Dr Katharine Willis

Dr Katharine Willis

Associate Professor (Reader)

School of Art, Design and Architecture (Faculty of Arts and Humanities)


My work is concerned with exploring the many ways through which we perceive and interact with our spatial environment. A key aim of the work is to propose approaches for creating legible environments when urban space is experienced through new technologies. I take an interdiscplinary approach to my work and undertake research, teaching and projects.

Research Projects
PI : AHRC International Research Network: Whose Right to the Smart City?


October 2008-2011: Research Fellow, Locating Media Graduate School, University of Siegen, Germany
April 2006-April 2008: EU Marie Curie Research Fellow and Doctoral Candidate, MEDIACITY Project, Bauhaus University of Weimar, Germany
February 2005-April 2006: DAAD Doctoral Scholarship, Spatial Cognition Program, University of Bremen , Germany

Academic Qualifications
HEA Fellowship (2013)
Dr-Ing (magna cum laude) Bauhaus University Weimar, Germany
DipArch Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
MArch Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
BA(Hons) Architecture  University of Manchester

Professional membership



Roles on external bodies

AHRC Peer Review College 

Teaching interests

Module Leader - MArch Emerging Research in Architecture 2016
Module Leader - MArch Urban Methodologies 2011- 
BA Unit Leader 2011-2015
ARCO319 2011-2015
Module Leader - COMN201 2011-2014

PhD /MPhil supervisions: 
2016-2022 Adam Guy 2nd Supervisor
2013-2019 Pamela Varley DOS 
Title: Sustainable Digital Neighbourhoods: A Study of the Social and Spatial Effects of Technological Transition in a Rural Village 
2012-2018 Kathrin Schuette Second Supervisor 
Title: The role of virtual imaging in building conservation
2014-2018 Frank Loesche Third Supervisor 
Title: Project: Unconscious creativity: The Eureka moment
2012-2015 Alex Lorimer (MPhil), Second Supervisor
Title: Mass Participation Architecture: Social media and the decentralisation of architectural agencies as a commercial imperative

External PhD Supervision
Abril Herrera Chavez , Space Syntax Research Lab, UCL, London - Third Supervisor
Title:Urban Technologies In Rural Contexts: Internet & Social Performance In Cornish Communities
Lea Mauz, Pädagogische Hochschule Ludwigsburg, Germany - Third Supervisor
Title: TBC

Research interests

Research Projects

PI - 2016-2018 AHRC International Research Network: Whose Right to the Smart City? 
AH/N004264/1 Value  £35,276K
The network examines how and why cities and people are shaping technologies to suit their needs and the role of civic inclusiveness in this process, and draws on knowledge and perspectives from marginalised city contexts at a range of geographical levels including UK, Brazil and India. It involves academics working at the boundary between the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, urban studies and ubiquitous computing and comprises partners from Plymouth University (UK), University College London (UK), Universidade Federale de Minais Gerais (Brazil) and Transparent Chennai (India). The AHRC Network will run through four meetings hosted by the network partners in India, Brazil and UK in 2016 and 2017.

PI  - 2012- 2015 Digital Neighbourhoods
EU Marie Curie Integration Grant €100K
BT Superfast Cornwall Research Labs £40K
This project investigates how the implementation of superfast broadband access can be designed to support transformational impact on deprived neighbourhoods in Cornwall. The project studies the impact of access to broadband on how people interact and use semi-public spaces in their neighbourhood and the consequential effect on social inclusion. It will deliver recommendations for significant improvement for integration of online social networks with place-based communities in order to overcome digital divides at a neighbourhood level.
The project is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund bringing greater connectivity to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (Superfast Cornwall).

Grants & contracts

2016-2018: PI AHRC International Research Network: Whose Right to the Smart City?  - PI, AH/N004264/1 (Value £35,276K)
2016 CoI: Seal Hayne Educational Trust (Value £7.5K)
2016 PI: Newton CONFAP Researcher Mobility (with UFMG, Brazil) (Value £4.5K)
2012- 2016 PI : EU Marie Curie Integration Grant (Value €100K)
2012- 2016 Superfast Cornwall PhD Programme (Value £40K)
2012-2013 Akademie Schloss Solitude Scholarship (value €14.2K)
2012-2013 Plymouth University Teaching Fellowship
2006-2008 EU Marie Curie Research Fellow
2005 DAAD Individual Doctoral Scholarship

Research groups

  • Architecture, Design and Environment
  • Digital Neighbourhoods

(1) Peer-reviewed publications

Willis, K, Aurigi, A (2017). Digital and Smart Cities. Oxford: Routledge

Willis, K (2016). Netspaces: Space and Place in a Networked World, Ashgate Press, Abingdon/ Routledge

Edited volumes (books and journals)
Buschauer, R., Willis, K.(Eds) (2013). Locative Media. Bielefeld: Transcript.
Willis, K./Chorianopoulos, K./Struppek, M./Roussos, G. (Eds) (2010). Shared Encounters. New York u.a.: Springer.
Eckhardt, F./Geelhaar, J./Colini, L./ Willis, K./ Chorianopoulos, K./ Hennig, R. (2009). MEDIACITY. Berlin: Frank & Timme.

