Emma Waight


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    I am a multidisciplinary academic and design thinker. I started my career in the fashion industry but quickly (albeit, idealistically) decided that wasn’t for me. Conducting an MPhil degree in sustainable fashion supply chains enabled me to transition, not just to research, but also to a different discipline, and I completed my PhD in Human Geography in 2015. My PhD used mixed methods to investigate the social, economic, and cultural role of nearly new sales – a fundraising and support service offered by the UK parenting charity NCT. My findings contributed to the academic literature around motherly consumption and diverse economies, and also informed the charity’s internal membership and fundraising policy.

    Following my PhD I held two post-doctoral research roles at the University of Southampton on service evaluation and user experience. The first (in partnership with Sainsbury’s) explored older people’s grocery shopping experiences in the UK and China, with the aim of improving supermarket service for the ageing population. The second comprised working with Southampton Doctoral College to investigate doctoral student wellbeing and access to support. This led to me working with Student Services to design a range of support resources and interventions, including a supervisor handbook and ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ campaign. Immediately before joining Coventry University in 2018 I was a Visiting Lecturer at Winchester School of Art (teaching design management) and at the University of Winchester (teaching geography and sociology).

    Considering my multidisciplinary background, it’s no surprise that I have a broad range of research interests, namely:

    • Retail and consumption (particularly consumption of children's things)
    • Service design for ageing
    • Responsible and sustainable design
    • Doctoral student experiences
    • Academic writing

    A lot of my work has focused on understanding user experiences in order to improve products and services, and this is what I would like to continue doing. I aim to use my expertise in user research and design thinking to solve social, cultural and environmental problems. I am currently working with Dr Amber Martin-Woodhead on a project concerned with sustainable practices related to consumer minimalism and parenting.

    I am inspired most by theoretical theories that move towards a holistic understanding of human experience within (not detached from) space and time. This includes the new materialisms, posthumanism, non-representational theory, servicescapes, and assemblage theory. My PhD drew on the work of Pierre Bourdieu and I still find his concepts helpful.

    My teaching philosophy prioritises activity and problem based learning to train students in design research, design strategy and project management techniques. 

    Research Interests

    Research projects:

    Doctoral students' experiences of writing as more-than-human: 2020, University of Southampton and University of Surrey.

    Enhancing pastoral support for doctoral students through design (Research Evaluation Officer): 2016, University of Southampton.

    Silver Shoppers: designing supermarket environments for customers aged 65+ (Research Fellow): 2014-2015, Winchester School of Art

    The social, cultural and economic role of NCT nearly new sales: second-hand consumption and middle-class mothering (ESRC Doctoral Research): 2011-2014, University of Southampton

    Recent blog posts:

    Using visual and material methods to support your writing (2020) Sage Methodspace.

    Accounting for material oriented understandings of love: the business of child-rearing (2020) The Scoiological Review blog. 

    Education/Academic qualification

    Higher Education with Distinction, MA, University of Surrey

    Award Date: 30 Sept 2020

    Human Geography, Doctorate, The social, cultural and economic role of NCT nearly new sales: second-hand consumption and middle-class mothering, University of Southampton

    Award Date: 10 Aug 2015

    Design MPhil, Ethical fashion, Southampton Solent University

    External positions

    Visiting Lecturer, WSA, University of Southampton


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