CHARM PhD Studentship

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					CHARM PhD Studentship
Full time, three year PhD Studentship, £15,290 stipend plus fees

This three year PhD studentship is part of the EPSRC funded project CHARM. The
research is part of a major project that aims to evaluate the use of descriptive social
norms and conceptions of ‘normal’ practices, in the context of sustainability. The
project has been designed as three separate case studies: 1) electricity consumption,
2) active lifestyle and 3) Facebook. The PhD studentship relates to the Facebook
case study, and will investigate descriptive social norms in a virtual community
context, developing theoretical understanding of social practices. CHARM aims to
develop, evaluate and understand the ways in which digital technology can be used
to shape individual behaviour by informing and thereby challenging ‘normal’ practice.
Much of what people do is based on their conceptions of shared conventions, but
these conceptions are often misinformed. Research suggests we can influence
behaviour by telling people what other people do.

The objective of the PhD research is to develop theoretical understanding of social
practices and conceptions of normality. The research will evaluate social group
feedback and conceptions of ‘normal’ practices in the context of the Facebook social
network site. The PhD student will initially work with a commercial agency on the
design and development of a special Facebook application. For instance, the
application might produce scores relating to participants’ lifestyles on a periodic basis
in terms of a number of different aspects of sustainable development (e.g. carbon
footprint, energy usage, shopping practices). The application will collect data from all
users, however, the main methodology will be qualitative, and include approximately
30 face-to-face interviews with individuals who have added the application, focusing
on everyday practices. The research will contribute to understanding of conceptions
of ‘normal’ practices, and to understanding how we can change everyday practices
e.g. to achieve more sustainable levels of consumption.

We invite applications from students who have a first degree is sociology,
anthropology or social psychology, and a Masters degree approved for ESRC
studentships (see The studentship includes fees
and a bursary of £15,290 per year for three years. Funding is available for
attendance at conferences/doctoral colloquia as appropriate. The project is primarily
sociological, but is interdisciplinary, drawing on research in sociology, social
psychology, behavioural economics and social marketing; the student will be located
in the Kingston Business School and will be supervised by Dr Ruth Rettie, CHARM
principal investigator. All applications should be submitted online at and should consist of a completed application
form; a CV, and a personal statement that outlines your relevant experience, explains
your interest in the studentship (approximately 1000 words) and includes an abstract
of your Masters dissertation. For more information about the project and the
application process please email For informal inquiries
please contact Ruth

Closing date for applications: 26th June 2009. Shortlisted applicants will be invited
for interview in early July.