Media Practice

Doctoral Projects in Creative and Critical Practice

Browse some of the research projects our PhD students are working on below:

Hasnaa AlkhateebWomen in Gated Communities: A Visual Comparative Analysis

My practice-based research is a visual comparative analysis on women in gated communities in Saudi Arabia and the UK. The project examines, critically and visually, different gender behaviours and women’s practices when set in a gated environment in which typical social and gender standards are not explicitly imposed particularly by the State. It explores women’s experience and position within gated enclaves, their identities and relationship with the spaces they inhabit and the people they interact with inside and outside the communities. The research thus explores whether or not these gated developments implicitly encourage more “traditional” gender roles that are hidden behind their promise of a secure luxurious lifestyle. 

Behnoosh AmandiIdentity, longing and the everyday of Iranian immigrants in the UK

My PhD in creative and critical practice is about the identity, longing and the everyday of Iranian immigrants in the UK. My methodology consists of both documentary film methods and the use of social media. It is a documentary based on this case partly open and closed interview techniques and a visual exploration of the domestic material culture. In this research the documentary film will be the depository to highlight and raise the issues of British Iranians’ everyday life. This study analyses migrants’ life experiences based on the four categories of Iranian displacement. I have used Facebook, to elicit reactions from both men and women via short documentary video clips. My focus is on the everyday routines and habits and material representation of the Iranian and British culture in a domestic environment. Therefore, Looking at their everyday life, meals, routines, habits, their prized Iranian ornaments and memorabilia will help me to explore their emotional and cultural connection to their original culture. 

Daisy AsquithThis Is Not Us: Contested Representation and Cultural Space in the One Direction Fandom

My thesis explores the creative, subversive, and globally networked fans of One Direction, uncovers the queer erotic meanings in their Larry fan art and investigates the subcultural codes that dictate who can enjoy it and share it. I examine the ethics of television documentary and analyse the factions that divide the fandom particularly when there is a contested representation of either the band or their fans. I will argue that there are subtle distinctions made by fans about what is public and private and that anonymity is sometimes mistaken for privacy in the fandom. I will also argue that in moving Larry from Tumblr to television my film decontextualised it and destroyed some of its subcultural authenticity, as well as highlighting its unacceptability in patriarchal society. 

Karen Boswall

Through the production of a Mozambican Musical Documentary I will develop creative and collaborative approaches to the production and distribution of interactive multi-media content to stimulate community led debate around gender inequality in Mozambique. Using hybrid participatory methodologies, this research aims to draw on the affective power of music and the expanding possibilities of multi-media narrative forms to produce new and effective ways for diverse voices, stories and perspectives on gender (in)equality in Mozambique to be heard, shared and discussed. I will work in partnership with Mozambican HE institutions, research centres, film-makers and musicians collectives to collect songs, stories, ideas, opinions and personal testimonies which will form the sarting point for the creative process. This research engages with questions of voice, both through speech and first hand testimony (Minh-ha,1982), and voice that goes beyond speech; through gesture and silence(Jackson, 2012), creative expression (Appadurai, 2004), and collaborative (self)-representation or the 'third voce’ (Kaminsky, 1992).

Edward Briggs


Angelo (Gianpaolo) BucciChallenging hegemonic views on marginalised communities through participatory and interactive multimedia forms in documentaries and NGO videos

I am exploring the emerging documentary practices that can disrupt stereotypical representations of marginalised communities and poverty in the West, through both a reflection on aesthetics and a deeper engagement with civil societies.
For this practice-led research, I am analysing a portfolio of my own documentary works: a documentary on African Diaspora communities and three videos for promoting NGO projects of cooperation and development in remote areas of the world.
Reflecting on the limits of multi-sited projects, I am proposing an approach based on concepts of what I would define ‘critical interactions’ to inform the representation of marginalised groups. Essential to that is the engagement of informants and participants as reciprocators, or co-constructors of their representation.

Irene Fubara-ManuelAnimating Opacity: On Surveillance, Biometric Technologies and Resistance

My thesis analyzes surveillance technologies focusing on biometrics, contextualizing these technologies within a socio-political discussion of race, colonization, and migration. Borrowing the postcolonial poet Edouard Glissant's conceptualization of opacity, as a decolonial resistance to reductive identification, this dissertation charts moments of resistance in artistic practices. In this vein, this dissertation includes the production of experimental animation as a means of enacting opacity and subverting the dissection of the surveillant gaze. Merging theory with practice, this dissertation problematizes the racialization of surveillance and hypersurveillance of racialized migrant bodies, exploring the radical possibilities presented through opacity in the face of ubiquitous surveillance.

