Professor Btihaj Ajana
Professor of Ethics and Digital Culture
Btihaj is an international scholar and media practitioner in the fields of digital culture and social analysis. Her academic research is interdisciplinary in nature and focuses on the intersections between technology, biopolitics and ethics. She looks at these in various contexts including developments in surveillance technologies and biometric identity systems, digital health and self-tracking culture, museums and curatorial processes, and immigration and citizenship governance.
One of Btihaj’s most recent projects addresses the phenomenon of the Quantified Self and health tracking via a Marie Curie Fellowship she was awarded at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies. Find out more on www.metriclife.net. She is currently looking at the politics of immunity and Covid-19.
Btihaj holds a BA (Hons) with First Class in Media Studies and Computing Science from London South Bank University, an MA with Distinction in Digital Media from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and a PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where she worked under the supervision of Professor Nikolas Rose. Prior to joining King’s College London in 2010, she taught sociology at the LSE and worked with media organisations specialising in factual programming about the Middle East.
Research Interests and PhD Supervision
- Biometrics, Big Data, and identification systems
- Theories of subjectivity, identity and selfhood
- Self-tracking and the Quantified Self
- Politics of Covid-19
- Politics of borders, immigration, and citizenship
- Museums and digital curation
Btihaj’s current research interests are concerned with the ethical, political and ontological aspects of technological developments and their intersection with everyday cultures. She has written extensively on the effects of digital technologies on issues of identity, embodiment, governance and cultural representation. Her current research project examines the techno-political responses and public perceptions of immunity during Covid-19 pandemic. She is the author of Governing through Biometrics: The Biopolitics of Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and editor of Self-Tracking: Empirical and Philosophical Investigations (Springer, 2018) and Metric Culture: Ontologies of Self-Tracking Practices (Emerald, 2018).
Btihaj has supervised various PhD projects on themes such as feminist art and biopolitics, self-tracking and digital health, social media and identity, gender and technology, and digital curation. She welcomes PhD proposals in topics related to her research interests.
For more details, please see Btihaj's full research profile.
Btihaj leads and teaches on the MA programme in Digital Culture and Society at the Department of Digital Humanities.
She also teaches optional modules on critical approaches to digital media, embodiment and identity.
In 2020, she became Senior Fellow of Higher Education Academy. She is currently the Diversity and Inclusion Lead at the department of Digital Humanities where she oversees matters relating to curriculum diversification and the development of more inclusive teaching practices.
Expertise and Public Engagement
Btihaj is committed to exploring innovative ways of communicating academic knowledge and expertise to wider audiences and creating new forms of engagement and intellectual exchange. In addition to her academic work, Btihaj has been exploring filmmaking as a way of communicating her research to the general public. Her most recent films include Quantified Life; Surveillance Culture; and Fem's Way.
Btihaj has collaborated with various artists and cultural organisations to stimulate new ideas and creative output, combining academic research with artistic elements. Some examples of her collaborations include:
Euro-vision: a collaboration with artists, Audrey Samson and Francisco Gallardo, involving an art-led enquiry into the politics of immigration policies and border surveillance in Morocco and Europe. See Video summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I5GpzP-0eY&t=135s and podcast: https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/somerset-house/3-euro-vision-or-the-making-K34VGqx5zsj/
Héroes Anónomos: a collaboration with OTOXO, a Barcelona-based film production company, involving the making of series of short films commissioned by the cultural magazine BCN Mes: http://bcnmes.com/culture/heroes-anonimos-de-barcelona-tenemos-video-serie/
1984: a collaboration with Headlong Theatre on their adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, involving putting into creative practice some of Btihaj’s academic research on issues of surveillance and technology, and the co-creation of the Digital Double app: http://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2013/sep/20/1984-digital-double-mobile-app-theatre
(Re)Creating Culture: a collaboration with various UK and Gulf institutions, looking at the changing role of curators and issues of audience engagement and inclusion in museum practices: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/Cultural/-/Projects/(Re)creatingCulture.aspx
Btihaj is board member of project, BioMe: Existential Challenges and Ethical Imperatives of Biometric AI in Everyday Lifeworlds, at Uppsala University. She is also member of the international think tank Plural and various academic networks and associations such as Surveillance and Society Network and Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA), and Consumer and Organisational Digital Analytics (CODA).
She has made guest appearances on a number of international media outlets and high-profile events including BBC Radio programme, Thinking Allowed, the United Nations summit, ID2020, the New Statesman, the Cycling Weekly magazine, Ny Tid, and Cheltenham Science Festival.
Btihaj has also been advising industries and governmental agencies, such as European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Sky TV, and Sanitas on issues of responsible technology and digital ethics.