Research

David researches and writes on the role of sound, images, and communication in human cultures across time. He's especially interested in the role of modern 'mass' media - radio, cinema, television, the internet - in shaping popular life and thought in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. His major concern is in media shifts, and how people throughout history have reacted to - and adapted to - the arrival of 'new' media. 

The subject of his most recent book, Noise: a Human History (Profile: 2013), is the role of sound and listening in shaping civilization from prehistory to the present-day. He's also writing Media and the Making of the Modern Mind, which will explore the ways in which the arrival of radio and cinema, and then television and the internet, have shaped intellectual life across the globe since the late 19th century. This work reflects David's emerging interest in the relationship between media and mind, drawing from a tradition of historical research focused on 'mentalities'.

In recent years his special interest has been in the history, policies, and practices of broadcasting - especially radio. He's particularly interested in the ethos of public service broadcasting - the subject of a book published in 2013 by Palgrave in their 'Key Concerns in Media Studies' series. David has recently been commisioned to write The BBC: a Century in British Life, an authorised one-volume history of the Corporation, which will be published to coincide with its Centenary in 2022. As part of this project, he's also leading a collaboration between the University of Sussex and the BBC to bring the Corporation's Oral History collection into the public domain. Some of the filmed material was released on a BBC website in March 2015 - and more such releases are planned over coming years.

David continues to be interested in the various forms of documentary and the aesthetic debates surrounding the genre. He studies it partly from the perspective of a practitioner, having made documentaries regularly for the BBC in the 1990s, and continuing to make occasional documentaries for BBC Radio. His programme-making also reflects an interest in - and a commitment to - public history.

Three other emerging areas of interest are:

1. Emotions - how they are shaped by media; the relationship between media and 'the public mood'; the role of personal psychology in shaping media aesthetics; the ways in which media and the senses of seeing and hearing shape our minds. In 2012, for instance, he published 'Biography and the Emotions as a Missing Narrative in Media History', in the journal Media History.

2. Media and modernism - specifically the inter-relationship between film, radio, music, and experimental art and literature in the early 20th century. One example of this work is 'Painting with Sound: the Kaleidoscopic World of Lance Sieveking, a British Radio Modernist', published in Twentieth Century British History in 2013

3. War and the media - especially the role of media in 'healing' (or exacerbating) social and political divisions in the aftermath of the First World War, but also in other more recent conflicts. For example, in 2014, he published 'The Great War and British Broadcasting: Emotional Life in the Creation of the BBC', in New Formations.

He's supervised PhD students on subjects such as: soundscapes and media in the Brazilian favelas, community radio and New Labour, the history of the BBC TV Light Entertainment Department, the Horror-Comedy of The League of Gentlemen, the portrayal of disfigurement in Victorian print culture, the cultural role of quietude in the 20th century, and the significance of bells during wartime. He's interested in supervising doctoral research in most areas of media and cultural history - but especially related to the BBC.