Aide Violeta Fuentes BarronDigital Culture & Borders in Remix: Mapping the creation and appropriation of online content 

In my research I propose to analyze the transformations in societal forms of communication through the appropriation of online content and the immersion of computation in everyday life to determine and further understand Digital Culture and Digital Borders in content such as video remixes, memes, websites, etc. In other words, drawing on the often cited scholarship of Manuel Castells, I will study the “new socio-technical pattern that emerges from the interaction of the Internet transforming the way in which we communicate and society doing things on the internet that transform the Internet itself” (Castells, 2001). Although this quote is not exactly new anymore what I want to research is this transformation in communication that happened by looking at forms created specifically for online content, marked by increasing popularity of Internet-based forms. The aim is to pursue practice-led research as a method that links making with analysis.     

Kate GenevieveInsula: Re-Mapping Bodily Presence with Performance Technologies

Insula is an interdisciplinary creative practice study that connects performance practice with ongoing neuroscientific enquiry into conscious presence. Sensory substitution experiments (the rubber hand illusion, artificial induction of ‘out of body’ experiences) define new scientific approaches to researching somatic bodily experience. My project explores these novel experimental paradigms as part of media performance history. I combine narrative performance and technology to stage vivid first-person, multi-sensory experiences of altered presence that use multi-sensory
techniques to transform the peripersonal space of audiences. My focus within this Phd work is to create knowledge around the phenomenology of individual and collective subjective experience. The creative outcome (75%) will be a multi-sensory performance project inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest which will employ Oculus Rift technology (i.e. a virtual reality headset that utilises the physiological data of the audience). The performance, through exploration of themes of dream and metamorphosis, explores the visceral feelings encountered in moving between individual sensing and shared experience. I design creative means for the audience to report their phenomenological perception and a novel graphic and compositional technique for notating visceral movements between insula and socially connected states. I will support the piece with a 20,000 word written submission that articulates the development, the research findings and integrates interdisciplinary perspectives on emotion and the body to form an original contribution to work on virtual reality, performance technologies and collective subjective experience.

Wesley GoatleyCritical Data Aesthetics - Towards a Critically Reflexive Theory and Practice of Data Aestheticisation

I am developing ‘critical data aesthetics’: the reflexive application of critical artistic practice, informed by concerns exemplified by critical data studies, to the practice of data aestheticisation.  The intention of this project is to address three core concerns: to what extent does data aestheticisation create new constellations of possibility for creative and artistic practice, and how does this manifest in terms of sociotechnical networks?  How can the challenges of data aestheticisation create new opportunities for interventions in the critical study of data?  And how can these aspects be explored both in terms of theoretical innovation, and through the practice of devising, creating, and documenting data aestheticisation artworks? 

Ian Grant, Expressivity and the Digital Puppet: Mechanical, Digital and Virtual Objects in Games, Art and Performance

The thesis proposes
(i) the fullest survey and taxonomy of the digital puppet completed to date;
(ii) a critical framework for considering qualities of expressivity in digital puppetry and real-time animation;
(iii) and a digital puppetry toolkit;
The thesis explores the interface between traditional puppetry and tactile and embodied computer technologies.
It begins with an overview of all forms of puppetry (as far as is possible in a hybrid discipline) as manifested and transformed in the digital realm, with a subsequent detailed focus on shadow puppetry.
The work is illustrated with historical, theoretical enquiry, select case studies, documentation of original digital performance and an analysis of performance tools. The study offers an extended definition of the digital puppet, discussing control interfaces, immaterially and the performance presence of the digital performing object.
The critical practice presents a set of experimental performance technologies that makes, among other things, 'multi-touchable' digital shadow theatre possible. The experiments explore: Physical Simulation and Motion Perception; Real-time Control of Character, Facial and Object 'Rigs'; Generative Control Systems; Experimental Configurations of Performer to Object Mappings; Dynamic Scenography; and Expressivity. The practice includes several experiments in interaction, including multitouch surfaces, collaborative and composite performance, object tracking, computer vision techniques and embodied interfaces. The experiments culminate in live 'scratch' animation performances, each performance designed with a sensitivity to the media archeology of puppetry, animation and technology. I establish critical design level insights and present a range of potential approaches to making performance animation using a variety of tools.
The thesis provides a detailed context for the practice by relating the media archaeologies of 2D and 3D puppetry (and augmented silhouettes) to landmark real-time computer animation and performance animation work including compositions by media artists Myron Krueger, Golan Levin, Philip Worthington, Miwa Matreyek, Joon, Moon, Design I/O, Luís Leite and others. The media archeologies will establish themes, including: the Cinematics and Kinesthetics of Digital Shadow Play; Mimetic Illusionism and Expressionism; 2D Puppet Forms in 3D Digital Space; Performer-to-character Mapping: 2D and 3D (dis)connections; and Digitising Material Culture: Kinetic Play with Heritage Objects.

