Centre for Material Digital Culture

Doctoral projects

Click on each name for further information.

Sound-based Creative Use of Mobile Technology: Exploring the (often) playful approach to urban environments in popular culture and the arts involving the mobile phone

This thesis will provide a unique approach to the analysis of mobile technology by focusing on the creative sound-based use of mobile phones. The largely under-theorised notion of play in relation to technology is combined with a focus on sound, challenging the visual paradigm of existing research in this area. mobile examples of Sound Art and popular culture are analysed to illustrate how mobile technologies challenge digital communities, the urban environment and game culture. Frauke is interested in the role of sound in the areas of interactive art, locative media and mobile technology. She is actively involved with the rapidly growing field of mobile music and is part of the steering committee of the International Workshop of Mobile Music Technology (http://www.mobilemusic.org). Currently she is completing her PhD at the Department of Media and Film Studies, supervised by Michael Bull and Caroline Bassett. Her research is funded by the German Academic Research Exchange Council (DAAD). Her research focusses on the increasing number of artist experimenting with mobile phones as means of audience participation in their sound/music-focussed projects. Frauke has presented her research at various international conferences and published her research both in English and German. Recently she presented a paper on Sound Art on the Move at the SoundAsArt Conference in Aberdeen and published the conference paper "Mobile Music Technology: Report on Emerging Community" (with Layla Gaye, Lars Erik Holmquist and Atau Tanaka), presented at the 2006 Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME-06) at the Ircam in Paris. Her Master's thesis was awarded a Research Prize for Digital Media and published as 'Handymusik. Klangkunst und 'mobile devices' ' in Germany in 2004.

See also Frauke's blog

The Film of Tomorrow: Construction of Self in Videoblogs

This project examines ways in which the notion of ‘the digital’ affects the relationship between control and liberation in the everyday. It is proposed that the digital is a hegemonic ideal, according to which digital technologies are regarded as not only politically neutral, but also economically and socially advantageous. The project focuses on the adoption of digital technologies in everyday life, seeking to understand the implications of a digital hegemony on people’s sense of control and liberation. Ethnographic data is gathered from users of digital technology who explain their experience of digital technologies in the everyday. The central question of the possibility of resistance to a digital hegemony is addressed by speaking to disgruntled, hesitant or unwilling adopters of digital technologies. Ultimately, the project seeks to determine how to theorise resistance or opposition in the everyday when the digital is a site and a tool of both control and liberation.

Tablet computers and technological practices within and beyond the laboratory

This project investigates a moment of technological change in order to examine control and liberation as expressed in the use of digital technology.  A biosciences teaching laboratory which is ‘going paperless’ and adopting tablet computers is used to explore the implications of adopting digital technologies.  Fitting within a broader critique of digital culture, the case study examines the often unexpected ways in which the introduction of a new digital technology changes previously accepted practices and beliefs.  At stake are questions of personal empowerment, control and liberation, as digital technological practices – which initially provide useful alternative ways of operating – become common-sense, accepted and even compulsory.  If going paperless represents a disregard for analogue technologies and a legitimisation of digital alternatives, then what effect does this have on the use of technology in everyday life, and what are the possible consequences for personal freedom?

See also Ryan's profile page

Surviving in the lonely planet with/without media: young women's experience in late modern Korea

My research aim is to investigate the relation between young underemployed women's experience and their media use in Korea. Through this research I would like to understand how young underemployed women recognise and feel about themselves and 'the outer world' according to their social conditions, and how their recognition and feeling lead to their media use in their everyday life. To do so, this study will adopt an ethnographic approach relying on qualitative methods including participant observation, in-depth interviews and gathering autobiographies of young women in Korea. Ultimately, I would like to study the way in which power functions in young women's everyday life through their emotions.

See also Jinnie's profile page

Remembering to remember: a practice-based study in digital re-appropriation and bodily perception

The research will help develop a better understanding of contemporary memory/identity in relation to new ways of living where longer life spans increase the risk of memory impairment, and questions of cultural heritage as personal or collective collection become digital. The research will reconsider the ways in which societies choose to remember and will ask how digital technologies can be used to re-remember. 2009. Co-supervised by Caroline Bassett and Kirk Woolford.

See also Cecile's blog and Cecile's profile page

Women Blogging and Femininity: A Study of 'Ordinary' Women Blogging in Québec, Canada

This research aims to examine women's diary format blogs to seek out articulations of discourses of femininity in order to better understand the discursive constitution of femininity in blogging. Previous research in media and feminist studies has illustrated how women, when their voices were not simply devalued or ignored, have historically been underrepresented and misrepresented in mass media. Internet, with its self-publishing tools, offers hope that this situation might improve and that women's voices will be heard in greater numbers and with truer tones through blogging. Although the diary format blog most often reaches small audiences and is discounted as a source of important information by most media, its popularity amongst women bloggers signals its significance in women's lives. Hence, this research will also consider how women's diary blogs may be a source of empowerment for the writers and/or the readers

See also Laurence's profile page

A campus’s catalogue: a study about the (re) enchantment of collective life in academia.

