Ethnographer Investigating Orkney Innovation

June 30th 2008

How does the landscape, the people, and the location of Orkney make a difference to how the future is imagined there? How might that differ to the way the future is created in London or Silicon Valley - places very different to Orkney? How does the future get done differently, in different places?

These are some of the questions being explored by Dr Laura Watts from Lancaster University as she conducts ethnographic fieldwork in Orkney. Laura's work is part of a project 'Relocating Innovation' which aims to re-consider where innovation takes place, and question what and where counts as a 'centre' of innovation. It compares three sites of innovation: Xerox PARC, world-renowned site of innovation in Silicon Valley USA; small-scale high-tech industry in Orkney, a site of world significance for renewable energy and archaeology; and the Hungarian parliament, a central site of political innovation and decision-making. The project is funded by The Leverhulme Trust. More information is available on the project website at:

An initial response to fieldwork on Orkney 'Liminal Futures' can be read here or a podcast read by Laura can be listened to here.

Laura will be working closely alongside Aquatera, as well as other people and places in Orkney, developing her insights and creating new accounts (and stories) of innovation 'at the edge'. All thoughts and comments are welcome, good and bad – please email

Laura Watts is at the Department of Sociology, Lancaster University UK. She has formerly conducted research into the future of the mobile telecoms industry, and the future of the public transport experience. Laura is also a writer, poet, and author.