Alan Greig, The Resisting the Society of Control: Digital Media and Nomadic Masculinities.

Hegemony remains a useful concept with which to understand how elites maintain their authority and how inequitable relations of power are reproduced. But the digital revolution over the last twenty years is changing the way that hegemony works. Increasingly, power operates within us and not simply on us, as the effects of the streams of digital data through which we experience the world and express ourselves. Consciousness and subjectivity are being mediatized. The military and corporate agendas driving developments in digital technology highlight the significance of these digital ‘forces’ in the emergent “society of control” in which we in the global North now live. The digital data flows of the “society of control” are now embedded within the physical infrastructure of the 21st century city. These developments change the questions to be asked of the ways in which gender works in maintaining and legitimating oppressive formations of power. To understand and address the relationship between masculinity and hegemony, it is important to explore the coding of gender within the data flows of the “society of control”. At the same time, any effort to forge counter-hegemonic political agendas and practices must work with these gender codes that mediatize consciousness and subjectivity. If culture has long been seen as a critical terrain on which to contest hegemonic formations, then a contemporary challenge for cultural work is to use digital media in ways that unsettle the dominant gender codings within urban circuits of culture and power. Against the static coordinates of identity and status imposed by these codings, I propose to develop and reflect on the use of digital media practices as a “becoming-art” of re- presenting masculinity as a series of nomadic identifications and practices. I will test tools and processes for using digital media to explore the paths of gender ‘wanderings’, guided by a logic of continual becoming and not simply new ways of being. It is in this “becoming-art” of nomadic masculinities, I suggest, that forms of gender consciousness and subjectivity can emerge to challenge the masculinity of hegemony.

Aysenur KarabulutNOW GO EXPLORE: Building Bridges between Digital Practices and Performing Arts to Foster Self-Concept in Early Childhood  

My research is rooted in three disciplines, theatre, psychology and media. As my thesis title outlines, I am trying to bridge youth theatre and developmental psychology using digital media as a medium. I am dealing with the theories of applied theatre, contemporary theatre practices, intermediality in performance, self-concept, and self-determination.
In my research practice, I implement pedagogical and psychological strategies into theatre making to foster children's self-development by allowing them to try out their skills and have a deeper understanding of themselves. I work with a small group of a sample -ideally with ten children, using action research and interdisciplinary research methodologies by mixing qualitative and quantitative approaches to my research.
Children are to attend a series of workshops and devising process that culminate in a performance at the end of the project. The project ideally takes 8-10 weeks including two sessions in a week, and each session lasts for 1 hour.

Tosin Remi OguntuaseDigital Youth and Music on African Culture

My thesis will examine ways in which culture is mediated by youths through music and new media in Nigeria. It would explore cultural production in relation to recent forms of digital practices, by mapping how Nigerian culture in this new generation is structured through network cultures. My thesis will not vaguely discuss youth, culture, music and new media but rather focus on the interconnectivity within them, especially how youths assimilate, appropriate or reject cultural acts/styles they see or hear through music and new media. This will give an opportunity to discuss how cultural heritages and identities are disseminated or changed by youths through modern music and new media platforms. The main focus of the thesis will be to discuss how Nigerian youths disseminate, change (or adopt), and promote their cultural identity especially through music and new media.  

