James Harkin is a journalist and analyst of new ideas and global social, cultural, political and technological trends. He write essays, comment and reportage for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The London Review of Books, The Financial Times, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, The Economist, The American Prospect, The Nation and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He also write books. His latest full-length book, Niche: The missing middle of business, politics, culture and life, was published in March 2011.
He was born in Belfast and educated at St. Malachy’s College Belfast, King’s College London and Hertford College Oxford. Between 1996 and 1999 he taught and lectured in social theory, politics and political economy at the University of Oxford. In 1999, James exited academic life to work as an analyst of global social, political, business and technological trends (or ‘futurologist’) at the think-tank The Intelligence Factory (then part of Young and Rubicam) in New York. Since 1998 he has also been writing regularly on social, political and technological trends for British newspapers and magazines and in 2004 he became a writer for the Financial Times magazine. He has written essays, features and cover stories for the FT magazine, contributed to the comment pages on ideas and trends, interviewed everyone from Tom Friedman to Naomi Klein for the "Lunch with the FT slot" and reported for the FT from Beirut. Between September 2005 and October 2006, he wrote a column for The Guardian called BIG IDEA, and before that he wrote similar columns for The Times and the Financial Times.
He has appeared on Newsnight, Channel 4 News and Sky News to talk about new media and social and political change, and been interviewed about his work for Time magazine and The New York Times. He has debated cultural policy and the internet with the (then) Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the Today programme, have appeared on Newsnight to talk about the internet and on The Moral Maze — and retain excellent contacts within the intellectual and policy communities in Britain and the United States. He has lectured on the political consequences of the internet at the LSE, debated geo-politics and social media (with Dominique Moïsi) at the Edinburgh Books Festival, talked about the internet’s effect on contemporary culture (with the artist Mark Leckey) at The Southbank Centre, and debated the future of the internet at an Editorial Intelligence conference. Between 2004 and 2009, he was also Director of Talks at the ICA in London, managing a small team to produce a series of internationally themed talks with a strong focus on airing challenging arguments and pushing the boundaries of freedom of expression. Speakers invited to the ICA and hosted there included Gerry Adams, Antonio Negri, Amartya Sen, Tariq Ramadan, Harold Evans, Ian Buruma, Malcolm Gladwell, Naomi Wolf and the late Anna Politovskaya. In 2012, for example, he keynoted both The Economist’s annual 'Big Rethink' conference and the annual conference of the TV production company Shine on strategy, the arts and institutional change. He was invited to give the keynote lecture for the Edinburgh International Festival in the summer of 2013, on the subject of technology and social change.
He was the associate producer of Adam Curtis’s three-part ideas-driven series The Trap: Whatever happened to our dream of freedom?, which aired on BBC2. He was one of the associate producers of Adam Curtis's latest three-part series All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, which looked at the relationship between cybernetics, ecology and culture and aired on BBC2. His first book, Big Ideas, was based on a weekly column about ideas he wrote for The Guardian. His second book Cyburbia, about how the internet is changing contemporary culture, was published in February 2009. He won a K Blundell award from the Society of Authors for his third book, Niche: The Missing Middle and why Business Needs to Specialise to Survive, which is about the problems which face mainstream media, business, culture and politics in an age of ubiquitous new media and social fragmentation.
In the academic year 2013/2014 he has been made a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute at Oxford University, for a project on new media in the Syrian conflict, and a Senior Associate Member of St. Anthony’s College.