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Derek Hales

PhD Work

Speculative Design and the Imaginary Solution

Derek's research is directed toward a methodological interest in how fictions, fictional worlds and the fictive become sites of artistic research. There are two principal vectors to this research interest: fictional spaces, fictional objects and imaginary media in histories and theories of art and architecture; the fictional worlds, fictive data and possible futures of speculative design and abstract culture.  

My thesis traces the transmission of concepts and techniques from Alfred Jarry's  fin-de-siecle 'pataphysics to fin-de-millenial speculative design and accelerationist futurologies. The transmission of these concepts is charted through three syzygies - the speculative cultures of cold war futurology and the 'peculiarly British' foreshadowing of pataphysical concepts in the illogic of impossible objects; the reception of theory-fiction and 'science fiction' of continental philosophy in british cyberculture; and the afterglow of these transmissions in speculative culture after the future.


  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Critical & Historical Studies, 2012–

  • Derek Hales is an architect and theorist working in speculative aesthetics, abstract culture, accelerationist innovation and design philosophy. 

    Derek Hales co-founded the Digital Research Unit (1999–2009) hosting international artists in residence, and commissioning artistic research in abstract culture. He is an experienced innovation manager delivering art-technology R&D programmes funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund and Arts Council England (2004–2009).  As an innovation facilitator he has delivered courses to the BBC, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Clore Culture Leadership Programme and many SMEs. Derek Hales  was co-investigator to the interdisciplinary design research project ‘Emergent Objects’, jointly funded by the AHRC and EPSRC Designing for the 21st Century programme (2007–2008). This research on play as prototyping was a catalyst to his ongoing research into fiction as methodology in the design of technological objects.

    Derek is a graduate of The London Consortium MRes in Humanities and Cultural Studies (2011). His recent research includes editing the special issues of the academic journal Digital Creativity on Design Fiction (2013) and Speculative Hardware (2016) ; research and writing on Philosophy and Speculative Design (2015); Theory-Fiction, Device Art and Fictive Materialities (2016). 

    Derek Hales is  regular contributor to speculative culture and abstract futures at media festivals and conferences internationally. He is on the Editorial Board of the academic journal Digital Creativity, and is a researcher with The New Centre for Research & Practice and a member of the Council of Inordinate Design. 

  • Degrees

  • MRes, Humanities & Cultural Studies, London Consortium, University of London, 2011; Architect, RIBA/ARB since 1992
  • Experience

  • Researcher, The New Centre for Research & Practice, 2015; Convenor, Research & Innovation RIBA Yorkshire; Director, Bridge Rectifier Hackerspace, 2015; Principal Lecturer, Department of Architecture/Department of Art, University of Huddersfield, 2003–2014; Director, West Yorkshire Universities Knowledge Exchange, 2006–2009 (secondment); Director, Future Technologies programme, Yorkshire Forward, 2004–2006 (secondment); Co-director Digital Research Unit, with The Media Centre, Huddersfield, 2002–2006; Chair, Board of Directors, Lumen, Leeds, 2001–2004
  • Conferences

  • ‘Accelerant Design Fiction: Anticipation and Contingency’ at UNESCO Anticipations conference, Trento Italy, November 2015; ‘The Possible Worlds of Atemporal Folds’ at Material Environments conference, University of Greenwich London, July 2015; ‘Defamiliarisation Scenarios and Hypothetical Uncertainties’ at Futures Studies: Tackling Wicked Problems conference, Turku Finland, June 2015
  • Publications

  • ‘A Certain Breakthrough’ introductory essay to Speculative Hardware Special Section (as Guest Editor), Digital Creativity, Vol.27 No.2, 2016, 132–142; ‘(re)designing the Objectile’ in Marenko, B and J. Brassett (2015) Deleuze & Design, Edinburgh University Press; ‘A provisional taxonomy of Design Fictions’ introductory essay in Design Fiction Special Issue (as Guest Editor), Digital Creativity, Vol.24 No.1 2013, 1–10