Carolina Oliveira"Dilma, Call Me 'The World Cup' and Invest in Me"  The Price Of Progress For A New Brazilian Generation

"Dilma, Call Me 'The World Cup' and Invest In Me" - The Price Of Progress for a New Brazilian Generation is a practice based thesis in which a first person documentary film acts as a research medium to visually and narratively investigate and depict the dimensions and the problematics behind the notions of "Citizenship" and "Democracy" in a country that has been facing many socio-economical changes over the past decade: Brazil. This dissertation aims to do so, through analysing the mass movements that have occurred insofar in the country. It is through looking back on Brazil's historical background and reflecting upon the country's redemocratization process, that of which the  1984 Diretas Ja (Direct Elections Now) movement played a key role on, that this practice based project intends to examine the divergencies and parallels between the the first large scale protest in the country and the 2013 mass manifestations, that took place prior to the World Cup. By doing so, this thesis will bring to the forefront the everchanging quality of the concepts of Brazilian Citizenship and Democracy, drawing upon the extent on which mass movements have influenced on the attachment of new meanings to these notions and in what form they have been shaped and reshaped over the years. 

Thomas OttwaySonic Home & Com-position

1. Notions of space, place and home
The first chapter will consider theories of space and place in a broad philosophical sense (de Certeau, Lefebvre, Bachelard,), particularly in relation to the urban. It will then focus on readings of these theories in the context of home, identity and alienation (Blunt & Dowling) and other humanistic geographers, and gendered readings on space and place in terms of home, identity, belonging and alienation. There will also be a section on a variety of ethnographic interpretations of home. The migrant experience will be used to critique the above approaches in order to develop a critical geography of home which can be applied to the sonic and other senses. Finally, there will be a section on Brighton & Hove itself, briefly outlining its history, character and suitability for such a study.
2. Creative com-position of the city and mediation of technology
The second chapter concerns creative com-position (emplacement) and also mediation of technology with regard to space, place and specifically home/alienation. This will comprise psycho-geography and mapping of (sound) experience; attempts to com-pose the city in music and sound/sonic art; theories of sound/sonic art; site specific (both physical and virtual sites) and responsive practice, particularly triggers for memories; games as immersive and experiential spaces; the application of interactive technologies, especially beacons (‘nearables’) e.g. Arduino boards which utilise context-awareness, and the practice of (auto-)ethnography and audio(-auto-)ethnography, storytelling and narrative enquiry in relation to the above.
3. Critical methodology
The third chapter presents a critical methodology, which combines theory and practice. I will adopt a co-auto-ethnographic-Trinitarian (C.A.T) methodology using ‘academic, resident, and artist positions. I will refer to ‘maker’ practice in dedicated blog posts and recordings/posts, analysing how theory has informed practice and how theoretical frameworks have shaped practice. I plan to build an interactive (possibly game) ‘space’ where the sound pieces can be installed, mapped and experienced. This space may also be replicated in physical form and installed in the city, subject to time, costs, practicalities and whether I deem it necessary or desirable.
I anticipate that the practical sonic outcomes, informed by the theoretical underpinning and innovative methodological practice, will confirm and provide powerful, clear, accessible and concrete sonic examples of Blunt & Dowling’s conceptual framework (2006) of home as highly complex notion; multi-scalar, travelling across time, attached and connected to physical and imaginative sites, as well as responding to Brickell’s call (2011) for academics to actively ‘do’ home, serving to de-/re-construct and redefine ‘accepted’ terminology which problematizes notions of home, such as ‘resident’, ‘migrant’, ‘immigrant’, ‘refugee’ and ‘community’.

Olga Saavedra Montes de Oca, Opening other Closets: A Visual Ethnography of Gender Roles and Social Change among Transgender People and their Families in Cuba.

My research will examine how gender roles affect the family landscape of transgender people in contemporary Cuba at a critical moment when the nation is both opening its economy to global capital and has suddenly become a 'benchmark' for LGBT freedom in Latin America. By conducting visual critical ethnographic research I will investigate the ways in which the 'new' gender identities of people who are transitioning gender in this social context may defragment their family members' pre-established gender behaviours and assumptions, and through such processes are acquiring new understandings of gender and self-hood.
The research will explore the varied trajectories of gender transitioning subjects, the responses and adaptations of their family members, and the insights that visual narratives might generate in terms of a wider perspective on gender, sexuality and socio-economic change.

