Tim Maughan

Freelance journalist and author

Location icon UK/Canada

Author and journalist using both fiction and non-fiction to explore issues around cities, class, culture, technology, and the future. His work regularly appears on the BBC, New Scientist, and Vice/Motherboard. Debut novel INFINITE DETAIL to be published by FSG in 2019.

Winner of the 2015 Seahorse Club award for Supply Chain Journalist of The Year.

[email protected]

Portfolio

Non fiction/Journalism

BBC
The invisible network that keeps the world running

It's been just over 45 years since the Apollo Moon landings, and some would have it that we are failing to build big anymore; that we've since become too fascinated with the small, too impressed by our tablet computers, games consoles, and smartphones that we don't invest in grand, world-changing engineering projects.

Motherboard
08/19/2015
The Changing Face of Shenzhen, the World's Gadget Factory

Mention Shenzhen to most people, and they'll probably think of the vast Foxconn manufacturing plant that churns out high-end phones, tablets, laptops, and gaming consoles for the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Dell, and Sony.

BBC
Yiwu: The Chinese city where Christmas is made and sold

I'm a few hours away from Shanghai and I've not seen daylight for over three hours. I'm also hopelessly lost. I've been trying to get out of this place for the last 45 minutes, but the vast labyrinth of corridors and stores all look identical.

BBC
The dystopian lake filled by the world's tech lust

From where I'm standing, the city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Between it and me, stretching into the distance, lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge.

BBC
Virtual reality: The hype, the problems and the promise

I'm sitting in the dark. It's pitch black, apart from a circular spot of light on the wall in front of me. Voices emerge, a woman and a small girl, as shadow puppets cast by unseen hands play out stories in the torchlight. Somewhere above me is a low, ominous boom...

BBC
Would you let an algorithm manage your relationships?

"I had this everyday feeling - stress about not properly articulating my emotions in my emails to people," artist and writer Joanne McNeil tells me over the phone from Boston. "I was feeling as though I had to over-do it with enthusiasm or I would sound too sarcastic or bleak or disinterested."

BBC
Meet Zoltan, the presidential candidate who drives a coffin

"I had been working for National Geographic, travelling, doing all these fun things and then all of a sudden, I nearly stood on a land mine in Vietnam," Zoltan Istvan tells me, as we sit in the lobby of a hotel just a few minutes walk from the White House.

BBC
The oil rich city betting on drones

Over the PA system a voice tells us not to be alarmed. What we are about to see is just a demonstration, courtesy of the United Arab Emirate's Ministry of the Interior. Two men wander onto the circular stage, wearing soccer shirts and jeans...

New Scientist
Six GIFs about things you didn't know about GIFs

Here are six lessons from What We Talk About When We Talk About GIFs, a one-day symposium in New York that attempted to "unpack the history, popular culture, and social impact of GIFs"

New Scientist
Why even catastrophic events can't change attitudes to climate

"The fundamental problem with environmental justice in the world today is that the people and the places that are most responsible for getting us into this mess seem to be the ones most capable of dealing with the problem." So said sociologist Eric Klinenberg earlier this February.

Motherboard
01/26/2016
The Future Is ​Genetically Modified Facebook Profiles

"I wanted to tell a story that bridged two worlds of social media culture," says filmmaker Alexey Marfin. "On one hand, there's this world of the perfect profile: a world of narcissism, a world where we love ourselves and create online profiles on social media to share a perfectly curated 'pet' image of ourselves with everyone else.

E&T Magazine
Is farming the future of cities?

As more and more people leave their rural homes for high-rise buildings, 'vertical farming' may offer a way to feed the populations of future mega-cities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the first things you notice when visiting rooftop farm projects in New York City is how many steps you have to climb.

Motherboard
09/24/2015
The Inevitable Rise of the Internet of Shipping Containers

The shipping container has become the ubiquitous mechanism of logistics, its generic shape and size an iconic symbol of globalization itself. By standardizing how cargo is packaged and moved, it has streamlined costs to an extent that has transformed global economics.

Motherboard
09/17/2015
China's Drone Army Is Beginning to Look a Lot Like the US's

The downed CH-3. Image: Screenshot, Twitter Back in January of this year, photos emerged on Twitter of what appeared to be a crashed military drone in Nigeria's war-torn Borno state, a flashpoint for the country's ongoing conflict with Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

E&T Magazine
Is China's hydroelectric revolution as green as it sounds?

China is pursuing an ambitious programme of hydroelectric expansion, with a series of 'mega-dams' on the way even bigger than the controversial Three Gorges project. But are there signs that this kind of hydropower might actually make climate change even worse?

BBC
Could psychedelic drugs make smokers quit?

Nicotine patches, chewing gum, cold turkey. Giving up cigarettes can be tough, but there are many strategies smokers can try. Matthew Johnson wants to add another: he says he can help smokers quit by giving them another drug - psilocybin - that has been illegal for years in much of Europe and North America.

