I’m a writer and social forecaster who’s interested in social, cultural and economic change. Niche, my latest book, is published by Little, Brown in the UK. Before that I wrote Cyburbia, and before that there was a book called Big Ideas, based on a weekly column I wrote for The Guardian newspaper in the UK. I write for The Guardian, Newsweek and the Financial Times, and have also written for the London Review of Books and The Economist.
I was born in Belfast and educated at St. Malachy’s College Belfast, King’s College London and Hertford College Oxford. Between 1996 and 1999 I taught and lectured in social theory, politics and political economy at the University of Oxford. In 1999, I exited academic life to work as an analyst of global social, political, business and technological trends (or ‘futurologist’) at the think-tank The Intelligence Factory (then part of Young and Rubicam) in New York. Since 1998 I’ve also been writing regularly on social, political and technological trends for British newspapers and magazines and in 2004 I became a writer for the Financial Times magazine. I’ve written essays, features and cover stories for the FT magazine, contributed to the comment pages on ideas and trends, interviewed everyone from Tom Friedman to Naomi Klein for the “Lunch with the FT slot” and reported for the FT from Beirut. Between September 2005 and October 2006, I wrote a column for The Guardian called BIG IDEA, and before that I wrote similar columns for The Times and the Financial Times. In August 2011, I was one of the few British journalists to report from the London riots, and my news story on the night of rioting appeared in The Guardian.
I also talk. I’ve appeared on Newsnight, Channel 4 News, Sky News, CBC and NPR to talk about social and technological trends, and have lectured on political economy and social theory at Oxford University, the consequences of the internet at the LSE, and on the changing nature of film storytelling at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. I’ve chaired live studio debates with speakers on two continents for Al-Jazeera television. I also speak at conferences on seminars on social and technological change, and what this means for strategy. I’ve debated geo-politics with Dominique Moisi, the Founder of the French Institute for International Relations, at the Edinburgh Book Festival; and contemporary culture with the winner of the Turner prize Mark Leckey at London’s South Bank Centre. I’ve spoken at conferences both public and private everywhere from Ottawa to Beirut to talk about geo-politics and social and technological change; in September 2011, for example, I delivered a Human Rights lecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology to talk about social media and geo-politics. I talk for companies and organisations, too. I’ve delivered keynote addresses at the annual conferences of the Arts Marketing Association and Schroders Bank, for example, have led seminars at advertising agencies like McCann and participated in panel debates run by outfits like Editorial Intelligence. For some of the topics I talk about, see here; for some of my clients, see here
Other stuff. Between 2004 and 2009, I was, on a part-time basis, Director of Talks at the ICA in London. Speakers I invited to the ICA and hosted there included Malcolm Gladwell, Amartya Sen, Chris Anderson, Samantha Power, Patti Smith, Shere Hite, Gerry Adams, Naomi Wolf, Boris Johnson, Antonio Negri, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Tariq Ramadan, and the late Anna Politovskaya. I was the associate producer of Adam Curtis’s three-part series about game theory, The Trap: Whatever happened to our dream of freedom?, which aired on BBC2 in 2007, and was also an associate producer on Curtis’s new series All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, which aired on BBC2 in 2011. In 2007 I took second prize in the annual Sean O’Faolain short story competition in Ireland. My Big Ideas book was originally published in 2008 by Atlantic Books, and has now been translated into Korean, Spanish and Polish. My second book Cyburbia was published in February 2009 by Little, Brown and by Knopf in Canada. In the same year my essay “Caught in the Net” was re-published in Yale University Press’s annual Best of Technology Writing book for 2010. My new book Niche was published by Little, Brown in March 2011, and is shortly to be published in lots of other countries around the world. I still work as a social forecaster, analysing and predicting trends for a new agency called Flockwatching