Research themes and clusters

The Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media (TFTI) engages actively with the University's research themes. Two feature prominently in our work for obvious reasons:

'Culture and Communication' covers a great deal of research in TFTI. We continually engage with many forms of culture and the ways in which it can communicate with society. We understand the cultural sphere as a place in which questions that evade simple answers can be identified, formulated and articulated. 'Creativity' underpins much of the Department's outputs. We examine the methods and means of developing creativity, and the ways in which creativity itself may offer ways for approaching social, industrial and historical issues.

In addition, we also conduct research that interacts with the Research Themes of 'Health and Wellbeing' and 'Technologies for the Future'. These reflect the breadth of our research and the Department's interdisciplinary reach.

Creativity

The Soundscapes of the York Mystery Plays
(May 2016 - July 2017)

Dr Mariana Lopez

A photograph of Dr Mariana Lopez, the lead investigator on this project.

The York Mystery Plays are a series of plays that narrate events of relevance to the Christian faith and were performed regularly from the late fourteenth century up to 1569 on wagons in the streets of York, a tradition revived in 1994. Research into the staging and performance decisions of these historic productions has paid little attention to acoustic considerations, mostly focusing on theoretical or textual analyses instead.

However, sound recreations are the only means by which sound interaction and its effects on perception can be understood. As a result, this project used digital audio technologies to recreate York's 15th and 16th century soundscapes. Combining recreations of the acoustics of the performances spaces with recordings of audio extracts from the Mystery Plays, this project allows a reflection on the impact of the soundscapes on audiences, both in the past and the present.

Find out more about the Soundscapes of the York Mystery Plays project here.


Acting for Television
(January 2012 - January 2016)

Dr Tom Cantrell, Christopher Hogg

The front cover of the book "Acting in British Television" as co-authored by Tom Cantrell & Christopher Hogg. Tom Cantrell & Christopher Hogg, Acting in British Television, 2017, Palgrave reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan.

This piece of interdisciplinary research explores acting processes in British television from the perspective of the actor and their techniques, placing actors at the centre of this examination of television performance.

By analysing the experiences of actors at various stages in their careers, and investigating the training provided by British drama schools for television performance, this research is designed to inform both performance scholarship within the academy and training provisions within the industry.

Find out more about the Acting for Television project here.


Representing Rehearsal
(January 2015 - September 2016)

Dr Jonathan Hook, Dr Catherine LawsDr Tom Cornford

A group of students and staff reviewing a rehearsal together with the project's lead investigators.

The process of rehearsal is often ephemeral and multi-layered. Performances develop from nothing to fully fledged productions but there is little or no way to easily document or facilitate this using existing technologies. This project undertook the task of assessing how digital tools could support and augment this process, by looking at two key aspects, data capture and data visualisation.

To that end a mobile application that could capture video data in a lightweight and unobtrusive manner was developed. This allowed parts of rehearsals to be recorded without disturbing the rehearsal process. In addition a method of visualising this captured video data was developed, allowing artists and production teams to document, interpret, reflect on and develop the ongoing rehearsal processes.

Culture and Communication

Redefining Television Through Object-based Broadcasting
(October 2015 - September 2020)

Dr Davy Smith, Dr Jonathan Hook, Prof Marian Ursu

People in the UK spend, on average, nearly 4 hours per day watching television, as factual and fictional stories unfold which help us learn about and assign meaning to the world around us. Object-Based Broadcasting (OBB) represents the next step in the evolution of television. OBB refers to media with the ability to reconfigure itself based upon the device, environment and/or context in which it is being consumed.

This project is focused on demonstrating the power OBB as a delivery mechanism for accessible, adaptable, autonomous, conversational, interactive, immersive and personalised televisual experiences.  Leveraging significant prior research, we are refining underlying abstract models capable of representing rich narrative spaces and implementing a mature OBB architecture, delivering a robust and scalable end-to-end IP-based form of broadcasting.

Find out more about the Redefining Television Through Object-based Broadcasting project here.


Within the Walls of York Gaol: Memory, Place and the Immersive Museum
(January 2018 - September 2018)

An image of the Virtual Reality experience designed for the Within the Walls project. Consisting of a two people, one on a ship, the other standing on the ground, as they shake hands.

Dr Jonathan Hook

The adoption of digital technologies such as virtual and mixed reality has high potential for museums and heritage organisations, providing them the opportunity to reach new audiences and explain the stories behind their exhibits in engaging and innovative ways.