In my doctoral research I am looking for meanings of community, communion and bonding currently happening in university’s spaces. By conducting ethnographic research in two campuses in Portugal and the U.K., I hope to find evidences to attest the pedagogical potential of life collectively experienced in these spaces. With Portuguese author Sousa Santos, I believe that “Everyday life at university has a strong ludic dimension that favours the symbolic transgression of what exists and is rational just because it exists.” (Santos 1989:59). I take the university campus as a unique time-space where the commitment to the collective - and eventually to the political - can be, if not totally learned, at least, experienced (even if once in a life time) and used to counteract the corporate trends currently governing universities. In this research I use a set of combined methodologies, including interviews, photography and diary writing. At the moment I am on the second year and will be on fieldwork between Portugal and England until the beginning of 2013. I am supervised by Ben Highmore and since January 2012 the project is funded by FCT (Ministry of Science and Education, Portugal). My other research interests are: Academic writing and medium transitions; Open Access as a philosophy, an ethics and a knowledge-composition method; Public Ethnography; Cultural Studies as “methodological imagination”.

Email Leonor

From Handbills to Handhelds: The changing nature of public

My research topic looks at the changing nature of communication among gay men in public spaces in Brighton over the past 40 years, and with the rise of computer mediated communications (CMCs). I am examining the changes in the method of communication, content of these communications, and the space that the communications are taking place in to observe what changes have occurred and attempt to postulate as to their cause. I am especially intrigued by the dichotomies presented by the rise of technologies that change the nature of communications in public spaces. I am currently researching archival materials from the Brighton OurStory Project which document the different forms of communications that were taking place from the beginning of the "decriminalized" period (1967) and moving forward to the example that I am using as the current "state of the art": the recent phenomena of "blue-jacking", whereby a person using his Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone can probe other people's mobile phones for data (both personal details and images) and/or sending (pushing) unsolicited messages and pornography.

DIY & low-tech in electronic music production & distribution: Directions in the production and distribution of electronic music for the amateur and non-musician
Remediating Politics: Feminist and Queer Formations in Digital Networks

I am primarily interested in exploring the ways in which media and cultural studies cross with feminist science and technology studies and queer theory. My earliest work explored blogs of disabled women, as well as methodological issues in queer studies and intersectionality. What I found interesting in various attempts which aim to rethink research practice, the production of knowledge and social change, was the pressure they put on the role of technologies, as nonhuman actors. Thus in my Ph.D. study, I analysed how new political communities and realities are enacted in digital environments, by attending to small-scale contexts. My thesis examines feminist and queer actors emerging in highly mediated environments and the forms of political organisation and critical knowledge production they engage in. It indicates that older debates around gender and sexuality are being reformulated in digital networks and identifies alternative understandings of politics and community which arise in this context. The study foregrounds a performative conceptualisation and argues that political realities are produced in dynamic configurations of communication media, discourses and bodies. It suggests that network technologies constitute sources of vulnerability and anxiety for feminists and stresses the significance of registering how embodied subjectivities emerge from these experiences.

See also Aristea's profile page and Aristea's blog.

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.

Email Alan

Reco(r)ding Sound as Art: Phonographic Media and the Formation of a Sensory Subculture

In the last decade, the art world has been witnessing a spectacular increase in the creative, 'extra-musical' uses of phonographic technologies, to the extent that terms such as 'sound art' and 'sound artists' are now almost as culturally legitimate as their visual counterparts. Symmetrically, the field of Sound Studies - drawing from a range of disciplines, from art history and musicology to film studies and the social study of technology - has highlighted the necessity to investigate sound and the sense of hearing as a means to challenge the privileged epistemological status of visuality in the social sciences. Aimed at engaging a dialogue between the scholarly and artistic manifestations of a so-called 'auditory turn', this thesis project explores a variety of sound-based practices using the conceptual and methodological frameworks provided by sociologies of art and of the senses. Instead of working from or towards a delineation of sound art as an aesthetically autonomous genre, I believe it is more fruitful to think of these activities as products of emerging sonic (sub)cultures, i.e. collectives, bodies, devices, procedures and spaces, all gathered in the co-formation of new objects of appreciation (sound, noise, etc.) and their related modes of listening, thinking and talking about them.

