Material Engagement + Technicity + Consciousness


The Metatechnicity Research Group’s aim is to bring fresh insight to history and trajectories by (re)introducing consciousness into the narratives, descriptions and understandings of technology.



Like many designers, we are interested in the ways in which human consciousness shapes technology. We are specifically interested, however, in the ways in which technology shapes, and has shaped, human consciousness over time. Our method is to re-examine our understanding of ourselves by re-writing human consciousness into our histories of technology.

Metatech brings together a community of researchers who look deeper in time and wider in scope than most technology histories, bringing new and nonlinear narratives to design, humans, technology and the earth. We want to bring greater depth understandings of the ways in which the human mind is intertwined with the earth and is materialised in and through designed artefacts, and how that materialisation through artefacts shapes the mind.

Our work has been developed in relation to recent and emerging postphenomenological and new-materialist human histories, and can be seen as a form of archaeology that attempts to bring an anthropological and evolutionary foundation to design and our understandings of technicity. Our thesis is that consciousness is continuous with technology – two dimensions that have, until very recently, not been included in the canon of historical, cultural narratives. We aim to generate new understandings of the continuities between technology, consciousness and human history through the analysis of changes and variations in technological forms, cultural practices, languages, and habits over time.

Through our transdisciplinary engagement merging design, archaeology and cognitive science, our work has implications for understandings of design practice, the cognitive sciences, human histories and the sustainable projection of our species.


Metatech-Labs are specific strands within our research and are most often delivered in collaboration with other research groups and partners both within our University and elsewhere. The Labs are:

The Metatech Cognition, Artefacts, Volition & Environment (CAVE) Lab – Cognition, Artefacts, Volition & Environment Lab – CAVE seeks to better understand the role Media technologies, materials, objects and artefacts play in the development of human cognition over time. This lab is conducted in collaboration with colleagues at Oxford University, Bournemouth University and Plymouth University. 

Project : CAVE: Collaboration with Dr Lambros Malafouris, Keble College, Oxford University. Examining how material engagement theory can help designers to understand their historical, current and future role as agents in the shaping of human cognition and to strengthen the dialogue between designers and archaeologists. Griff’s focuses upon the role designed artefacts play in the development of embodied cognition and hopes to bring new insight to interaction design and usability, and to archaeology. Firstly as a means for designers to more fully account for the ways in which they approach the design of human interactions and secondly to bring new design focused insight to archaeology by opening a dialogue between those who create artefacts and those who study them. (Hill. Thompson. Woodward. Malafouris.) 

Project : Material Engagement Theory in Sport: Collaboration with Dr Carly Stewart, Bournemouth University (Stewart, Woodward)

The Metatech A-anthropocentric Life (A-Life) Lab A-Life seeks to include post-human, non-human and non-anthropocentric, geological and environmental narratives in our histories and futures as well as to establish new territories for research. 

Project – Rock/Body: Collaboration with a number of colleagues at the University of Exeter. (Woodward). An AHRC Network funded cross-institutional research project.

Project – Life (re)made: A speculative project that seeks to explore the potentials and consequences of (re)imaginings and (re)makings of the human body, establishing a new territory for design research. (Thompson)

The Metatech Phenomenology Arts Cognition, (PAC) Lab – PAC seeks to better understand the relationship between the cognitive sciences and phenomenology by bringing together the arts and cognitive sciences into a purposeful dialogue with design. 

Project : Eidetic  Experience and Memory : A PhD project that explores the eidetic experience and memory of drawing while running. Questions of performance, spatiality and experience collide and are encrypted through the drawings themselves and in the places in which they were drawn. Amelia aims to become the ultimate-itinerant-illustrator running and drawing through the world. (Johnstone, Thompson. Woodward.)