Navigating between the different technologies and understanding the value they bring can be extremely challenging given the pace at which digital technology is moving. In collaboration with York Museums Trust, we are designing and implementing an experimental mobile Virtual Reality (VR) experience for York’s Castle Museum. This experience blends immersive, collaborative and place-based storytelling with physical experiences of objects and built space.

Find out more about the Within the Walls of York Gaol project here.


MeCETES: Mediating Cultural Encounters Through European Screens
(September 2013 - September 2016)

Prof Andrew Higson, Dr Huw Jones

Stylised text that acts as a logo for the MeCETES Project.

Since 1992, the role of culture and the creative industries within Europe has increased in importance, and the EU has developed increasingly comprehensive cultural and media policies. Yet knowledge is limited about which European films and television drama series travel well within Europe, how Europeans engage with screen fictions from or about other European nations, and the role those fictions play in constructing a sense of belonging to and identifying with Europe.

The MeCETES project fills this gap by ascertaining how films and television drama enable audiences to encounter other European cultures, the conditions under which those fictions are produced and circulate within Europe, and their consequences for the project of cultural integration, identity building and diversity.  We focus on the period 2005-2015, combining a Europe-wide overview with case studies relating to the UK, Denmark and Belgium, where the three research teams are based.

Find out more about the MeCETES project here.


Transformation and Tradition in Sixties British Cinema
(January 2015 - February 2018)

Prof Duncan Petrie, Dr Laura Mayne

Photograph from a conference panel consisting of members of the AHRC project 'Eastmancolor and British Cinema, 1955-1985'. Pictured are, from left to right, Richard Farmer (postdoctoral research associate, 1960s project), Professor Sarah Street, Dr Keith Johnson, Dr Paul Frith and Dr Carolyn Rickards

During the 1960s British cinema achieved unprecedented levels of critical and commercial achievement. Hollywood investment supported British films and London became a hub of international collaboration. Half a century on, this project examines some of the key industrial and cultural dimensions underpinning this success.

Drawing on under-explored or new archival sources, this project investigates the topic in two key strands. The first explores the financing, production, distribution and exhibition of British films. Whilst the other considers the close connections between cinema and other innovative cultural forms, including television, advertising, popular music and fashion. There is also a focus on the tension between the novelty and innovation synonymous with the decade and the persistence of continuity and tradition.

Find out more about Transformation and Tradition in Sixties British Cinema project here.


Live Theatre Broadcasts: Hybridity and Intermediality
(August 2014 - July 2015)

Dr Ollie Jones, Dr Tom Cantrell, Dr Jonathan Hook, Dr Jenna Ng

Several monitors showing an actor from different angles.

Since 2009, live-streamed theatre broadcasts have emerged as a significant cultural phenomenon, aiding public access to – and representing a new practice for – key international, national and regional institutions. These have included the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Pilot Theatre, Forced Entertainment, and cinema distributors around the world.

This project investigated how such broadcasts change the experience of live events, and how they alter the spectrum of media through which performances occur. It also seeks to address the new challenges this emerging hybrid medium introduces for practitioners, critics and institutions for the creation, reception and funding of live theatre and events.

Find our more about the Live Theatre Broadcasts project here.

Environmental Sustainability and Resilience

Democratizing Farmer Citizen Science
(February 2017 - )

Dr Sebastian Deterding

Agricultural research and policy have struggled to meet the diverse needs and realities of individual farmers and consumers, leading to research and policies that are either inefficient or biased towards a few, vocal, stakeholders. Networked digital media provides new opportunities to consult, involve, and organize individuals at scale; however, these opportunities have been explored unsystematically across agri-food.

This project therefore convenes experts in digital media, agriculture, and environmental research with farmer and consumer stakeholders to identify how digital media can best empower individual farmers and consumers to inform agricultural research and policy and organize collective interests. Sandpit-style workshops and stakeholder consultations with design concepts will map the state of the art and key opportunities and challenges; develop, prioritise, and validate scenarios; and forge a multidisciplinary network across N8 universities and non-academic partners in the UK and developing countries to frame future large-scale impact-driven research endeavors.

Health and Wellbeing

SCORe: Using Sonification to COmmunicate public health Risk
(March 2014 - March 2015)

Dr Sandra Pauletto

A picture of a part of the interactive media presentation created under the SCORe project. It features a diagram of the human body, labelled to show the problems of excessive alcohol consumption.

This project aimed to find new ways to communicate health information to young people effectively using interactive media. In particular the project investigated the use of sound and music in alcohol-related interactive health communication applications.