New Scientist
Making Patterns: getting intimate with technology

Making Patterns, 117 Beekman Street, Manhattan, New York, 24 July to 17 September While high profile, the Apple Watch is hardly a new concept. Activity-tracking devices such as the Fitbit have been popular for a while, and many people's smartphones so rarely leave their pockets that they might as well be part of their clothing.

New Scientist
Biocode mixes art and academia to explore pigeonholing

From 2008 to 2010, the Moorea Biocode project set out to create a comprehensive database of all non-microbial life on a single Polynesian island. Five years on, a team of humanities students at the University of Pennsylvania have assembled their own, rather ironic Biocode conference.

New Scientist
Putting animals online: Does it protect or destroy?

A shark has been killed because tagging data revealed it was regularly near a popular swimming area (Image: Stuart Westmorland/Getty) Even in the digital realm, observation and conservation make uncomfortable bedfellows "We hear a lot of talk about the 'internet of things'," says Etienne Benson, "and, increasingly, some of them are living things."

Sonic Acts
Tim Maughan interviews Liam Young

SONIC ACTS RESEARCH SERIES #7 'The Shadow Cast by the Luminous Screen...' One of the speakers at the next Sonic Acts Festival is speculative architect Liam Young. Together with Kate Davies he runs the Unknown Fields Division, 'a nomadic design studio that ventures out on annual expeditions to the ends of the Earth exploring unreal and forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and obsolete ecologies'.

Arc
07/01/2015
We're listening to Adam Greenfield speak AGAINST THE SMART CITY

Tim Maughan reports from New York. Against the Smart City (The City is Here for You to Use)Adam GreenfieldKindle, £5.16 New York, like any major city on any continent, is pockmarked with monuments of change; the scars and stretch marks of urban conflict and rebirth. The New Museum is one of the most notable.

Medium
02/17/2014
Graffiti: 40 Years of Hacking New York City

"'City as Canvas' is a reminder that this is, in a very literal sense, criminal artwork" The title of The Museum of New York City's latest street art retrospective -  City as Canvas -  seems little more than a clever name at first glance; a literal description of an art form that takes the very fabric of urban spaces - the brick and concrete of walls, the steel and plastic of subway cars - as its medium of choice.

New Scientist
Neurons light up Times Square for Midnight Moment

Brain City is playing at Times Square at 11.57 every night until the end of November. Along with its street performers and endless crowds of tourists, New York's Times Square is best known for a huge array of electronic billboards.

Medium
08/27/2013
Manufacturing Outrage For Profit in 10 Easy Steps

Miley Cyrus is a 20 year old American female actress and popstar. She rose to prominence by appearing in the children's TV show Hannah Montana on The Disney Channel, and by initially marketing herself as a family friendly alternative to more raunchy pop acts. Robin Thicke is a 36 year old American male popstar.

Fiction

Motherboard
12/21/2017
Last Christmas

Surian Soosay "Daddy! Daddy! Wake up! It's snowing!" He blinks open half asleep eyes, forces his head up, squints through the whiteout glare. Astrid has her face pushed up against the floor to ceiling glass that lines the bedroom, her tiny frame a black smudge of a silhouette against the perfectly rendered white coated lawns.

Motherboard
​Flyover Country

With a Trump presidency and the full scope of his campaign promises looming, here's a look at a future where some of them have come to pass. Welcome to a future where undocumented migrants are rounded up and penalized, private prisons overflow into labor camps, and iPhones are made in America.

The Long and Short
Divided we stand

'Sara lets the Lyft park itself in the drive, lets out a sigh, and tweets wish me luck plus some emojis before slipping her phone into a hoody pocket. Curtains twitch, and before she can get her bag out of the back Mom is there, right there next to her, their hands touching on the handle as they compete for control.'

The Long and Short
Elevated

We asked academics to collaborate with science fiction writers to develop short stories that explored these ideas and the real impact of collective intelligence, of human lives embedded in deeper, faster networks, of interactions with more powerful and uncanny machine intelligences.

Nesta
Transmission

Six stories of a post-antibiotic future bringing the scale and urgency of the challenge of antimicrobial resistance vividly to life. Infectious Futures features six stories set in the near-future where the battle against antimicrobial resistance has not been won, and resistant infections are commonplace.

Medium
06/18/2014
The future of ed tech is here, it's just not evenly distributed

Using design fiction to cut through the relentless TEDTalk-like optimism of ed tech marketing By sava saheli singh and Tim Maughan People talk about the future of technology in education as though it's right around the corner, but most of us get to that corner and see it disappearing around the next.

