Simone Natale

Professor Simone Natale

BA, MA, PhD University of Turin, Postdoc Columbia University and University of Cologne

  • Visiting Fellow in Communication and Media Studies

Simone joined the department in 2015 and was Programme Director for Communication and Media undergraduate programmes from 2018 to 2020. After leaving Loughborough University in 2021 to take up an Associate Professorship at the University of Turin, Italy, he remained part of the wider LU community as a Visiting Fellow. His main areas of interest are media history and digital media. He completed his Ph.D. in Communication Studies at the University of Turin, Italy, in 2011, and has researched and taught in numerous international institutions, including Columbia University in New York, USA, Humboldt University Berlin and the University of Cologne in Germany, and Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. He is the author of two monographs: Deceitful Media: Artificial Intelligence and Social Life after the Turing Test (Oxford University Press, 2021) and Supernatural Entertainments: Victorian Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Media Culture (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016), as well as of articles published in international journals including the Journal of Communication, New Media & SocietyCommunication TheoryMedia, Culture & Society, and Convergence. He was awarded research fellowships by world-leading institutions such as the Humboldt Foundation, AHRC, ESRC and Columbia University’s Italian Academy. He is Assistant Editor of Media, Culture & Society.

Simone's latest research focuses on the history of digital media. His latest monograph, entitled Deceitful Media: Artificial Intelligence and Social Life after the Turing Test (Oxford University Press, 2021), provide an excavation of the historical trajectory leading to the emergence of AI technologies such as Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and social media bots. His AHRC-funded project Circuits of Practice investigated the role of museums in constructing a historical heritage centred around the emergence and development of computing and digital media.

Simone has written on the relationship between media and the imagination, on digital media and culture, and on media archaeology. His research reminds us that media are not only machines, artifacts, and social systems, but also imaginary and cultural constructions that contribute to shape our understanding of broader cultural issues, and create new ways to narrate and make sense of the transformations experienced in our society and everyday life. His first monograph "Supernatural Entertainments: Victorian Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Media Culture" (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016; reprinted as paperback in 2017) argues that the emergence of new forms of beliefs in spirits since the middle nineteenth century was closely related to the rise of the media entertainment media industry. Drawing from extensive archival research, the book provides an archaeology of how the supernatural entered into the core of contemporary media culture. He is also the editor, with Nicoletta Leonardi, of "Photography and Other Media in the Nineteenth Century" (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2018) and, with Diana Pasulka, of "Believing in Bits: Digital Media and the Supernatural" (Oxford University Press, 2019).

 

Selected research grants and fellowships:

- PI, AHRC Research Grant, Early Career Route, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK (£ 201,158), 2020-2022

Project title: “Circuits of practice: Narrating modern computing in museum environments”

External partners: BT Group (UK), Science Museum (UK), Victorial & Albert Museum (UK), National Science and Media Museum (UK), Bletchley Park (UK), Centre for Computing History (UK), The National Museum of Computing (UK), Computer History Museum (USA), Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology ‎(Italy), MIRAIKAN (Japan)

Grant reference number: AH/T00276X/1

 

- PI and First Supervisor, AHRC Grant for Collaborative Doctoral Studentships (£ 74,500), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK (£ 201,158), 2019-23

Project title: “Broadcasting before broadcasting: A comparative approach to the history of the Electrophone, 1894-1938”

External partners: BT Group, Science Museums and Archives Group, USI University of Lugano, Switzerland

Grant reference number: 2331308

 

- First Supervisor, ESRC Midlands Graduate School DTP Studentship (£ 80,000), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK, 2020-24

PhD Candidate: Eliana Depounti, project title: “Commercial AI chatbots and mental health self-care: An ethnography of contemporary AI companionship”

Grant reference number: 2413897

 

- ZEMKI Visiting Research Fellowship, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZEMKI), Germany, University of Bremen, (Euro 4,500), 2019

Current PhD supervisions at Loughborough University

  • Natasha Kitcher: "Media Convergence before Convergence: The Case of the Electrophone." Co-supervised with Gabriele Balbi (USI Lugano, Switzerland), David Hay (BT Archives), James Elder (BT Archives) and Peter Yeandle.
  • Mona Khan: "Remembering partition online." Co-supervised with Emily Keightley and Aswin Punathambekar.
  • Iliana Depounti: “Commercial AI chatbots and mental health self-care: An ethnography of contemporary AI companionship.” Co-supervised with Paula Saukko and John Downey.

Completed PhD supervisions at Loughborough University

  • Suria Hani binti A.Rahman: "Screening Islam: The representation of religion and gender in different genres of Islamic films in Malaysia." Co-supervised with Paula Saukko.
  • Thais Sarda: "The Dark Side of the Internet: A Study About Representations of the Deep Web and Tor Network in the British Press." Co-supervised with John Downey.
  • Natale, S. Deceitful Media: Artificial Intelligence and Social Life after the Turing Test. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021.
  • Natale, S. Supernatural Entertainments: Victorian Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Media Culture. University Park, Pa.: Penn State University Press, 2016 (paperback 2017).
  • Natale, S. & Pasulka, D. (eds.) Believing in Bits: Digital Media and the Supernatural. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.
  • Leonardi, N. & Natale, S. (eds.) Photography and Other Media in the Nineteenth Century. University Park, Pa.: Penn State University Press, 2018 (paperback 2019).
  • Natale, S. & Cooke, H. Browsing with Alexa: Interrogating the Impact of Voice Assistants as Web Interfaces. Media, Culture & Society 43.6 (2021): 1000-1016. doi: 10.1177/0163443720983295
  • Natale, S. If Software Is Narrative: Joseph Weizenbaum, Artificial Intelligence and the Eliza Effect. New Media and Society 21.3 (2019): 712–728. doi: 10.1177/1461444818804980.
  • Natale, S. There Are No Old Media. Journal of Communication 66.4 (2016): 586-603. doi: 10.1111/jcom.12235
  • Natale, S. Unveiling the Biographies of Media: On the Role of Narratives, Anecdotes and Storytelling in the Construction of New Media’s Histories. Communication Theory 26.4 (2016): 431–449. doi: 10.1111/comt.12099
  • Natale, S. & Ballatore, A. The Web Will Kill Them All: New Media, Digital Utopia, and Political Struggle in the Italian 5-Star Movement. Media, Culture & Society 36.1 (2014): 105-21. doi: 10.1177/016344371351190.