Btihaj is an international scholar in the fields of digital culture and social analysis. Her academic research is interdisciplinary in nature and spans many areas of expertise including the critical study of new media technologies and identity systems, digital health and self-tracking technologies, museum developments and curatorial processes, immigration and citizenship governance, and the socio-political and ethical dynamics of surveillance culture.
Geographically, Btihaj’s work has covered the UK, UAE, Denmark and the rest of the EU. She was Marie Curie Fellow (2015-2017) at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies where she has been researching the phenomenon of the Quantified Self and health tracking culture. Find out more about this ongoing project on www.metriclife.net.
Btihaj has 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 London School of Economics and Political Science. 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
- Digital media and smart technologies
- Subjectivity, identity and identification systems
- Big Data science
- Continental philosophy and psychology
- Museums and digital curation
- Politics of borders, immigration, citizenship, and security
Btihaj’s current research interests are concerned with the intersections between technology, biopolitics and ethics. She is looking at these intersections in a variety of contexts including digital health practices, border technologies, refugee and immigration policies, and digital curatorial processes. For instance, her recent book Governing through Biometrics: The Biopolitics of Identity (Palgrave Macmillan) provides a critical, timely and multilayered analysis of the socio-political and ethical implications of current developments in biometric identity systems and their application in the area of borders and immigration management.
Btihaj is currently supervising PhD projects on art and biopolitics, self-tracking and digital health, social media and identity. She welcomes PhD proposals in similar areas as well as those engaged with curatorial/museum studies and with the fields of bioethics, data science and everyday use of smart technologies.
For more details, please see Btihaj's full research profile.
Btihaj teaches on the MA programme in Digital Culture and Society in the Department of Digital Humanities and contributes to the MA programme in Culture and Creative Industries.
She also teaches optional modules on digital media, embodiment and identity.
Expertise and Public Engagement
Btihaj Ajana is committed to exploring innovative ways for communicating academic knowledge and expertise to wider audiences and creating new forms of engagement and intellectual exchange. She has collaborated with various artists and cultural organisations with the view to stimulate new ideas and creative output, combining academic research with artistic elements.
Some examples of her most recent collaborations include: Héroes Anónomos (2015): collaboration on a film project with OTOXO (a Barcelona-based film production company). In this collaboration, Btihaj co-directed four short films commissioned by the cultural magazine BCN Mes.
The films, which featured in various international film festivals, are available at: http://bcnmes.com/culture/heroes-anonimos-de-barcelona-tenemos-video-serie/
1984 (2013-2014): collaboration with Headlong Theatre on their adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. It involved putting into creative practice some of Btihaj’s academic research on issues of surveillance, technology and the politics of identity.
One interesting output has been the co-creation of a free-to-use app, “The Digital Double” (www.digital-double.com) and the co-organisation of a public symposium “1984 Now” which brought together relevant academics, media and theatre practitioners to debate contemporary forms of control and the interface between theatre aesthetics and digital technology.
Find out more about this collaboration on the Guardian article: http://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2013/sep/20/1984-digital-double-mobile-app-theatre
(Re)Creating Culture (2013-2015): supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s College London, this collaborative project looks at the politics of cultural and museum developments in the Gulf. Based on a series of discussions with various UK and Gulf institutions, the project also seeks to find innovative responses to issues of audience engagement and inclusion. As part of this project, Btihaj organised and took part in various events including the organisation of the workshop “Curating (in) the Gulf” which brought together academics and cultural practitioners from the UK and the UAE (Nov, 2013), and the participation in the annual Sharjah March Meeting 2014.
Find out more about the project here: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/Cultural/-/Projects/(Re)creatingCulture.aspx and the related academic article: https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/museumsociety/documents/volumes/ajana
Autopoiesis (2014-): a digital art project supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s College London. It developed out of the above-mentioned project and acts as both a submission portal and a platform for an online exhibition. The project aims to capture, in honest and varied ways, the diverse identities and cultures of the UAE, beyond the discourses and representations of official institutions. A related public exhibition, Autopoiesis 2.0, was held in October 2014 as part of the Arts and Humanities Festival at KCL. The series of multimedia work presented in this exhibition provide the viewer with a window into the personal and communal aspects of the UAE as experienced by its own residents and visitors.Related academic article: https://theartsjournal.net/2017/01/21/curating-public-art-2-0-the-case-of-autopoiesis/
Selected talks and conference presentations:
‘Metric Culture: The Quantified Self and Beyond’, conference organiser and speaker, 8-9 June 2017, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies.
‘Freedom or abandonment? Reflections on the politics of digital self-tracking’, MeCCSA 2017, 11-13 January 2017, Leeds University.
‘Life Gamified: Practices of the Quantified Self’, panel organiser, chair and speaker, Arts & Humanities Festival 2016 – Play, 13 October 2016, King’s College London.
‘Legitimating the City through Museum Brands’, Culture in Urban Space: Urban Form, Cultural Landscapes, Life in the City, 22-26 August 2016, Copenhagen.
‘Self-tracking Culture and the rise of the Quantified Self’, Workshop organiser and speaker, 15 June 2016, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus.
ID2020 Summit, Invited participant, United Nations Headquarters, 20 May 2016, New York.
‘The rise of the Entrepreneurial Museum: The case of the Louvre’, Global Arts and Science Society Conference, 5-6 March, Paris.
‘Ethics and the datafication of borders’, Profile, Predict and Prevent: Data-driven policies, markets and societies, 30-31 October 2015, CNRS/Paris II University, Paris.
‘Fabricating Culture, Curating Identity’, organiser and speaker, Arts & Humanities Festival 2015 - Fabrication, 23 October 2015, King’s College London.
‘Co-creative Praxis through Film’, organiser and speaker, Arts & Humanities Festival 2015 - Fabrication, 20 October 2015, King’s College London.
‘Projective Cultures’, invited speaker, Algorithmic Regimes and Generative Strategies, 25 September, Vienna.
‘Autopoietic Public Art 2.0’, The Work of Art in the Age of Networked Society, Arts in Society Conference 2015, Imperial College, London , 22-24 July 2015.
‘Big Data Analytics and the Securitisation of Mobility’, 3rd International LAVITS Symposium Surveillance, Tecnopolitics, Territories, Rio de Janeiro, 13-15 May 2015