Project : Humour and design: A PhD project that scopes a new theory of malentanglement. Deviation from an expected order of things can illuminates engagements with designed artefacts and the inhabited ‘designed world’. Malentanglement is proposed as a means to understand the role and place of humour in design, and as a means to account for the difficulties faced by design/designers when describing highly innovative artefacts or aesthetics to other parties – such as clients or the wider public. The research has impact into understanding the role of humour in effective participatory and user-centred design practice. (Thompson. Pepperell. Punt.)

Project – The potentials of the hand : A PhD research project that seeks to understand hand movement as a facet of cognition and how it can be accounted for in HCI research terms, specifically in respect to the design of mobile phones. The research tests ways in which micro-movements of the hand afford a higher level of complexity in sensorimotor action in human – non-human cognitive processes. The research has impact in terms to understandings for the design and additional potential of small device interaction. (Thompson. Gill. Roudaut.)

Project : Micro-Phenomenology and Neuroscience : The project will undertake applied neuroscience research, development of technologies and visualisation methods with published outputs. The project also has the potential to more fully explore previous research (Punt, Woodward) to undertake a revision of the historical development of the brain sciences to include the wider context of nineteenth-century aesthetics, philosophy and the arts within which psychologists would regularly publish non-scientific writing. (Thompson, Woodward)

Metatech Are

Metatech Convenors

  • Dr Stephen Thompson ::: A designer-theorist who is concerned with metaphysiological interplay of the body and tools in cognition as it is enacted by means of a widely distributed and emergent bio-technic ‘soma’. Steve is a trustee of the OpenUp Music charity. Head of Graduate Studies (Doctoral & Masters) at Cardiff School of Art & Design.
  • Dr Martyn Woodward ::: A media theorist concerned with the relational nature of cognition and the material world, as can be made apparent through an archaeology of depictions and other visual artefacts over time. Senior Lecturer, Cardiff School of Art & Design.

Metatech  Research Colleagues

  • Amelia Johnstone ::: Senior Lecturer, Programme Director Animation and PhD researcher.


Metatech  are always looking for people to join us

As colleagues and partners : We are particularly concerned to talk with others who are interested in the non-linear development of technologies, practices and ideas in any discipline. Please do contact us if you are interested in a conversation about this by clicking on the ‘menu’ and selecting the contact link. 

As PhD researchers : The Metatechnicity group and its extended community provides an experienced MRes and doctoral environment for interdisciplinary practitioners who explore the archaeological, historical and philosophical aspects of science, technology, the arts, design and popular culture with a focus placed upon the development and roles of cognition within these domains. Please do contact us if you are interested in a conversation about this by clicking on the ‘menu’ and selecting the contact link. 

As MA or MRes students : Metatech support Masters students who want to understand as much as they can about how technology is shaped by and shapes the cognition of the human species; its ideas; its imagination and its ambitions. Can you find new ways of understanding the histories of things and bring new ideas to how we might rethink who we are (as a species) and what we might become? Our Masters opportunities are:

MRes A&D A focused research preparation programme which is ideal for students who want to prepare for doctoral-level research.

MA A&D (Design Futures) A speculative and open programme which is ideal for students who want to spend some time exploring ideas and developing a speculative practice.

Please do contact us if you are interested in a conversation about ways in which we might collaborate with you, or if you would like to join our community as a Doctoral or Masters student.



Metatechnicty Research Group collaborates with

Dr Lambros Malafouris : Keble College,University of Oxford : Institute of Archaeology

Prof. Robert Pepperell : Cardiff Metropolitan University : FovoLab

Prof. Dr Michael Punt : Plymouth University : Transtechnology Research

Dr Anne Roudaut : University of Bristol : Bristol Interaction Group

Prof Steve Gill : Cardiff Metropolitan University : UCD Research

Dr Carly Stewart : Bournemouth University : Sports 

Barry Farrimond CEO : OpenUp : OpenUp Music


Lead design research group in the CAVE research project.


Metatechnicity Research is member of the Meta Research Group


Cardiff School of Art & Design

Cardiff Metropolitan University