Dr Lara Houston

Research Fellow

Global Sustainability Institute

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Sustainability , Research

Research Supervision:Yes

Lara Houston is a social scientist, who investigates sustainability through grassroots, citizen-led practices. She studies how citizens create alternative ways of producing knowledge – particularly when they are excluded or marginalised from large-scale institutions. This has included collaborations with electronics repairers, citizen scientists and urban farmers. She specialises in using creative, inventive and participatory methods, and her work often takes the form of inter- and trans-disciplinary collaborations.  

lara.houston@aru.ac.uk

Visit Lara's website 

Background

One strand of Lara’s research focusses on how creative and inventive methods can help people to imagine and create more sustainable futures, including:

  • Emergent social innovations within arts, design and social change as part of the CreaTures (Creative Practices for Transformational Futures) project. 
  • Previous research on Algorithmic Food Justice, which worked with urban growers using arts-based methods to envision new futures for blockchain technologies in food production.

A second strand centres on digital infrastructures and planetary computing, including:

  • Ongoing work on community repair meet-ups, and global campaigns for the ‘right to repair’ digital devices (started as part of Reclaiming Repair).
  • Postdoctoral research on DIY air quality monitoring, and citizen data activism, as part of Citizen Sense.
  • PhD research on peer knowledge production amongst mobile phone repair technicians in Kampala, Uganda, at Lancaster University.

Research interests

  • Grassroots social change for sustainability
  • Creative practice and sustainable futures
  • Repair practices
  • Inventive methods for social research

Qualifications

  • PhD Sociology, Lancaster University
  • MA Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • BA Design, Goldsmiths, University of London

Memberships, editorial boards

Exhibit X Column Editor, Interactions Magazine

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Co-Investigator on the Algorithmic Food Justice project, funded by the Not-Equal Network+ grant, from the ESPRC

Selected recent publications

Houston, Lara, Alex Taylor, Sara Heitlinger, and Ruth Catlow. ‘Algorithmic Food Justice’. In eds. Dimitris Papadopoulos, María Puig de la Bellacasa, and Maddalena Tacchetti. Ecological Reparation. Bristol University Press (2023). 

Sara Heitlinger, Lara Houston and Alex S. Taylor. ‘Nature 3.0: blockchain for extraction or care?’. In eds. Ruth Catlow, and Penny Rafferty. Radical Friends: Decentralised Autonomous Organisations and the Arts. Torque Editions (2022). 

Dolejšová, M., Ampatzidou, C., Houston, L., Light, A., Botero, A., Choi, J. H-j., Wilde, D., Altarriba Bertran, F., Davis, H., Gil, F., and Catlow, R. ‘Crafting Transformative Futures: Creative Practice, Social Change and Climate Emergency’. In Proceedings of the 2021 ACM Creativity and Cognition (C&C’21) conference. Article 3 (2021): 1-9. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3450741.3465242

Heitlinger, Sara, Lara Houston, Alex Taylor, and Ruth Catlow. ‘Algorithmic Food Justice: Co-Designing More-than-Human Blockchain Futures for the Food Commons’. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 305 (2021): 1–17. DOI: https://doi-org.ezproxy.sussex.ac.uk/10.1145/3411764.3445655 

Jackson, Steven J., and Lara Houston. ‘The Politics and Political Economy of Repair’. In eds. Jeremy Swartz, and Janet Wasko. Media: A Transdisciplinary Enquiry. Chicago: Intellect, University of Chicago Press. (2021): 244–64.

Houston, Lara, Jennifer Gabrys, and Helen Pritchard. ‘Breakdown in the Smart City: Exploring Workarounds with Urban-sensing Practices and Technologies,’ Science, Technology & Human Values. 44 (5) (2019): 843-870. DOI: 10.1177/0162243919852677.

Pritchard, Helen, Jennifer Gabrys, and Lara Houston ‘Re-Calibrating DIY: Testing Digital Participation across Dust Sensors, Fry Pans and Environmental Pollution,’ New Media and Society, 20 (12) (2018): 4533-4552. 

Recent presentations and conferences

2022 Talks – 
Sussex Humanities Lab, CreaTures overview, December 2022
Earth Systems Governance conference Toronto, Canada, October 2022
CreaTures Festival, Seville, Spain, July 2022
Sustainability Frontiers, Lund, Sweden, February 2022

2022 Panels organised – 

Uroboros Festival Panel [Online recording] Feral Policy knowledge exchange for creative practitioners and policymakers, October 2022 

New European Bauhaus Festival panel [Online recording] Managed or out of control? Bridging Policy and Creative Perspectives on Nature, June 2022