Fernando Sobron, Obstructing documentary 

Obstructing documentary is a reflexive exploration of documentary focusing on the tensions consequence of the need for creative input and representation of reality . It explores the edges of what can be considered documentary by producing films about subjects like fantasy, imagination and others border line between reality and fantasy, this way challenging documentary's conventional . It pays special attention to the creative input by introducing obstructions to be bypassed.  

Joy StaceyStaging Identity: The dresses of Palestinian resistance and occupied performances of femininity

My research explores the intersections of heritage, youth culture and gendered experiences of life in West Bank cities, through use of fictional performances to engage discussions of society, politics and the urban post-Oslo generation. My practice is developing towards a 40-50minute film titled I am Rana, using collaborative and reflexive performance techniques. The narrative follows the life of Rana, a fictional young woman from Qallandiya refugee camp, who faces an identity crisis after being denied access to Jerusalem and reclaims her sense of self by wearing traditional dresses in every day life. This character will be interpreted in performances by multiple women living in the West Bank.
The chapter submitted for this review outlines my filedwork to date and the development of my methodology. It follows on from a chapter submitted last year examining the history of Palestinian heritage practice, use of dress in resistance practice and performance of identity, and the gendering of Palestinian nationalism.

Adam WhitehallTransported by chance: The pursuit, play, problem, and probability of searching for somewhere in-between

Something happens to space and time and the everyday feels strange. A sudden instance of happenstance or juxtaposition, caught in the headlights of our forward motion, opens a portal, revealing realities. Transported, we pass across, witness connections. Time passes and then the portal closes. We are left with story.
The rift in spacetime is a familiar feature of the topography of sci-fi and other literary genres, but they can also appear in reality as a phemonological outcome to events. How might we define these temporary temporal liminal zones, these places ‘somewhere in-between’? My research asks whether they may be read as a fertile land for ideas in art, where collaboration between chance and self, the mediations of embodied movement, and the objects and actors found across the terrain, might be evidenced and mapped.
By first suggesting that practices in deep topography and experimental filmmaking share some parallel methodologies my practice-led research explores journey by artist as wayfarer, emulating both flâneur and experimental ethnographer.
Consisting of case studies, smaller field experiments, selected archive of my past arts practice as resource, plus key examples from cinema and artist's film work and drawing on theories in radical geography, art, film, photography, as well as studies in complexity, improvisation, line-making, invisible architecture, uncanny landscape, I argue that the pursuit, play, problem, and probability of a successful flirtation with, as Doreen Massey calls, ‘the chance of space’ might find fresh critical thought if considered as ‘Mappenings’, Xenotopia, or ‘chaosmotic’ way-stations, or emblematic of the fabled Trickster’s ‘disruptive imagination’, or even, if we go searching for it in non-fiction cinema, Barthes ‘studium and punctum’ transplanted to the moving image.

Jack Zeniewski, An odd couple: the convergence of advertising and documentary and the rise of the "docu-ads"

An analysis of the relationship between advertising and documentary film – its history, interdependence, common purpose and how both fields have appropriate methodologies from one another.
In both fields of practice, assumptions exist that advertising and documentary reside on opposite sides of a spectrum. Broadly speaking, documentaries argue a point of view about the historical world using narrative, realism and evidentiary truth claims. Advertising, on the other hand, can be argued as being primarily concerned with creatively shaping ‘the truth’ for the purposes of promotion.
The last 10 years has seen an increase in the production of ‘documercials’ – promotional films created by advertisers appropriating the visual look and feel and narrative style of documentary film.
This challenges the view that advertising and documentary stand in opposition to one another and this project engages with assumptions about documentary’s claim to truth and reality, and its opposition not only to other genres of film but also to advertising’s focus on commerce, promotion and persuasion.

Zoha ZokaeiInteractive Media Narratives for Social Change

Briefly, my practice-based research is a critical and creative inquiry into the familial, cultural, social and legal constrains that has made child sexual abuse (CSA) the best kept secret in Iran. I am interested in storytelling as a methodolog that critically engages an audience with a plurality of potentially contesting perspectives that contribute to the secrecy around the issue of CSA. While also highlighting the structural and legal obstacles and shortcomings that fail to protect the victims of CSA, leaving them outside systems of justice and support. At the core of my practice is the production of a fictionalised podcast sereis structured around my investigation into the various aspects silencing victims of CSA.