Dr. Sam Hind

Current professional background:

I am currently a Research Associate at a graduate college situated within the University of Siegen called “Locating Media.”

Field of research:

I’m interested in digital navigation, which examines how people use digital media, platforms, and technologies, to move through the world. One example of this, which I studied during my PhD, would be how protesters can make use of maps on their smartphones to navigate protest events. These maps were crowd sourced, enabling them to be updated in real time by users messaging the map creators with various insights, such as the location of police or areas with outbreaks of violence. Making use of this map allows people to orientate themselves during a demonstration, and to avoid areas which are a bit more risky.

Purpose of your last research visit:

I’m now working on a project about autonomous vehicles. In future, autonomous vehicles will, instead of making use of human drivers or external media, have their own navigational capacities. This means that you will be able to put your route into it and it will then navigate itself taking into account things such as traffic, roadworks etc. to find the quickest way to your destination. For me autonomous vehicles are really a metaphorical vehicle for thinking about how navigation has changed and is changing. Everyone has an opinion on it and it’s quite interesting to talk to people and to hear what they think about them.

Relation to the University of Siegen and to the local host:

The first time I came to Siegen was a number of years ago, when I was invited along with some colleagues to speak at an event hosted by Locating Media in the Artur-Woll-Haus. I met lots of really nice people there who were doing work on mapping and digital media that I was really interested in and that I hadn’t encountered before. And then a couple of years ago I saw that they were advertising some positions here, and after applying for one of them, I received a 3 year position here in Siegen.

Future projects / Activities:

I will continue to work upon my research here at locating media, while continuing to publish and to present my research at different conferences. If we were to take a look at the future of autonomous vehicles, the literature tends to talk in 5-10 year periods. In 5 years’ time, a certain level of autonomy will be reached where certain manoeuvres or activities previously done by human drivers will instead be done automatically, such as automated parking and lane changing systems. However full autonomy is probably a very long way off, in fact it may not be possible at all. There aren’t just technical barriers, but also legal, cultural, sociological, and ecological ones. And whatever happens people will continue to have a desire and interest in driving.

Impressions of Siegen:

As someone who lives in Cologne, I do sort of embody the distanced researcher. But as someone who’s trained in geography and interested in the history of places, I find Siegen to be fascinating. I love the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, who photographed various disused and derelict industrial sites in and around NRW. They also have strong ties to Siegen through Bernd, who was born here. I’m into walking and hiking as well, and Siegen really is the perfect location for it, particularly the Rothaarsteig. Another highlight of Siegen for me is the commute here from Cologne. Having previously done commutes between Manchester and Coventry in the U.K, the trains were always delayed and expensive, and the view out of the window was always rather grey and dull. While the route from Cologne to Siegen follows the river Sieg, and it has lots of vegetation which looks beautiful whatever the season. Siegen has been good for my wellbeing.