Richard Harper

Richard Harper, Microsoft Research Cambridge

Dr. Harper is Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge and co-manages the Socio-Digital Systems group. He 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He became a Fellow of the IET in 2010.

 Dr. Harper is concerned with how to design for ‘being human’ in an age when human-as-machine type metaphors, deriving from Turing and others, tend to dominate thinking in the area. Trained as a sociologist but with a strong passion for the philosophical inquiries of Wittgenstein and Rorty as well as ethnomethodological sociology, he has published over 130 papers. His 10th book, Texture: Human expression in the age of communications overload (MIT Press) has been awarded the Society of Internet Researcher’s ‘Book of the Year (2011)’. Amongst his prior books is the IEEE award winning The Myth of the Paperless Office (MIT Press,2002), co-authored with Abi Sellen. His most recent edited collected is The Connected Home: the future of domestic life (Springer, Dec, 2011).

 His work is not only theoretical or sociological, but also includes the design of real and functioning systems, for work and for home settings, for mobile devices and for social networking sites. Numerous patents have derived from his work. Particular foci have been new forms of messaging, as illustrated by Glancephones and Wayve Devices, new forms of control devices for cloud-based interaction such as the Cloud Mouse; and new forms of file types, reflecting social networking social practices (see, for example, What is a file? technical report).  

Prior to joining MSR, Richard helped lead various technology innovation and knowledge transfer companies, while in 2000 he was appointed the UK’s first Professor of Socio-Digital Systems, at the University of Surrey, England. It was here he also set up the Digital World Research Centre. Prior to this he was a researcher at Xerox PARC’s fifth lab, EuroPARC, in Cambridge. He completed his Phd at Manchester in 1989. He lives in Cambridge with his wife and three troublesome but occasionally delightful children.