Digital Technologies, Social Media and the Emerging Alternative Documentary Production Methodologies

My research is being conducted through a practice-led documentary film project, web platform and published case study. I am interested primarily in how the new paradigm shifts in digital technology and the democratization of the filmmaking process allow filmmakers to connect to an 'expert' global niche audience with more immediacy through the internet, engaging virtual communities, crowd funding and fan building initiatives and a variety of social media landscapes. Specifically, what access and resources are available and how to best exploit this new participatory relationship to create art? What challenges lie ahead for feminism and activism in the virtual space? The question for [film] makers, consumers and scholars of moving images are what distinguishes documentary only from documentary made for other channels, and whether the internet has any distinct, useful or unique characteristics that offer documentary anything more than just another means of distribution (Birchall, p.279). Questions being examined are: How does this position the filmmaker as the 'sole' auteur/creator in this new method of film creation, production, distribution and financing?; What are the advantages and/or the disadvantages to this new approach?; what contributions can an 'expert' group of virtual strangers, via a niche audience, provide to support the filmmaker and the film's contextual goals and content?; What sacrifices must be made by the filmmaker in creating a project in this new way?

See also Jodi's videos

The impact of the virtual book on readers, reading and the book

With the digitalisation of books, the text of the book is freed of itsmateriality, and the object that is the book is replaced with a virtualelectric book format. This process, started in the 1990s, is now enteringthe mainstream. Amazon's Kindle was one of the stores best selling productsduring the last holiday period, and the launch of the iPad and iPad 2 byApple, heralding the acceptance of tablet computing and offeringlightweight screen technology ideal for book and periodical display. How does the separation of the text from the book, and the resultingchange in textual materiality, affect the reader, their sense of valuefound in the book and the cultural value of the text? Does the removal ofthe page and its replacement with the screen further accelerate thedevelopment of a visual culture, as identified by McLuhan?I propose to explore the relationship of the Reader to the books and textsthey consume, to find out if the sense of value place by the reader isaffected by the change in the object of the book. By identifying readingcommunities and conducting interviews, I intend to document the use of thebook, and explore what affect the digitalization of texts has on everydayculture.

See also Russell's profile page

Sonic Bodies in Digital Performance: hypermediacy and spatial presence: a theoretical and practical research project on the sonic representation of human bodies in multimedia art

From the mid-1990s, sensor interfaces for personal computers have become available to artists at relatively low cost. Since then, a substantial amount of research has been done into the use of biometric data for sound synthesis. However, this research has almost exclusively been concerned with technical innovations and has rarely addressed issues of presence and the politics of the technologized body in performance art. Correspondingly, most performance art based on the sonification of biometric signals has primarily been focused on creating original sonic material, rather than thematizing the relationship between the employed technology and the performing body. My research project is aimed at connecting recent technical research on body sonification in digital art with current debates in media theory and posthumanism, specifically with discourses on changing understandings of the concept of 'presence' within mediatized environments. Accordingly, the project is aimed at the analysis and development of artistic approaches to body sonification that draw attention to hypermediate interactions between the visceral body and technological extensions, and, within this context, instrumentalize different methods of sound spatialization to explore the experience of a sonified body's presence.

See also Daniel's profile page

Blogging Times in China: Elitist Cultural Communities

My research attempts to address two questions based on a study of the blogging culture inChina: has the blogosphere altered the nature of interaction between the state and society? To what extent has the blog been able to promote the democratic process of political participation?

Through combination of analyses on the main themes of three blogs: the journalist blog (Lianyue’s Eighth Continent), the sexual-blog (Muzi Mei’s Love Letters Left), and the satire blog (Wang Xiaofeng’s No Imagination), I seek to elaborate how the blogosphere proceeds in the development of political communications, how Chinese intellectuals perceive their professional utilities on this public space and how their blogs are reshaping the form of China’s political culture. Therefore I unravel that the emergence of blogging inChina has brought about a new dynamism of social change.

The Haunting of Cyberspace: Subjectivity, Psychoanalysis and the Internet

This thesis aims to consider the ways in which the Internet offers us spaces for new kinds of construction of subjectivity. In particular, I'm concerned with how differing kinds of Internet space invite or permit particular constructions, and disallow others. The main methodology I intend to employ is Lacanian psychoanalysis and I'm also interested in the way in which Freud's concept of the Uncanny can offers us fruitful ways of thinking about self and cyberspace.

Are journalists still needed to mediate in a society with the Internet?
Architecture of Engagement: Suspension of disbelief in digital media
Carina is researching how methodological differences and subcultural factors in performance events, human-computer interaction, and digital media shape the understanding of engagement as an embodied phenomenon. The tools and working materials used in the three disciplines to produce situations and interfaces that are intended to engender audience/participant engagement, and the assessment methods with which engagement is measured, exerts significant influence on the producer/participant relationship and the way engagement is viewed locally. The intersections between local methodologies and subcultures in regard of engagement in the three disciplines are the foci for a comparative ethnographic study, with concluding suggestions for how the perspectives in each discipline could inform the others.