Director of Studies: Patrick Crogan
Other members of the proposed supervisory team: Mandy Rose
Professional partner: Bristol VR lab, BBC, Guardian
Project details:
The Digital Cultures Research Centre at the University of West of England Bristol invites applications for a three-year full-time Doctoral studentship, fully funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), to undertake practice-based research into the non-fiction media application of spatial imaging techniques.
Thirty years since the term Virtual Reality was coined, and nearly fifty years since Ivan Sutherland’s first experiments with a “head mounted three dimensional display”, developments in hardware and software have made VR viable as a mass-market consumer proposition. Since the launch of the Oculus Rift DK1 developer kit in 2014, experiments in VR documentary have burgeoned, with the term VR being used broadly in this sector for any type of 360˚ media experience. This engagement with VR in non-fiction emerges from a context of media convergence and follows a decade of rapid innovation within forms of interactive non-fiction storytelling.
Through successive generations of technology, an aim pursued by documentary producers has been to provide what Ricky Leacock called, “the feeling of being there”. The 360 degree environment of Virtual Reality brings a new dimension to that project of witnessing the real, while the interactive potential of VR reframes documentary as something that you do rather than something that you view. Along with these possibilities come challenges around the development of language and grammar for this nascent medium. This studentship, based at UWE Bristol’s Digital Cultures Research Centre (DCRC), will explore storytelling in documentary VR through an iterative process of practice-led enquiry, asking:
• What forms of spatial storytelling within virtual environments contribute to the work of documentary for witnessing “the real”?
• What principles might guide documentary makers in designing VR experiences that take advantage of the feeling of being there, known as presence, to contribute to a knowledge of and engagement with the people and situations from the social world reflected within virtual environments?
• How can methods of storytelling and user experience design be combined in the production of immersive non-fiction VR?
The studentship will be linked to Virtual Realities: Immersive Documentary Encounters – a 2.5 year collaborative EPSRC research project between the Universities of Bristol, Bath and UWE Bristol. Commencing in July 2017, the project engages with a range of industry partners including Guardian Media, BBC, Aardman Animation, and you will work alongside the research team in Bristol’s newly launched VR Lab.
Joining an interdisciplinary Design Futures Lab cohort of 12 collaborative PhD students, you will be part of an innovative and cutting-edge group of researchers dedicated to reshaping industrial technologies and processes through embedded practice-based research.
The Digital Cultures Research Centre has a strong track record of successful PhD completions and offers access to an exciting creative and intellectual community, and students researching aspects of emerging storytelling. The Centre is home to the i-Docs research group ( We expect research students to take a full and active role in the Research Centre and to take part in regular workshops, conferences and seminars. The studentship commences October 2017.
Applicants will be expected to attend an interview in Bristol at a date to be confirmed in September, and demonstrate:
• imaginative and viable preliminary ideas for research into this subject area
• an appreciation of the nature of PhD study and of both independent and collaborative research
• evidence that he/she has, or can develop, the skills required to start the proposed research
For an informal discussion about the studentship contact