The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology at University College London, University of Oxford and University of Brighton, in collaboration with Sussex Past and Skypower are seeking applications for a fully funded studentship on the topic Drones for Heritage Communication and Audience Development.
While a number of heritage institutions and bodies have worked with drones, for example for surveying and documentation, there has been little research on how drones could be used for communication and audience building/engagement by heritage institutions. This project will critically explore emerging current use and the potential future of drones for communication and audience development in the field of heritage. Both consumer and professional engagement around drones (eg photography, video) has increased markedly over the last few years. For example, drone footage is used across a wide range of media and drone aesthetics are becoming a key element of contemporary visual culture while drone festivals and drone races are rapidly growing around the globe. How can the heritage sector contribute to this technological landscape of drone innovation to build new audiences?
An ecosystem of start-ups, festivals, grassroots user groups, etc. is emerging around drone culture, and this research critically explores the socio-economic opportunities from this for the heritage sector. At the same time, as heritage sites become ever more popular with drone amateurs (including illegal or unwanted use) and regulation of amateur drone use is increasing, this project will inform heritage sector responses that would enable safe, family-friendly and digital literacy-building engagement through drone cultures. This project will draw on scientific research on audio-visual and race drone technology, digital media research on drone culture and audiences, and heritage audience development frameworks to inform an integrated model of drone-focussed heritage audience communication and development.
The doctoral project will aim to address the following research questions.
How can drone technology inform an audience development framework for heritage institutions, especially around diversification of audiences and innovative ways of engaging with heritage culture?
What are the potential socio-economic benefits for the heritage sector of drawing on commercial and civic models (eg drone film festivals, drone races, science/geek family days out) around drone technologies?
What mediator role could the heritage sector (as legitimised actor) play between the legal context, commercial exploitation and end-user engagement (eg digital literacy for families) around drone technology?
How can we test the effectiveness of the framework by conducting experiments with drone technology, working with the industry and heritage partner?
The research methodology will be a desk research phase which will include the academic literature review and a review of grey literature on the use of relevant drone technology to inform a preliminary model for audience development in the heritage sector. This will also involve identifying best practice and key institutions for field work and interviews. The heritage and industry partner will facilitate access for expert interviews.
The experimentation and field work phase will then test the preliminary model for audience development. Experiments with drone technology (including audio-visual and racing) will be conducted in partnership with the heritage and industry partner (the latter provides drone training), testing out different technologies, formats and audience reactions.
Semi-structured expert interviews with key players at heritage institutions and at drone events (eg drone film festivals, drone races) will be conducted to explore opportunities and barriers for audience development around drone technology. The audience/user perspective and practices will be captured through observations and semi-structured interviews at drone culture and heritage events and also include the experiments. All data will be coded and analysed in NVIVO.
The analysis will draw on the material from the desk research, the experiments and the field work to map out the technology and culture around drone use for building heritage audiences, including opportunities, barriers and potential partnership models for innovation and collaboration between the drone culture industry and the heritage sector. This will result in a final model for drone-related audience development in the heritage sector. In addition to the academic form, this will also be disseminated to the heritage and drone sectors through a non-academic online resource, including a best practice guide for the heritage sector – supported by the industry and heritage partner.
As a SEAHA student, you will have unparalleled access to research infrastructure and expertise across three universities and 70+ heritage, research and industrial partners. In addition to the university doctoral training requirements, SEAHA students take part in an exciting range of cohort activities, ranging from residential events and group projects, to conferences and careers events. Please visit the SEAHA website for details.