Edited Journal SI's
Melgaço, L., Willis, K (Eds) (2017). Special Issue on Social Smart Cities, plaNext–Next Generation Planning, Volume 4, July 2017
Willis, K./Cheverst, K. (Guest Editors) (2010). Locative Media and Communities. In: Special Issue of International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.

Book chapters
Willis, K (2019 in press). Whose Right to the Smart City? In The Right to the Smart City. Editors: Kitchin R, Cardullo P, di Feliciantonio C . Emerald Publishing, 2019
Willis, K. (2017). Digital Neighbourhoods. in Bullivant , L. The Hyperlocal: A Cultural Toolkit for the Open-Source City. Architectural Design, Volume 87, Issue 1
Willis, K (2016). Netspaces. in Pop, S., Toft, T., Calvillo, N., Wright, M. (Eds) What Urban Media Art Can Do: Why When Where and How? Berlin: Avedition
Melagaco, L., Willis, K (2015). ICTs and Technical Agency: A Case Study of a Rural Brazilian Community. Foth, M., Brynskov, M., Ojala, T. Citizen’s Right to the Digital City. New York: Springer.
Willis, K., Struppek, M., Frosch, K. (2014). Replacing Food: Place, Embededness and Local Food. In Choi, J., Foth, M. (Eds) Eat, Cook, Grow: Mixing Human-Computer Interactions with Human-Food Interactions. MIT Press, Mass.
Willis, K., (2012). Being in Two Places at Once: The Experience of Proximity with Locative Media. In: Abend, P., Haupts, T, Croos-Mueller, C.,  (Eds). Medialität der Nähe: Situationen - Praktiken - Diskurse. Transcript, Germany.
Willis, Katharine/ Melgacao, Lorena (2012). Long Distance Voodoo – Embodied presence and urban media in public space In: Pop, Susa et al. (Eds) Urban Media Cultures. Avedition, Berlin.
Willis, K./O’Hara, K./Giles, T./Marienek, M. (2010). Sharing Knowledge about Places as Community Building. In: Willis, K./Chorianopoulos, K./Struppek, M./Roussos, G. (Eds). Shared Encounters. New York u.a.: Springer, pp. 291 – 308.
Willis, K./Hoelscher, C./Wilbertz, G. (2009). Understanding Mobile Spatial Interaction in Urban Environments. In: Minker, W./Weber, M./Kameas, A./Hagras, H./Callaghan, V. (Eds). Advanced Intelligent Environments. Dodrecht/London: Springer 2009, pp. 61-68.
Willis, K. (2008). Spaces, Settings and Connections. In: Aurigi, A./De Cindio, F. (Eds). Augmented Urban Spaces: Articulating the Physical and Electronic City. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Press, pp. 9-27.
Willis, K. (2008). Information Places: Interfaces Between Physical and Digital Space. In: Foth, M. (Ed). Urban Informatics. Baltimore: ICS Global, pp. 206-218
Struppek, M./Willis, K. (2007c). Botfighter: A Game that Surrounds You. In: Borries, v. F./Walz, S.P./Böttger, M. (Eds). Space Time Play. Basel: Birkhaeuser, pp. 226-227Willis,
K. (2007a). Situated Interactions: Spatial Setting and Mobile and Wireless Technologies. In: Encyclopaedia of Mobile and Wireless Communications. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor and Page, pp. 613-621.
Willis, K. (2007b). Sensing Place: Mobile and Wireless Technologies and Urban Space. In: Frers, L./Meier, L. (Eds). Encountering Urban Places − Visual and Material Performances in the City. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, pp. 155-170.
Journal articles
Fathullah, A.; Willis, K.S. (2018) Engaging the Senses: The Potential of Emotional Data for Participation in Urban Planning. Urban Science. 2018, 2, 98.
Willis, K. (2010). Hidden Treasure: Sharing Local Information. In: Aether Journal of Media Theory.
Willis, K./Hoelscher, C./Wilbertz, G./Li, C. (2009). A Comparison of Spatial Knowledge Acquisition with Maps and Mobile Maps. In: Special Issue of Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 33 (2), pp. 100-110.

