top of page
FIG 1_TAY BRIDGE - Copy.jpg
Localising Philosophy, Democratising Technology

Localising Philosophy, Democratising Technology is an educational project run between the Scottish Centre for Continental Philosophy and the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Dundee.

The project draws on research in philosophy of technology emerging from the Centre, which it focuses and opens up through creative use of a radio broadcast by Walter Benjamin. The broadcast is about a famous event that occurred near Dundee: the Tay Bridge Disaster.


Two key premises drive this project: 

  1. Philosophy should serve and relate to its locality.

  2. Culture and society are being drastically reshaped by technologies today, and philosophy can intervene in this to build shared understanding of our conditions of existence, and to include voices that might otherwise be overlooked - as a way of democratising technology.

Working with local educators, we have been taking bespoke materials and lesson plans into schools, providing a forum for wide-ranging forms of technological literacy to be developed, through questions like the following: ‘How does information become money?’, ‘How do smartphones make us feel emotions?’, ‘Do technologies change our sense of right and wrong?’, ‘What can old technologies tell us about future ones?’, ‘How can/should we replace technologies harming the environment?’


The aim of this page is to give details of the project, and to showcase some of its online materials.


  • This short talk tells you about the concept inspiring the project: CONCEPT.


  • This podcast tells you about the history of materials behind the project: HISTORY.


  • This film gives an example of our classroom activities: FILM.  

  • This research paper gives an in-depth overview of the project: OVERVIEW.


To get a sense of our activities, watch the above film and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do the images show, and where do they come from?

  • Where do the spoken parts come from?

  • What is the strangest image raised by the spoken parts?

  • Which is the most interesting and informative?

  • If you were remaking the film, what would you do differently?

  • Which medium is more suitable for developing philosophical ideas: radio or Youtube? Why?



If you are interested in contributing to this project, or in receiving further information about it, please contact: Dr Dominic Smith (Philosophy) and Dr Anna Robb (Education).


‘When, at the beginning of the last century, iron foundries began their first trials with the steam engine, it was something altogether different than when modern technicians and scientists work on a new airplane, a space rocket …, or some other such machine. Today we know what technology is.’

(Walter Benjamin, ‘Railway Disaster on the Firth of Tay’, 1932).


(Example drawings produced by young learners in response to our classroom activities – emphasising themes of narrative and agency in human-technology relations)


(Public film screening and discussion at Conroy’s Basement, Dundee, April 2018)


(Materialist Pedagogies Workshop, University of Dundee, May 2019)


The short talk was filmed as part of Pecha Kucha 26, at Dundee Rep Theatre. Sincere thanks to Sam Goncalves and Creative Dundee.


The podcast was conducted for the ‘Resident Resonance’ podcast series. Sincere thanks to Dr Laura Findlay for the interview, and to David P. Scott and Michael Birnie for creative and technical support.


The film was created by Owen McLaughlin and Jodie Williamson.  It was commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Institute at the University of Dundee, and has been exhibited at international events including the RSA New Contemporaries 2020 and the 16th Annual International Conference of the Architectural Humanities Research Association Sincere thanks to University of Dundee Archives and Dundee City Archives.


Photographic credits: Owen McLaughlin, Dr Heather Yeung

Creative Dundee Logo.jpg
bottom of page