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Socio-Digital Systems | Current Projects & Themes

Here is an alphabetical list of our current themes and projects. Our older work can be seen in the theme archive and  project archive.


This group develops its work through themes that represent interlocking sets of social and technical concerns. Currently, SDS is investigating the following.

Theme: Beyond Search

When we think of the experiences that search engines are designed to support, criteria such as speed and efficiency instantly come to mind. However, one of our main interests is in how Web use is intertwined with daily life, and understanding the activities in which search engines play a role. Within this larger, human-centred context, we find that the richness of Web use, and the activities in which search features, point to many other human values to design for in addition to fast, relevant search. More...

Theme: Interacting without Touching

Through our bodily relationship and actions with objects, places, and each other, we are able to express and create a rich variety of meaning and human value. Gestures, movement trajectories, spatial positioning, and proximity are all means through which we communicate, interpret, and control our world. With the emergence of evermore sophisticated sensing techniques we are able to interact in new ways with the digital world without touch. Proximity, orientation, gesture full body movement, and even the use of brain waves are all means by which we can interface with the digital world without touch. These new mechanisms open up opportunities for exploring new genres of experiences and applications in a variety of new contexts where touch-based interactions alone may neither be possible, desirable, or as engaging. The important concerns for this theme are to understand the properties, challenges, and social consequences of touchless body-based interactions and how to design experiences with these mechanisms that achieve value and meaning for people in everyday contexts. More...

Theme: Human-centred System Architectures

Recent technological advances in location sensing, storage, mobile computing power, network connectivity, and cloud computing infrastructures enable new user experiences that impact traditional views of computer systems design. For some tasks asking where processing takes place will become irrelevant, making computing more like a utility; while for other tasks the actual location of digital data remains emotionally significant. From a human perspective, though much of what is done with computing requires the utility of enormous processing power, those doings are not best thought of as merely utilitarian. When someone posts to their social network, or when they create and store a Microsoft Word file, or when they take and send digital images from their mobile phones, it is not the required processing power that is foremost in their minds. It is not the computer as utility that is at issue. People don't say 'I would have done this if it had been as simple as turning on and off a tap'. Other things matter. It is the management of social affairs, the completing of a work task for someone, or the giving and receiving of visual gifts between friends over coffee, that is at issue. Hence the human perspective on computing, on its role, design and functioning is crucial to computer systems design. More...



Projects are specific pieces of work that we've researched and built. They often fit into one of the themes, described above.


Contact Us

Socio-Digital Systems
Microsoft Research
21 Station Road
Cambridge CB1 2FB
+44 1223 479700


The Socio-Digital Systems group are always looking for interns and Post-docs. For more information, visit Microsoft Research Careers.