Conference proceedings
Willis, K (2018). Whose Right to the Smart City? Urban ARC 2018 – City and Technology, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangelore, India, Jan 11-13th 2018
Fathullah, A.; Willis, K.S. (2017). Humans as Sensors: Emotions as New Information Layers Within Urban Planning. Sharing Cities, Shaping Cities, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, 5-6 March 2018
Aurigi, A., Willis, K (2016). From ‘Digital’ to ‘Smart’: Upgrading the City. Proceedings of Media Architecture Biennale 2016 (MAB16), March 2016, Sydney, Australia.
Willis, K. Corino, G. (2014). Shifting contexts: investigating the role of context in the use of ubiquitous computing for design-based learning. Proceedings of Mobile Learning 2014, 28th February – 2dn March 2014, Madrid, Spain. IADIS Press.
Willis, K, Aurigi, A (2013). Linking Public Spaces and Online Networks: A Case Study of a Regional Neighbourhood. In: Digital Cities 8, Communities and Technologies 2013, 1-3 July 2013, Munich.
Willis, K, Aurigi, A (2013). Beyond the digital city - Remediating space at a regional scale. Media City 2013, 3-5 May 2013, Buffalo, NY.
Willis, K, Corino, G., Martin, K., Aurigi, A (2012).Developing a Locative Engagement Toolkit. In Proceedings of Media Architecture Biennale, Denmark 2012.
Willis, K, Aurigi, A (2011). Hybrid Spaces: Presence, Rhythms and Performativity. In Proceedings 7th International Conference on Intelligent Environments (IE 2011), Nottingham, UK, 24-27 July 2011
Mody, R./Willis, K./ Kerstein, R.(2009). WiMo: Location-based Emotion Tagging. In: Proceedings of the 8th international Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia, Cambridge, United Kingdom, November 22 - 25, 2009. ACM, New York, NY, pp. 1-4.
Willis, K./Cheverst, K./Mueller, C./Abend, P./Neufeldt, C. (2009). Community Practices and Locative Media. In: Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services. Bonn, Germany. New York: ACM, pp. 1 -4.
Willis, K. (2009). Information Places: Defining Settings for Locative Media. In: Proceedings of Intelligent Environments, Barcelona, Spain. IOS Press, Amsterdam, Netherlands, pp. 349-354.
Willis, K./ Chorianopoulos, K./Struppek, M./Roussos, G. (2007). Shared Encounters. In: CHI '07 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, San Jose, CA/New York: ACM, pp. 2881-2884.

Poster proceedings
Giles, T./Marienek, M./Willis, K./Geelhaar, J. (2007). Hide and Seek. In: Poster Proceedings of Fifteenth ACM International Conference on Multimedia, Augsburg, Germany.
Li, C./Willis, K. (2006). Dynamic Aspects of Interaction in Wayfinding Tasks. In: Poster Proceedings, Spatial Cognition Conference, Bremen, Germany.

(2) Non-peer-reviewed publications

Willis, K, Linz, E. (2011). Mediale Kopräsenz. Anwesenheit und räumliche Situierung in mobilen und webbasierten Kommunikationstechnologien. MuK, Universitaet Siegen.
Willis, K./Hoelscher, C./Li, C. (2007b). Differences in Spatial Knowledge for Maps and Mobile Maps. In: Frings, C. et al. (Eds). Proceedings of Cognitively Adequate navigation Systems Workshop, KogWis 07, Saarbrucken, Germany.
Willis, K. (2006). Identity in Spatial Settings as Mediated by Mobile and Wireless Technologies. EASST Conference, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Willis, K. (2005a). Space/Place: Urban Public Space and New Media Technologies. International Conference: Technisierung/Ästhetisierung - Technological and Aesthetic (Trans)Formations of Society, 12 – 14 October 2005, Darmstadt, Germany.

Willis, K (2013). Future Communities. In: Superfast Cornwall (2013). 2025 A Shared Vision after Broadband. available here: http://www.superfastcornwall.org/about-sfc/vision2025

Reports & invited lectures

Chair of Doctoral Consortium, Media Architecture Biennale, Sydney, Australia, 2016
Panel Chair, Mediacities 2013. Buffalo, NY 2-6 May 2013
Invited Lecture, DACAS Research Network, University of Manchester, UK, September 2016 
Invited Lecture, Faculty of Architecture, UFMG, Brazil, 2016, August 2016
Invited Speaker, Digital Leaders Salon, Aberdeen, UK, March 2016 
Invited Speaker, TEDX Muenchen, Germany, September 2015
Invited Speaker, Neighborhood Technologies(Blankensee Kolloquium), Berlin, 30 August-2 September 2012
Panel Chair, Media and Metapolis. Bauhaus University Weimar 24-26 May 2012
Invited Presentation, Datapolis Symoposium, ENTER art | sci | tech biennale, Prague, Czech Republic, April 2011
Invited Presentation, Vermessung des Urbanen 3.0, Ev Akademie Tutzing, Germany, 14 January 2011
Invited Presentation, Shift Festival, Graz, 27 October 2007
Invited Presentation, Branded Meeting Places Symposium, University of Edinburgh, 25-26 June 2007

Other academic activities

REF UoA 13 Coordinator, School of Art, Design and Architecture

Architecture Research Area Lead
Co-Chair Faculty of Arts and Humanities Ethics and Integrity Committee
Co-Chair School of Art, Design and Architecture Athena Swan