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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Alex Mentzel

Alex Mentzel
PhD Candidate
Associate, Cambridge Digital Humanities
Gates Cambridge Social
Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages & Linguistics
Contact details: 

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics
Raised Faculty Building
University of Cambridge
Sidgwick Avenue
United Kingdom


Alex Mentzel is a second year PhD student as a Gates Cambridge Scholar. He first arrived at the University of Cambridge in 2021 from the Pacific Northwest after several years working in the creative industries, as well as a stint as the co-founder and CEO of Averto, a social-impact tech start-up. During his MPhil in European, Latin American, and Comparative Literature and Culture he integrated a computational analysis of machines in the short stories of Franz Kafka with media archeology and critical theory, ultimately receiving a Distinction.


Previously, Alex co-developed and managed a COVID-19 integrated software platform for Lane County Public Health and the Oregon Health Authority, researched global ethics and human rights at Oxford and with the United Nations in New York City, served as the Assistant Director on a theatrically-staged spacewalk through the universe in "All in All" at Frankfurt's Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, and even worked as a professional actor in Los Angeles.

Alex grew up in Cologne, Germany and Eugene, Oregon and graduated from the University of Oregon Clark Honors College with degrees in German Literature and Culture and Theatre Arts.



Gates-Cambridge Scholarship                                                                                 2022

Full PhD funding through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Cambridge Trust Masters Studentship & Schröders plc Fund Scholarship   2021

Awarded for significant academic achievement and potential

Robert D. Clark International Thesis Award                                                        2020

Recognizes a distinguished thesis that involved significant research abroad

or in second-language sources

Student Startup Madness and SXSW Festival—National Final 8                      2020

Awarded to Averto as one of the Top 8 student led tech start-ups in the nation

Seattle Startup Week/TechCrunch “Best Start-Up” Winner                             2019

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Research Fellowship               2017

Full 6-month funding period


Research interests: 

Alex works on the spatial principles and architectures of online ecosystems and emergent technology. His PhD creates a Virtual Topography of the “digital space” by engaging with the spatial theories of Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer, as they exist in conversation with the performative qualities examined by Bertolt Brecht and Franz Kafka in their literature. My PhD project will provide critical “encrustations” (after Caroline Bassett), transcending existing readings that fall back on simple description of virtual spaces and portals.


Alex is deeply committed to work that addresses the risk of negative technological consequences, such as discriminatory systems of surveillance, data extraction, and privacy breaches, that will be amplified in emergent cross-reality environments. As commercial pillars of Web2, notably Meta and Microsoft, make increasing use of Web3 technologies, questions of racial, gender, and economic experience as articulated in virtual space will be profoundly political. He believes it is his role to not merely reflect the present but provide alternative imaginaries of the future. His research melds theoretical methodology with continued work in artistic production and technological development, resulting in contributions to the ways that our society must face these globally networked challenges.

Recent research projects: 

--Upcoming: “Walter Benjamin, Media Archaeology, and Digital Scenography” at the  Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule, Freie Universität Berlin (Summer Semester, 2024)


--Faust Shop Performance: An Augmented Reality theatrical exploration of the tokenization and financialization of data through Goethe’s Faust, in partnership with Cambridge Digital Humanities and Sook -


--"Using AI to give industrial robots a sense of feeling”, in partnership with Cambridge i-Teams, Cambridge Enterprise, and Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing -


--“Ed: The New, Totally Unofficial, Ginger-Inclusive Parody Sketch Show” at Edinburgh Fringe Festival --


-- “Digital Solutions and Improving Contact Tracing and Public Health Outcomes” (Operations and Development Researcher) -