AUSCCER Thomas Birtchnell image

Thomas Birtchnell

POSITION: Senior Lecturer 
OFFICE: 41.255
PHONE:+61 2 4239 2540
TWITTER: @tbirtchnell

Link to UOW Scholars Page

Mailing address information for School  


  • BA (Hons 1), PhD (Sydney)

Previous Positions

  • 2010-2013: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe), Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, UK.
  • 2006-2007: Research Assistant, Centre for Corporate Change, Australian Graduate School of Management, University of New South Wales, Australia.

Research Interests and Expertise

  • The mobilities of knowledge and talent
  • Managerialism in Indian spirituality
  • Histories and geographies of manufacturing
  • Cargo and digital cargo
  • 3D Printing for development

My interests are on the interface between sustainable development and grassroots innovation. I am interested in technological innovations such as 3D printing and the mobilities of talent and knowledge to and from the Global South—in particular, India. I joined the University of Wollongong as a Lecturer in 2013 and I teach International Studies, Sociology and Geography subjects. Before Wollongong I was a postdoctoral Research Associate (2010-2013) at the Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe) at Lancaster University in the UK in a project titled Technologies and Travel. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded this full-time position and Distinguished Professor John Urry was the Principal Investigator. The research examined the past and future impacts of 3D printing and additive manufacturing on mobilities, travel and transport and involved futures scenario-building exercises with designers, engineers, consultants and policymakers. Prior to this I was awarded my doctorate in Sociology and Social Policy from The University of Sydney in 2010. My research contributed to an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant between the Centre for the Mind at The University of Sydney and industry partner McKinsey and Company. I have also been involved in the Centre for Corporate Change (CCC) in UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) as a researcher on a project on corporate social responsibility and ethical consumer practices across a range of different countries including India.

Current Research Projects

Enhanced Humans, Robotics and the Future of Work (ARC Discovery Project)

Investigators: Professor Anthony Elliott; Dr David Bissell; Dr Thomas Birtchnell; Professor John Urry

The aim of the project is to generate new and powerful understandings of the social consequences of robotics and artificial intelligence. The project aims to develop an understanding of technologically-mediated mobility processes and test their capacity to address such issues as social futures and the sorts of digital skills that Australians will require for future jobs. It plans to use social theory to explore technological scenarios and hypotheses concerning possible societal futures in Australia and beyond. Project outcomes may inform social science and contribute to worldwide efforts to solve global policy problems from work and unemployment to lifestyle change.

Project ID: DP160100979 Primary FOR: 1608 Funding Awarded: $429,401.00 Administering Organization: University of South Australia Project Duration: 2016-2020 (5 years)

3D Printing for Development
With CEO William Hoyle of British-registered charity techfortrade I am currently co-authoring a short book/monograph for Palgrave Macmillan’s Pivot series titled 3D4D: 3D Printing for Development in the Global South due late 2014. The book examines 3D printers as grassroots innovations and considers how they could empower sustainable communities that suffer enduring poverty. The research draws on the global 3D4D Challenge and the innovations of the various finalists. DOI:

Reenergizing the Illawarra Through Additive Manufacturing
The project with colleagues from the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) at UOW is sponsored by the UOW Global Challenges and involves multi-level research on additive manufacturing. Ultimately the research will contribute to a monograph for the Routledge Antinomies book series (under contract) edited by Professor Anthony Elliott (UniSA).

The Mobilities of Cargo
Working with Professor John Urry and Satya Savitzky (Lancaster University) this research aims to foreground the hidden logistical processes which have grown dramatically in scale and economic importance over the last few decades with the ascendance of intermodal logistics, export-oriented economies, intensifying energy demands, and consumer cultures of planned obsolescence. Offering texts from key thinkers, the collection of essays present various case studies from around the world on the emergence, stabilisation and transformation of various intersecting cargo-mobility systems, their associated vulnerabilities and risks, and their complex intersections with and implications for other processes, people and spaces. The book will be part of the Changing Mobilities series edited by Dr Monika Büscher (Lancaster) and Professor Peter Adey (Holloway).

