Allan Parsons

Profile image of Associate Lecturer Spatial Practices Programme

Associate Lecturer Spatial Practices Programme

Central Saint Martins


Allan grew up in Scotland and then lived and worked in London, where he studied design and philosophy for many years.

At Central Saint Martins, as well as contributing to the Bigger Picture programme, Allan is an associate lecturer on the MA Narrative Environments course. He has tutored undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students, and has worked in recent years on the delivery of research skills programmes at Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Westminster.

Prior to that, he spent many years as a consultant for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on its International Futures Programme. He has also worked on government-funded, technology-related research projects with universities, such as Imperial College, Brunel University and University of the Arts London, and large corporations, such as Arup and British Telecom.

In his early career he worked for the University of London's Institute of Education, the British Library and the British Film Institute, as well as publishers Bowker-Saur, Cambridge Scientific Abstracts and ProQuest.

Research interests

Spatial practices, narrative, phenomenology, pedagogy, intercorporeal, intersubjective, ethical relations, political relations, actants/networks, networked self, learning.

Research statement

Allan is interested in understanding the role of design practices in everyday life. The everyday is conceptualised as a set of enacted, iterated, spatio-temporal, social practices in which the self is entangled, through embodied intersubjectivity and intercorporeality.

One starting point for this programme is the Marxian transformation of the Hegelian dialectic, by means of which a re-articultion of the Aristotelian conception of praxis is begun. This Aristotelian element of Marx is further re-worked with reference to Hannah Arendt’s notions of labour, work and action, a move which which opens up the question of politics as agon (contest or struggle) and as narrative.

This line of development is aligned with those poststructuralist thinkers who develop the Nietzschian-Heideggerian critique of classical Metaphysics and Enlightenment Humanism. This involves incorporating insights from such post- and Left-Heideggerians as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, as well Arendt.

This body of work is critically aligned, in one direction, with the work of those who focus on spatial practices, such as Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau, and, in a second direction, those who focus on narrative as a methodological issue, such as Paul Ricoeur and A. J. Greimas. In particular, Greimas’s actantial theory is reworked to serve as a basis for the conceptualisation of agency as a set of distributed, contextualised and contextualising, dynamic relations within agonistic and narrative frameworks.

This line of development bears a critical relationship to certain conceptualisations within social studies of science or science and technology studies, such as, for example, actor-network theory, without discounting human agency or, rather, human actantiality.

Finally, the emphasis on praxis as ethics and politics is developed though a consideration of theorists of democracy as dissensus, such as Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jacques Ranciere, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe.

Although its methodological individualism is rejected, the phenomenological line that runs through Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, John-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir is taken to have value in considering self, body and world, particularly as re-articulated by such post-phenomenological and poststructuralist feminists as Judith Butler and Susan Bordo.

This set of theoretical and practical moves is seen as a means of bringing to conscious and collective attention a critical understanding of the performative character of design practices in the everyday. The purpose of this theoretical practice is to gain insights into everyday interactions, within an ethical framework, and also to enable design practices to consider whether and how they might alter the flow of the taken-for-granted, within a political framework.