Dr Matthew Cole


I'm from the rust belt of New York State, though I have now lived in the UK from nearly a decade. My academic life began in Buffalo, New York, where I studied a variety of subjects in the humanities, focused primarily around the history of the Americas, gender theory, and continental philosophy. I was actively involved in United Studens Against Sweatshops during my time at Buffalo, which introduced me to the dynamics of global production and value chains from a pratcial and political perspective. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on radical queerness and masculinity in San Francisco. I then decided to move to New York City where I worked as a cycle courier and barista while living in Brooklyn.

I made the move to London after being accepted to the masters program at Kingston University run by the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. I wrote my thesis on "The Politics of Militancy in Mao and Badiou". After some years spent in independent study while working as a barista and then in publishing, I applied and was accepted to University of Leeds Business School on a full studentship. My PhD - titled "The Politics of Service Production: Experiences of Low-Waged Hospitality Work in London" - examined the relations between commodification, cooperation and conflict through the experiences of workers themselves. I am working on a number of articles developed from this research as well as my new project, provisionally titled "Human vs Machine: Cooperation and conflict between human and artificial intelligences in interactive service work".

Research interests

I am interested in the history of labour process theory, labour organising in service industries, and the political economy of work.

My post-doctoral research concerns the dynamics of human and machine intelligence in navigating interactive service work. Automation is a classical theme in the study of work. However, much of the literature has regarded technology as an exogenous force, rather than as an endogenous process shaped by social relations. The recent rise in the use of artificial intelligence, specifically machine learning algorithms to augment intellectual labour in different industries, potentially represents a qualitative shift in human-machine relations such that they facilitate mutual learning. This project will explore the augmentation of human intellectual labour as a result of the introduction of artificial intelligence into the service labour process, with specific attention to the following questions:

1. Does the introduction of intelligent automation to the labour process represent a qualitative shift in the nature of work and employment?

2. Do classical debates around deskilling and technological substitution apply to the introduction of AI?

3. What are the dynamics of cooperation and conflict between human and artificial intelligence in interactive service work?


  • 2019 PhD: Work and Employment Relations, University of Leeds Business School
  • 2011 MA: Modern European Philosophy, Commendation, Kingston University
  • 2009 BA: American Studies and Political Science, Summa Cum Laude, University at Buffalo

Professional memberships

  • International Initiative for the Promotion of Political Economy
  • British Universities Industrial Relations Association
  • Autonomy Institute
  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Association

Student education

Modules I have taught on:

LUBS3095 Global Perspectives on HRM and Employment Relations

LUBS1765 Business and Society (Social Theory)

LUBS3001/5360M Gender and Equality at Work in Comparative Perspective

LUBS5320 Training and Development

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change