PhD studentship: Valuing festivals as incubators of digital creativity

Published: 15 June 2020

Deadline for applications: 3 July 2020

Industry Partners: NEoN Digital Arts 

Deadline for applications: Friday 3 July 2020

Start date for PhD: 1 October 2020

Funding details: Tuition fees and annual stipend at UKRI rate (restrictions may apply, see eligibility and guidance notes)

Project Summary

NEoN Digital Arts Festival, Directed by Donna Holford-Lovell, Prof Sarah Cook, Univerity of Glasgow, and Dr Drew Hemment, University of Edinburgh, are seeking outstanding practice-based research candidates for a collaborative doctoral award fully funded for three years by the SGSAH to start in October 2020. Prospective candidates should submit their applications by 3 July.

NEoN (North East of North) is Scotland's first digital art festival, based in Dundee. It aims to advance the understanding and accessibility of digital and technology-driven art and design forms and to encourage high quality within the production of this medium. For over ten years, NEoN has organised exhibitions, workshops, talks, conferences, live performances and public discussions and established itself as a platform to showcase national and international digital artists.

Over the past 30 years, digital culture festivals including NEoN have provided a key site through which the digital turn has been critically questioned and creatively explored together with diverse audiences. These festivals have incubated novel approaches and methods for commissioning, presenting and preserving digital art. However, their often grassroots character has limited the documentation and study of these phenomena. This project seeks to address this gap through a novel combination of archival/curatorial practice methods, evaluating how commissioning digital art at such events stimulates digital creativity and might secure the legacy of digital art.

The project has three key aims with distinct methods, subject to a decided research focus from the candidate:

a) Archival and historical research, including stakeholder interviews will consider the current public records of the activities of festivals that have previously commissioned digital art experiences. Alongside NEoN, this will also include a focus on FutureEverything (which Hemment founded in 1995 as the UK's annual digital culture festival) and case studies from a range of other festivals and new media or digital arts organisations, focusing on which commissions are valued and which not in the existing historical records, from the different points of views of makers/artists, curators and viewers.

b) Using practice-based curatorial methods and working within NEoN Festival, the researcher will seek to uncover the changing conditions of commissioning digital art experiences, identifying current good practices and testing forms of validation, such as forms of documentation, collaborative authorship, or audience feedback, crucially throughout all steps of the commissioning process.

c) Drawing together the archival work and the evaluation of the practice research, the project will identify and share ways in which festivals could work with the wider cultural sector to ensure the legacy of the digital art experiences they commission, leading towards concrete proposals for exhibition, collection, and preservation of once fleeting digital art experiences. This could inform plans for a national digital art collection, for example.

The project will investigate the implications for the practices of artists, arts professionals and cultural organisations, and also ways in which festival curation and arts practice can address the consequences of technological change for society at large.


We invite applications from candidates with a strong practice-research and academic background in curatorial/museum and gallery studies, cultural and creative industries, information and media studies, design research, art history (new media and digital art and design) and cognate disciplines, with archival / curatorial skills, with a clear and engaging research proposal that can be developed through the available research supervision.

The candidate must have an excellent command of English, both spoken and written. Successful applicants are expected to have a good first degree (at least 2.1, or international equivalent) in a relevant field of arts and humanities, and have obtained, or are currently working towards a Master's degree at Merit or Distinction level or international equivalent.

Funding eligibility

To be eligible for a full award a student must have been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences) AND (in the case of non-UK non-EU nationals) not have been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education.

To be eligible for a fees-only award, a student must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU in the same way as UK students must be ordinarily resident in the UK.

How to apply

Applicants should apply by completing the application form and sending it to and

CDA Scholarship Application Form

Further information

If you have any questions, please email the Lead Supervisor, Professor Sarah Cook.

First published: 15 June 2020

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