James Harkin is a journalist and analyst of new ideas and new social, political and technological trends - and the director of a little think-tank looking at the relationship between new media and social change called Flockwatching.
He writes for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The London Review of Books, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, and The Nation. He also writes books about ideas, social change and new media. His latest full-length book, Niche: The missing middle of business, politics, culture and life, was published by Little, Brown in the UK.
He was born in Belfast and educated at St. Malachy's College Belfast, King's College London, from where he graduated in law, and Hertford College Oxford, where he took the M. Phil. in politics.
Between 1996 and 1999 he taught and lectured in politics subjects at three different colleges of the University of Oxford. Between 2004 and 2009, he was Director of Talks at the ICA in London. Speakers he invited to the ICA and hosted there included Gerry Adams, Antonio Negri, Amartya Sen, Tariq Ramadan, Ian Buruma, Malcolm Gladwell, Naomi Wolf and the late Anna Politovskaya. He has keynoted conferences for anyone from The Economist to Schroders Bank to The Edinburgh International Festival, where he gave a keynote address in 2013, on technology and social change.
He was the associate producer of Adam Curtis's three-part ideas-driven series about game theory, The Trap: Whatever happened to our dream of freedom?, which aired on BBC2 in the UK in March 2007, and 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 in May 2011.
His first book, Big Ideas, was based on a weekly column about ideas he wrote for The Guardian newspaper in the UK. It was originally published in 2008 by Atlantic Books, and has now been translated into Korean, Spanish and Polish. His second book Cyburbia, about how the internet is changing contemporary culture, was published in February 2009 by Little, Brown and by Knopf in Canada. He won a K Blundell award from the Society of Authors for his third book, Niche, about the problems which face mainstream media, culture and politics in an age of ubiquitous new media and social fragmentation; it was published by Little, Brown around the world in March 2011, is currently being translated into Korean, Japanese and Chinese and will be published as a paperback with the new title Niche: The Missing Middle and why business needs to specialize to survive by Little, Brown in August 2012. His long, analytical reportage from that trip, War Against All; The Struggle for Northern Syria, was published in November 2012 in the United States as a Kindle Single e-book and was described in The Independent as admirable and by The Observer as excellent.