Medium
06/26/2015
Special Economic Zone

Over the summer of 2014, writer Tim Maughan accompanied the Unknown Fields Division  - 'a nomadic design studio' lead by speculative architects Liam Young and Kate Davies - on an expedition to follow the supply chain back to the source of our consumer goods. On the way they visited Shenzhen, China's most successful Special Economic Zone.

Medium
12/16/2013
Collision Detection

I'll be honest with you, I'm more concerned about your hands than your penis. Two weeks later and he's back in Timo's humming, steel tube. -Okay...-I mean, don't worry or anything you know. It's just that... well.

Medium
09/19/2013
Zero Hours

For a workshop on future London, five individuals - Arup, Social Life, Re.Work, Commonplace, Tim Maughan and Nesta-created 10 Future Londoners for the year 2023. This is a short fictional piece describing the working day of 19 year old Nicki, a zero hours retail contractor.

Motherboard
11/25/2015
Dialed Up

This week, Motherboard is exploring the world of drugs and altered states with Lit Up. So, for today's Terraform entry, here's Tim Maughan with a warped dystopia about the future of work, where you you've no hope of succeeding at the office without a mind-bending array of digitally-administered performance enhancers.

Motherboard
12/24/2014
Four Days of Christmas

​ In December 2014, writer Tim Maughan published a story in the BBC ​about his visit to the markets and factories of Yiwu , where over 60 percent of the world's Christmas decorations are made. It went viral.

Arc
07/01/2015
Ghost Hardware

Anika starts with broad brushstrokes. A swipe of her hand is enough to brush away the initial debris on the face of the billboard, the hastily scrawled felt-tip pen tags and random stickers, cartoon monkey faces and ironically pixelised icons, until the surface is clean, nothing interfering with the now pristine Volkswagen advert that fills the huge twenty-by-ten-inch space.

Medium
07/27/2015
The Water Line

That's what she told me. For real. That's what she said. Detroit. Moving the whole family up there. I said she must be crazy but... Hey! Look at this klutz man. Hey! HEY! Watch what you doing! Look how much you're fucking spilling! Can you believe this shit?

Arc
07/02/2015
Is Tim Maughan's Limited Edition the best short story of 2012?

We think so, and we're not alone: the story has been shortlisted for this year's BSFA Award. Judge for yourself: here's Limited Edition in all its great handsomeness, complete with striking original artwork by Robert Carter. If you like it, vote for it!

Saturated Space
Your Gaze

"Originally conceived by imagining what the world might look like if we could apply Instagram style colour filters to reality, 'Your gaze, brought to you by our sponsors' ended up being an exploration of how digital palettes alienate us from the true colours of reality, how the male gaze shades virtual worlds, and how social media has made us all the content between advertisements."

The Orphan
07/15/2013
#Burgerpunk

"'Burgerpunk?'" Tamsin squinted at me over the rim of her ironically ugly spex. "And that's...what?" Her eyes aimed down again, I could tell she was reading from some non-existent document floating in her own private space, my portfolio I presumed. It was also painfully obvious this was the first time she'd seen it.

Tor.com
02/04/2013
Paintwork

Enjoy this reprint of the title story from Tim Maughan's short story collection Paintwork , a collection which also contains the BSFA Award nominated "Havana Augmented." His collection comes highly recommended by Cory Doctorow and Ken MacLeod. His short story "Limited Edition" has been shortlisted for the 2012 BSFA Award.

Films/Video

Creators
New Subcultures Surface in the Films of Liam Young and Tim Maughan

Architects certainly think of the future when designing buildings, yet few approach their practice like a science fiction author, or even a skeptical futurist. Speculative architect and filmmaker Liam Young, on the other hand, actually uses science fiction and film to explore the impact of new technologies on cities, as he did a few years ago with his imaginary future city animations.

Engadget
This sci-fi film was shot entirely by autonomous drones

Young and fiction author Tim Maughan imagined the story to explore the "drone as a cultural object" -- one that can be both oppressive and liberating as it eventually breeds new urban subcultures. While the film may not be the first drone-shot sci-fi flick, some of the themes are strikingly close to becoming reality.

Art Projects/Installations

Magical Nihilism
11/25/2015
Alternative Unknowns

Chris Woebken and Elliott Montgomery practice together as The Extrapolation Factory here in NYC. They often stage shows, workshops and teach a blend of speculative design provocation, storytelling, and making. I first met them both at the RCA, and so I was thrilled when they asked me in late summer to be part of their...

Superflux
Drone Aviary

The Drone Aviary - an R&D project from The Superflux Lab - is an investigation of the social, political and cultural potential of drone technology as it enters civil space.

Co.Design
02/18/2015
What If Tech Companies Owned Your City?

Imagine a world where Samsung built and owned your residential building, where "patriotism" defined your allegiance to your preferred cell phone manufacturer, not your country, and bringing a corporate rival's product into your apartment could be grounds for eviction.

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