Recent Publications

For full publication and citation list see UOW Research Online>>

Authored Books
Edited Books
Journal Papers
Book Chapters
  • Birtchnell, Thomas (2017) ‘Geography of Drones’ in Oxford Bibliographies in Geography Barney Warf (ed.) (New York: Oxford University Press)
  • Birtchnell, Thomas, Urry, John, and Westgate, Justin (2017) ‘Reforming Design Mobilities Via 3D Printing’ in Mobilising Design Spinney, Justin, Reimer, Suzanne, and Pinch, Philip (eds.) (London: Routledge)
    Birtchnell, Thomas (2017) ‘Drones in Human Geography' in Handbook on Geographies of Technology Barney Warf (ed.) (London: Edward Elgar) pp. 231-241. DOI:
  • Birtchnell, Thomas (2016) ‘Hinduism and Economics' in Hinduism in India Modern and Contemporary Movements Sweetman, Will and Malik, Aditya (eds.) (New Delhi: SAGE) Forthcoming.
  • Birtchnell, Thomas and Urry, John (2016) 'Small Technologies and Big Systems’ in The Mobilities Paradigm: Discourses and Ideologies Endres, Marcel, Manderscheid, Katharina and Mincke, Christophe (eds.) (Farnham: Ashgate) Forthcoming.
  • Birtchnell, Thomas and Hoyle, William (2015) 'Digital Cargo: 3D Printing for Development at the Bottom of the Pyramid' in Cargomobilities: Moving Materials in a Global Age Birtchnell, Thomas, Savitzky, Satya and Urry, John (eds.) (London: Routledge) pp. 199-215.
  • Birtchnell, Thomas, Savitzky, Satya and Urry, John (2015) 'Moving Cargoes' in Cargomobilities: Moving Materials in a Global Age Birtchnell, Thomas, Savitzky, Satya and Urry, John (eds.) (London: Routledge) pp. 1-16.
  • Birtchnell, Thomas and Hoyle, William (2015) 'Digital Cargo: 3D Printing for Development at the Bottom of the Pyramid' in Cargomobilities: Moving Materials in a Global Age Birtchnell, Thomas, Savitzky, Satya and Urry, John (eds.) (London: Routledge) pp. 199-215.
  • Birtchnell, Thomas (2014) 'Networks' in The Routledge Handbook of Social and Cultural Theory Anthony Elliott (ed.) (London: Routledge) pp. 175-191.
  • Birtchnell, Thomas and Caletrío, Javier (2014) 'The Movement of the Few' in Elite Mobilities Thomas Birtchnell and Javier Caletrío (eds.) (London: Routledge) pp. 1-20.
  • Birtchnell, Thomas; Viry, Gil; and Urry, John (2014) 'Elite Formation in the Third Industrial Revolution' in Elite Mobilities Thomas Birtchnell and Javier Caletrío (eds.) (London: Routledge) pp. 62-77.
Other Academic Publications
  • 2013 Birtchnell, Thomas 'Conceptualising the Social World: Principles of Sociological Analysis (John Scott)' Sociology DOI:
  • 2013 Birtchnell, Thomas 'Societies in Motion: Innovation, Migration and Regional Transformation' (Amon Frenkel, Peter Nijamp and Philip McCann)' Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design DOI
  • 2012 Birtchnell, Thomas ‘Tata Nano: The People's Car (Pradeep Thakur)’ Transfers DOI:
  • 2012 Birtchnell, Thomas ‘The Cultures of Alternative Mobilities (Phillip Vannini)’ Qualitative Research DOI:
  • 2011 Birtchnell, Thomas ‘Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market (Janine R Wedel)’ Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews DOI:
Non-academic Publications


  • SOC 104 – Investigating Society
  • SOC 355 – Cultures in Dispossession
  • MIST920 – Social Change and Development
  • GEOG333 – Megacities from Skyscraper to Slum

Research Student Supervision

Future Students 

Not currently taking on new research students.

Professional Service and Memberships


  • 2013 Wiley-Blackwell Publishers Area Prize for New Research in Geography


Last reviewed: 19 December, 2017


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