Research project


IMprints aims to seek a better understanding of such anxieties and appetites and to produce a robust understanding of public taboos and desires around IM-TSP, as they develop in the future

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Start date

November 2011

Completion date

September 2014



£2,356,367 (value to University of Dundee: £467,522)


RCUK Global Uncertainties

In the UK and the USA there is an important societal agenda in relation to identity management technologies, services and practices (IM-TSP), set against a background of civil liberties. Citizens regularly express concern about the amount of personal information that is held electronically and that is available to benign and malign organisations. There are, for instance, public anxieties around biometric identification, the introduction of strong border security initiatives and the risks of identity theft. Such fears are typically heightened by media reactions to, among other things, the loss of publicly held personal data records or terrorist threats. Against this backdrop, in contrast, there is a growing appetite for identity sharing through social networks, customer profiling, collaborative filtering and various loyalty schemes.

Why do we refuse ID-cards. . . but love Facebook? Why do we distrust electronic patient files. . . but go for customer loyalty cards? IMprints is a multidisciplinary, comparative research project which examines popular, policy and professional expectations about identity management in the near future.

Aims and objectives

The project uses an innovative and multidisciplinary approach to this emerging field that is aimed at achieving high impact among the various societal stakeholders by producing directly usable information and methodologies for identity management. IMprints challenge is to understand the way that citizens in the UK and the US will respond to new IM-TSP, and to promote trustworthy and pleasurable processes of identity verification across contexts and communities. The results will be beneficial to government, commercial and civic stakeholders.


IMprints have examined public perceptions and responses to IM-TSP by using a forward looking approach utilising scenario sourcing; derived from films, literature, art and design, consumer trend reports, policy reports, academic research and security exploration to map an expected landscape of IM-TPS. IMprints have identified the most plausible scenarios and are representing them in the form of written and visual narratives, online avatars and off-line artefacts that function as stimuli in the research with individuals, civil society, government, commercial and security actors, taking into account the different contexts and sensitivities in the UK and US. The DJCAD team will also host an international design competition supported by a series of design jams/hackathons to generate new desirable practices and services.

The outcomes of the research will be represented in an empirically grounded ‘taboo/desire grid’ that will provide civic, commercial, government and security actors with the knowledge and methodologies to develop and adopt their IM-TSP in concord with the expectations of citizens and consumers. The grid will be available as an online open source resource.

IMprints has also provided the intellectual context for a new level 2 module - Border Crossings, an international collaborative project with design and craft specialisms, namely jewellery and metal design, textile design and interior and environmental design. Students from DJCAD are working closely with colleagues and students from the University of North Texas, USA and the Academy of Design, Ljubljana, Slovenia, to foster greater international awareness of identity and culture.

External team members

Prof Liesbet van Zoonen, Loughborough University (Principal Investigator)
Dr Aletta Norval, University of Essex (Co-Investigator)
Prof Pamela Briggs, Northumbria University (Co-Investigator)
Dr Sandra Wilson, DJCAD, University of Dundee (Co-Investigator)
Dr Jasmine Harvey, Loughborough University (Research Assistant)
Dr Lilia Gomez Flores, DJCAD, University of Dundee (Research Assistant)
Dr Elpida Prasopoulou, University of Essex (Research Assistant)
Dr Lisa Thomas, Northumbria University (Research Assistant)
Dougie Kinnear, DJCAD, University of Dundee (Research Technician)
Dr Tom Sanquist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA (Collaborator)
Dr Dave Thurman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA (Collaborator)