of craft consumption. Journal of Consumer Culture, 8(1), 69-89.
  • Watson, M., Bulkeley, H. and Hudson, R. (2008). Unpicking Environmental Policy Integration: Tales from waste management. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 26(3), 481-498.
  • Shove, E., Watson, M., Ingram, J. and Hand, M. (2007). The Design of Everyday Life, Berg, Oxford. ISBN 9781845206826
    Publisher's page
  • Watson, M. and Bulkeley, H. (2005). Just Waste? Municipal waste management and the politics of environmental justice. Local Environment, 10(4), 411-426.
Publications uSpace Apply

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