The Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy is an independent team of academic researchers at the University of Cambridge, radically rethinking the power relationships between digital technologies, society and our planet.
We believe that the uncontrolled accumulation of power by technology companies poses major threats to democracy and the planet.
Through our robust research agenda, we are determined to deliver positive changes to society’s relationship with digital technologies.
Now more than ever it matters to understand shared challenges posed by power, technology, and democracy, and to wrestle with how political regimes matter for the governance of technology, and how different ways of building technology matter for politics, government, and states.
We strive to expand horizons, and analyse shared themes and notable points of divergence, and provide a platform for voices that are current ignored or under-appreciated in the public discourse about tech.
The meaning of democracy has never been stable.
We believe that debates about technology and regulation are often debates about how to understand, interpret, and apply the ideal of democracy and what it means — in complex, modern states, which rely on technologies that most people have neither the interest nor expertise to understand — for citizens to govern themselves and forge their collective state.
We have four key goals to tackle in this research:
- Enhancing public understanding of digital technologies and their societal effects.
- Exposing the global environmental consequences of digital technology
- Proposing solutions for the harmful impact of digital technologies on workers’ rights
- Building trust in digital technology and asserting the primacy of democratic values over corporate interests
- Executive Director: Gina Neff
- Chair of Advisory Board: John Naughton
- Research Associate: Hugo Leal
- Research Associate: Julia Rone
- Senior Research Associate: Hunter Vaughan
- Research Associate: Louise Hickman
- Project Administrator: Irene Galandra Cooper
- Project Administrator: Tom Lacey
- PA to Professor Neff: Ellen Fisher
- External Affairs Manager: Jeremy Hughes
Emily Bell is Founding Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, and a leading thinker, commentator and strategist on digital journalism. The majority of her career was spent at Guardian News and Media in London working as an award winning writer and editor both in print and online. As editor-in-chief across Guardian websites and director of digital content for Guardian News and Media, she led the web team in pioneering live blogging, multimedia formats, data and social media ahead, making the Guardian a recognised pioneer in the field. She is co-author (with C.W. Anderson and Clay Shirky) of Post Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present (2012), a trustee of the Scott Trust, the owners of The Guardian, a member of Columbia Journalism Review’s board of overseers, an adviser to Tamedia Group in Switzerland, chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council on social media, and a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board.
Diane Coyle is the inaugural Bennett Professor of Public Policy Cambridge. She co-directs the Bennett Institute where she heads research under the themes of progress and productivity, and has been a government adviser on economic policy, including throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Her latest book, Markets, State and People – Economics for Public Policy examines how societies reach decisions about the use and allocation of economic resources.
Diane is also a Director of the Productivity Institute, a Fellow of the Office for National Statistics, an expert adviser to the National Infrastructure Commission, and Senior Independent Member of the ESRC Council. She has served in public service roles including as Vice Chair of the BBC Trust and as a member of: the Competition Commission; the Migration Advisory Committee; and the Natural Capital Committee. Diane was Professor of Economics at the University of Manchester until March 2018 and was awarded a CBE for her contribution to the public understanding of economics in the 2018 New Year Honours.
David Runciman is Professor of Politics at Cambridge, a Contributing Editor of the London Review of Books and hosts the podcast Talking Politics. He was co-director of the Technology and Democracy project that ran at CRASSH some years ago and is the founding Director of the Centre for the Future of Democracy in the Bennett Institute. He has written extensively on democracy — most recently in How Democracy Ends and is currently working on a book derived from his recent series of online talks, The History of Ideas.
Sheila Hayman is a BAFTA and BAFTA Fulbright winning documentary filmmaker, and Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab. She’s currently working on a film on Artificial Intelligence and its implications. In 2010 her film ‘Mendelssohn, The Nazis and Me’ was nominated for the Grierson Award as Best Arts Documentary, in 2012 she wrote, produced and directed a multilingual miniseries about the Enlightenment which was seen by 150m people, and in 2014 she wrote and produced a major drama-documentary about the Targa Florio road race in Sicily. Website
Richard Danbury is an academic lawyer, a journalist and a former practicing barrister. He directs the MA in investigative journalism at City University, London. He practised — briefly — as a criminal barrister before joining the BBC, where he worked for about a decade, based in News and Current Affairs, and specialising in interviews and investigations. He spent extended periods on programmes such as Newsnight and Panorama and the investigative documentary series Rough Justice. His last staff job was Deputy Editor of the 2010 BBC Prime Ministerial Debate. While at the BBC, he was part of teams that won two Royal Television Society Awards and a New York Festivals medal. He then went freelance, and has worked for Channel 4, Sky and ITN, producing interviews with just about every leader of a main UK political party since 2000, and has worked on TV coverage of the past five general elections. He has also coordinated Channel 4’s investigative journalism training scheme for the past six years, and has been the BBC’s Advanced Legal Trainer for the past nine years. He is a member of the Scott Trust Review Panel, the organisation that deals with editorial complaints in relation to the Guardian’s content.
Julia Powles is Associate Professor of Law and Technology at the University of Western Australia and Director of the Minderoo Tech & Policy Lab there. Scientifically trained and experienced in national and international policy-making, her research focuses on civic and rights-based responses to emerging technologies. She is an expert in privacy, intellectual property, internet governance, and the law and politics of data, automation, and artificial intelligence. Prior to joining UWA, Julia held academic appointments at New York University, Cornell Tech, and the University of Cambridge. She also worked in the Office of the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, in legal practice, as a contributing editor and policy fellow at the Guardian, as a bioscience researcher, and as a judicial associate in the Federal Court of Australia and Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
John Naughton is Emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology at the Open University, Director of the Wolfson Press Fellowship Programme, the Observer’s Technology columnist and an inveterate blogger. He was co-Director on two earlier CRASSH research projects — on ‘Conspiracy and Democracy’ and ‘Technology and Democracy’. His most recent book, From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know about the Internet is published by Quercus.
Steven Connor is the Director of CRASSH, Grace 2 Professor of English in the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge. He came to Cambridge in 2012, having been Professor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck College, London and, from 2003 to 2012, Director of the London Consortium Graduate Programme in Humanities and Cultural Studies, a collaboration between Birkbeck and cultural institutions in the capital, including Tate, the British Film Institute, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Architectural Association and the Science Museum. He is a writer, critic and broadcaster, who has published 25 books and edited collections, on a wide range of topics, including Dickens, Beckett, Joyce, value, ventriloquism, skin, flies and the imagination of air. Among his recent books are Dream Machines, an exploration of forms of machine fantasy or ‘psychotechnography’, and The Madness of Knowledge (2019).