I am Ben Dalton


Homepages are weird bits of static web that try to collapse together and fix in place all of the different aspects of someone's identity while always feeling like they are inadequately under construction.

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Here are some bits about me from various relatively recently updated places on the web:

Dr Ben Dalton @noiicorp – Twitter

low volume professional facets of @noii – art, design, technology, research and academic. he/him/they/them

About Dr Ben Dalton – Leeds School Of Arts, Leeds Beckett University

Ben is an experimental media technologist who uses research methods of design and art. Their research is focused on the field of identity design including technical, social, political and aesthetic aspects of identity in digital public space.

Over the last several years Ben has been investigating the theme of identity design and identity play of networked publics, as a member of the Creative Exchange AHRC Knowledge Exchange Hub in the School of Communication at the Royal College of Art, London. Ben is a Principal Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, Leeds. Ben has recently shown work, given talks and run workshops on themes of identity design including ESA Convention House, Leeds; FACT, Liverpool; MAP University of Regina, Saskatchewan; DUB University of Washington, Seattle; Chaos Communication Congress, Hamburg; Digital Media Labs, Barrow-in-Furness; ICA, London; FutureEverything, Manchester; TodaysArt, The Hague; Berghs, Stockholm; Abandon Normal Devices, Liverpool; WWW, Rio de Janeiro; Sensuous Knowledge, Bergen; and DIS, Newcastle.

Ben has a background in design, ubiquitous computing and mobile sensor networks from the MIT Media Lab, and has conducted research in the Århus University Electron-Molecular Interaction group, University of Leeds Spintronics and Magnetic Nanostructures lab, and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, London. Recently they have been a regular guest Professor at the Bergen National Academy of Art and Design, teaching workshops on interaction design and geolocated media. Ben was co-investigator on two EPSRC funded research projects in: visualising pedestrian usage patterns in interactive urban spaces; and wearable computing sensors for ubiquitous computing applications. They have worked on Hewlett-Packard funded development of a GPS music city archive app. They also co-directed with Amber Frid-Jimenez the Data is Political project on art, design, and the politics of information, which has included an international symposium funded in part by VERDIKT (Research Council of Norway).

Ben's current research investigates identity design by looking at the themes of identity performance and digital public space through 'diffractive' methodologies of 'material-discursive agential realism'. Identity construction has long been a key element of design in typography, branding and layout. Identity construction is also key in the politics of social systems and theories of self. These perspectives help uncover the future of designing identity online and in digital systems. Ben's research includes developing prototype apps and services that explore modern fragmented identity, as well as experimental design, participatory research and art practice. They have talked about identity construction in the workplace and social spaces, following collaborative projects with partners like the BBC and international art institutions.

Digital public space is a growing field of research that encompasses personal data stores, networked commons and construction of sustainable digital 'publics'. Ben's research with the Creative Exchange builds on years of work exploring the role of digital technology in physical public spaces, in particular in relation to government safer spaces agendas and notions of critical infrastructures. Ben has developed apps and interactive media with commercial and government partners including urban big screen interaction, mobile city geolocation games, and festivals.

Dalton, Ben, 2020, Thesis, Taking on the network: Making space for the identity play of networked publics PhD thesis – Royal College of Art research online

This thesis is positioned in the field of communication design research and seeks to critically examine the practice and potential of identity play by digitally networked publics. It defines identity play as entailing a form of identity design practiced by participating publics themselves. The research contributes an understanding of the role of the designer in the entangled networks of digital public space by treating identity design agencies as co-produced with audiences and materials. The thesis locates identity play as part of a productive tradition of anonymous pseudonymity practices. It challenges design assumptions of anonymity as a contemporary privacy problem and of identity as detached and preexisting. The thesis elucidates an intra-active interpretation of identity design as on-going processes of collectively re-making network apparatuses and identity phenomena, moving beyond the limits of centralising and commercial models. It constructs the designer-researcher's role in making space for identity play through taking on the network.

The Creative Exchange (CX) – a UK Arts & Humanities Research Council Knowledge Exchange Hub – provided the space to collaborate and research with diverse consortia of designer-researcher participants and their networked audiences to explore the possibilities of digital public space. The methodology employed by the thesis is grounded theory research through design underpinned by a "diffractive" research stance, with theory and practice read iteratively through each other. I have collected and critically analysed data using "design conversations" with materials, participants and audiences, through multiple projects and prototypes, bounded by the CX Hub and its activities over five years.

The thesis constructs three prototype design patterns to make space for the identity play of networked publics from my practice as a designer-researcher: Sticking together, Fashioning our own belongings and Taking on the network. Each pattern produces an intersection of practices of identity design, networked public participation and design research. The design pattern of Sticking together offers ways of using assemblage to create anonymity and reputation. It calls for and requires the solidarity of collective assembly and ways to make identity play commonplace. Fashioning our own belongings investigates possessions as embodied networked apparatuses of identity, and audience relations as belonging. This design pattern grasps network function and fosters pseudonymity (dis)ownership. Taking on the network is formulated as a performance of inversion by publics through the resistance of the carnivalesque and the responsibility of infrastructural inversions. Taking on the network provides the overarching framework for the design patterns to take on the functions and models of cloud infrastructures.

These findings demonstrate how identity design by publics requires active forms of network literacy that comprehend the network intra-actively, and that it is possible to take on the network by contesting cloud identity apparatuses and models. The design patterns make space for the identity play that, importantly, enables critical and creative anonymity practices to take place. The research offers identity play as a public critical infrastructure with benefits for the resilience and creativity of networked publics. It lends support to designers to reconfigure their part in identity design.

The original contributions to knowledge are: (1) prototype design patterns for making space for the identity play of networked publics; (2) an articulation of the design space for identity play; (3) a diffractive form of design pattern that entails multiple intersecting practices; and (4) an intra-active interpretation of the discipline of identity design.