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Dr Ben Kirman
Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media



My background is in creative technologies: before joining academia I worked designing and developing digital prototypes for a wide range of clients including the BBC, Philips, Telecom Italia, the NHS, Honda and many others in the digital media industries. These prototypes included games, interactive TV, rich web apps, mobile apps, and interactive art.

In 2006 I joined the EU FP6 PASION (Psychologically Augmented Social Interaction Over Networks) project to lead the game design and development thread, and from 2010 - 2015 worked as a Senior Lecturer in Game Design at the University of Lincoln, as Leader of the Computer Games Production programme. I joined this department in January 2016 to teach on the BSc in Interactive Media, and research in association with the Digital Creativity Hub.

My PhD was in social aspects of game play, and identified links between patterns of social interaction and game mechanics. In addition I have a BSc (Hons) in Software Engineering, MSc in Computer Games Technology, and a PGCE in Higher Education Teaching & Learning.



M research interests are around design for unusual interactive experiences. I take a multidisciplinary approach and collaborate widely with scholars from computer science, psychology, human-computer interaction and the arts.

1. I'm interested in using fiction as a tool to explore potential design futures, using approaches like speculative design and design fiction. This involves the manufacture of fictional technologies and also, somewhat notoriously, the publication of fictional papers in real journals and conferences, including science fiction, punk guitar tabs and homoerotic romance.

2. I practice Critical Design for mobile platforms, building interactive apps and systems that take advantage of social aspects of specific environments to make provocative experiences and explore implicit values and ideology emergent in the design of interactive systems. For example, Blowtooth is a mobile game where players compete to smuggle contraband through airport security, and GetLostBot is a web app that tracks user movement and attempts to increase serendipity by challenging users to visit unusual places.

3. I'm also very interested in play as a mode of interaction with technology, drawing from the design of videogames, board games and sports, for participants and spectators alike. Most of my design work includes a strong playful aspect, and often uses game elements to explore social dynamics and create embarrassing or uncomfortable, yet fun, experiences.


Selected publications

Shaun Lawson, Ben Kirman, Conor Linehan, Tom Feltwell, and Lisa Hopkins (2015) Problematising upstream technology through speculative design: the case of quantified cats and dogs. Proceedings of ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems. Seoul, Republic of Korea (Honourable Mention)

Ben Kirman, Tom Feltwell and Conor Linehan (2015) Player superstition as a design resource. In DiGRA Conference Extended Abstracts. Lueneburg, Germany

Conor Linehan, Sabine Harrer, Ben Kirman, Shaun Lawson, and Marcus Carter (2015) Games against health: a player-centered design philosophy. Extended Abstracts of ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems. Seoul, Republic of Korea

Conor Linehan, Ben Kirman and Bryan Roche (2014) Gamification as Behavioral Psychology. In: Steffen P. Walz and Sebastian Deterding (eds) The Gameful World. Approaches, Issues, Applications. MIT Press.

Conor Linehan and Ben Kirman (2014) Never mind the bollocks, I wanna be anarCHI: a manifesto for punk HCI. Proceedings of ACM SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems extended abstracts. Toronto, Canada

Ben Kirman, Conor Linehan, Shaun Lawson, and Dan O’Hara (2013) CHI and the future robot enslavement of humankind: a retrospective. Proceedings of SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts. Paris, France.

Ben Kirman, Conor Linehan, and Shaun Lawson (2012) Blowtooth: a provocative pervasive game for smuggling virtual drugs through real airport security. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 16 (6). pp. 767-775. ISSN 1617-4909

Derek Foster, Ben Kirman, Conor Linehan, Shaun Lawson, Daniel Mills, Sarah Ellis, and Helen Zulch (2011) ‚ "I can haz emoshuns": understanding anthropomorphosis of cats among internet users. In Proceedings of 3rd International Conference on Social Computing, MIT Boston, MA, USA.

Conor Linehan, Ben Kirman, Shaun Lawson, and Gail G. Chan (2011) Practical, appropriate, empirically-validated guidelines for designing educational games. In Proceedings of ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Vancouver, Canada.

External activities


Fellow in the Higher Education Academy. Member of IGDA (International Game Developers Association), DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association) and ACM (Association for Computing Machinery).

Formerly Junta member for IGDA Northwest UK.

I've acted as External Examiner for research degrees at University of Sussex, Universitat Rovira I Virgili (Catalonia), Queensland University of Technology, Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Cape Town.

Invited talks and conferences

Invited Lecture on "How to Radicalise Your Mobile Phone", BCS Computer Arts Society, March 2016
Keynote on "Playful Clusters in Social Games" at Games Convention Online, Leipzig 2010

Host, Position Papers Co-chair, British HCI 2015, Lincoln
Short Papers Co-chair, British HCI 2014, Southport
Social Media Co-chair, CHI PLAY 2014, Toronto
Workshop Co-Organiser, Alternate Endings: Using Fiction to Explore Design Futures, at ACM SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2014, Toronto
Workshop Co-Organiser, Social Game Studies, at ACM SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2011, Vancouver

Contact details

Dr Ben Kirman
Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media
Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media
University of York
Baird Lane
YO10 5GB

Tel: +44 (0)1904 325221