Dr Katharine Willis

Dr Katharine Willis

Associate Professor (Reader)

School of Art, Design and Architecture (Faculty of Arts & 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.

Other Roles:
PI and Researcher: Sustainable Digital Neighbourhoods Research Project
Digital Neighbourhoods webpage
Co-ordinator: Culture, Theory and Space Research Cluster

PhD /MPhil supervisions:
Pamela Varley DOS
Title: Sustainable Digital Neighbourhoods: A Study of the Social and Spatial Effects of Technological Transition in a Rural Village
Kathrin Schuette Second Supervisor
Title: The role of virtual imaging in building conservation
Frank Loesche Third Supervisor
Title: Project: Unconscious creativity: The Eureka moment
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


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
September 2002-January 2005: Interactive Site-Specific Artist, London, UK
September 1998-August 2002: Interaction and Exhibition Designer, Imagination Ltd., UK

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

Architektenkammer Niedersachshen

Teaching interests

MArch Urban Theories and Methodologies Module Leader 2011-
BA Unit Leader 2011-2015
ARCO319 2011-2015
COMN201 Module Leader 2011-2014

Research interests

Katharine Willis’s recent research studies the changes in everyday behaviours of people using locative media and is based on the premise that our spatial environment provides orientation and structure to our movements and actions. She has developed both a theoretical approach to understanding the characteristics of layered media spaces and also a series of inter-disciplinary methodologies for investigating the perception and experience of mobile and wireless technologies in urban public space. Katharine Willis’s academic career has been advanced in an interdisciplinary environment; she attained a doctorate (magna cum laude) in the Department of Media and Bachelor and Masters (commendation) in Architecture. She completed her doctoral research initially in the project ‘Spatial Cognition’ at the University of Bremen, and after this in the department of Media on a two year interdisciplinary MEDIACITY project at Bauhaus University Weimar (Urban Sociology, Media and Architecture), where she was an EU Marie Curie Research Fellow. Since 2008 she has worked on the interdisciplinary Locating Media Graduate School, FB3 ‘Mediawissenschaft’ at the University of Siegen, Germany.

Funded Research
Sustainable Digital Neighbourhoods
2012- 2015
This project investigates how the implementation of superfast broadband access can be designed to support transformational impact on deprived neighbourhoods in Cornwall. The project will study 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 aims to 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 employs a range of quantitative and qualitative methods and involves partners who are already working on overcoming digital divides in deprived communities in Cornwall. Fieldwork is being undertaken in four neighbourhoods in Cornwall, in order to assess the social and spatial implications of broadband implementation. The research project is embedded with local project partners such as Superfast Cornwall/ERDF, BT, Citizen’s Online as well as the local community organisations.

The project is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund bringing greater connectivity to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (Superfast Cornwall).

Other research

Research Projects
January 2008- current
Speak-to-Me, Mobile Media Project
“speak to me” is an urban street game and performance. Participants create a storyline through both metaphorically and literally projecting themselves onto objects and places encountered in the physical urban space. The success of the game relies on the ability of the artist to creatively embody a narrative in the space so that it a wider public can interact with it (I.e. what would this object or place say to visitors of the space if it could speak?) While the game is being performed, inanimate objects come to life and have a tangible public presence that reaches out to both game players and bystanders.

January 2009- current
WiMo, Emotional tagging application
WiMo is a location-based mobile tagging interface that enables people to tag emotions to places. WiMo offers a new way of sharing experience of places. It is grounded in the fact that sharing emotions is a key motivation for people in the use of social media. WiMo is an application that focuses on the expressive or emotional aspects of tagging. The application uses a geo-emotional tagging system running on a GPS enabled mobile phone to ascribe emotions to places.

April 2005- April 2008
Storypost, Mobile Application, Weimar, Germany
Storypost is a mobile based interface allowing situated access to local`s stories about particular places. A key feature of the type of information delivered by the tool is that it should not be global and abstract, but instead be woven into the local spatial setting. Storypost is an element which seeks to enable the delivery of local narrative-based technologies, and so assist wayfinding and discovery of local places. The proposed system enables Information to be embedded at the decision points within the setting, and delivered in localised chunks based on proximity. Once the individual moves beyond the particular local chunk access the information is lost, unless the individual has interacted with it and saved it to memory. Additionally the form of the information is not visual and abstract, but such that the individual interacts with people in the social space.

Grants & contracts

2012- 2016 EU Marie Curie Integration Grant

2012- 2016 Superfast Cornwall PhD Programme

2012-2013 Akademie Schloss Solitude Scholarship (Architecture)

2012-2013 Plymouth University Teaching Fellowship (together with Gianni Corino, DAT)

2006-2008 EU Marie Curie Research Fellow

2005 DAAD Individual Doctoral Scholarship

Research groups

  • Culture, Theory, Space

(1) Peer-reviewed publications

Willis, K (2015 in press). Netspaces: Space and Place in a Networked World, Ashgate Press, Abingdon

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
Willis, K./Cheverst, K. (Guest Editors) (2010). Locative Media and Communities. In: Special Issue of International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.

Book chapters
Melagaco, L., Willis, K (2015 in press). Mobilizing change in marginalised communities: ICTs and technical agency. Foth, M., Brynskov, M., Ojala, T. Citizen’s Right to the Digital City. 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
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. 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.
Willis, K./Holescher, C./Wilbertz, G. (2007). Understanding Mobile Spatial Interaction in Urban Environments. In: Proceedings of 3rd IET International Conference on Intelligent Environments (IE07), Ulm, Germany, pp. 61-68.
Chorianopoulos, K./Willis, K./Colini, L./Teran, M. (2006). Dousing for Dummies: Methods for Raising Public Awareness of Invisible Communication Networks. In: Adjunct Proceedings of British Human Computer Interaction conference 2006, 11-15 September 2006, London.
Li, C./Willis, K. (2006). Modeling Context Aware Interaction for Wayfinding Using Mobile Devices. In: Proceedings of the Eighth Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, Helsinki, Finland, Vol. 159. New York: ACM Press, pp. 97-100.
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. (2005b). Situated Cognition in the Use of Mobile Devices for Wayfinding Tasks. In: Mobile Maps 05 Workshop at Seventh International Conference on Human Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services 2000, Salzburg, Austria.
Willis, K. (2005). Mind the Gap: Mobile Applications and Wayfinding. In: Workshop for User Experience Design for Pervasive Computing, Pervasive 2005, Munich, Germany.
Willis, K. (2005). Passing Through: Perception of Place and Mobility. Cruising Country Conference, Sydney, Australia.

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

Panel Chair, Mediacities 2013. Buffalo, NY 2-6 May 2013
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
Lecture, Undergraduate, IMD, Architecture, University of Braunschweig, Germany, July 2010                
Lecture, Department of Psychology, University of Freiburg, Germany, September ‘07                
Lecture, UdK (University of the Arts), Berlin, Germany, February 2007
Lecture, Department of Computer Science, University of Lancaster, UK, June 2007                
Lecture, Architecture Department, University of Weimar, Germany, December ‘06

Other academic activities

Seminar Co-ordinator: Culture, Theory and Space

Program Committee member
mediacities13, MAB 2012, LocWeb 2009

MobileHCI2012, ACSA 2011, IE2011, IE2010, CHI2009,