This project built upon a previous public engagement project Jane’s story-Chronic health issues of adolescents: is the world listening? which portrayed the journey of a young woman with a chronic medical problem through a 360-degree narrative, sound and visual piece.

Find out more about the project here

 

Justice and Equality

Tales from Two Cities: Ten Years in the 'Megaslums' of Karachi and Mexico City
(March 2017 - March 2018)

Dr David Hickman, Dr Sandra Pauletto

A photoshoot in Bordo Poniente landfill in Cuidad Nezahualcóyotl, one of the largest municipal dumps in the world.

Tales from Two Cities is a decade-long documentary project, to be recorded entirely in localities within two of the world’s largest so-called ‘megaslums’: Orangi Town in Karachi and Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl (Neza) in Mexico City.  

Over the next decade, this ambitious project will build a ground-level portrait of lives inside these expansive and new urban landscapes – impacted by migration, conflict, corruption, organised crime and climate change.  

But this is also the story of invisible peoples shaping unseen changes.  How sustainable are these changes?  To what extent are Neza and Orangi now post-slum cities?  And what does this mean for the people who have built their lives there?  The inhabitants will tell us themselves, as their stories unfold over the next ten years.

Tales from Two Cities is intended to be much more than an observational account of people’s lives within Neza and Orangi.  Through collaborations with city-based NGOs and others, the project will offer support in developing and disseminating the work of Orangi’s and Neza’s emerging journalists, writers, archivist-historians and filmmakers.

Find out more about the Tales from Two Cities project here.


Performing the Jewish Archive
(November 2014 - March 2018)

Dr Lisa Peschel

Performing the Jewish Archive

The catastrophes of the 20th century tore gaping holes in the cultural fabric of Europe. This project seeks to help re-knit certain threads across those gaps.  We aim to inject new life into recently rediscovered musical, theatrical, and literary works by Jewish artists, many of which were thought lost or have, until recently, languished in obscurity.

The thirteen researchers in our international, interdisciplinary team are all motivated by a desire to recover and engage anew with artefacts from the Jewish archive, to stimulate the creation of new works, and to challenge the very essence of what archives are and what they mean in today’s society.

Find out more about the Performing the Jewish Archive project here.

Risk, Evidence and Decision Making

Decision Making AI for Games
(January 2016 - )

Dr Sebastian Deterding

A screenshot of the game Spades, developed as part of the Decision Making AI for Games to gather user data and field test machine learning strategies.

Research into Artificial Intelligence (AI) for non-player characters in games has made significant leaps over the last few years, emphasised by Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo and University of Alberta’s AI poker player beating world champions. However, the games industry is often reluctant to adopt this technology as it is risky to deploy, requires a deep understanding of recent advances in machine learning to implement and while the expert AI players it produces can be challenging, they may not necessarily be fun.

Therefore, this project is focused on working with game developers to understand how new AI and machine learning technologies can be introduced into their games and help them to adapt their design processes to incorporate these new approaches. Our ultimate aim is to deliver AI middleware and, where needed, the associated training or support to make these techniques accessible to any game developer, resulting in games which are both more challenging and, most importantly, more fun.

Find out more about the Decision Making AI for Games project here.


EPISODE: Environmental Policy in Simulation, Open Data and Engagement
()

A graphic illustration of the York Open Data platform, showing a person accessing demographic data from a giant filing cabinet, emanating from a tablet.

Dr Florian Block, Dr Sebastian Deterding

The City of York Council collects a large volume of data on the city, ranging from traffic lights to bus routes, incomes to school placements, overdue library books to litter bins. Analysis of this data can provide real insight into what's happening in the city and can inform policies which affect us all. By making the data widely available through the York “Open Data Platform” (ODP), the council hopes to engage people in what's happening in the City of York and enable them to be more open, more accountable, and more transparent.

The EPISODE project is using the DC Labs knowledge of games and gamification to develop ways to help people engage with this data in a playful and fun way. In the process they will learn about data and develop more of an interest in policy.

Find out more about the EPISODE project here.


Automatic Levelling for Science Games
(July 2015 - September 2016)

Dr Sebastian Deterding

The User Interface for Flowjam, a citizen science game for solving software problems that is being used as a test case for the automatic levelling process.

A core part of what makes well-designed games engaging is that they lay out the difficulty of challenges to follow the players’ growing skills, they are balanced. Every day, millions of citizen volunteers help scientists answer fundamental research questions by playing games, but because they work with real research tasks, which come in all shapes and sizes, performing this balancing is very difficult.

To solve this design problem, this project aims to develop a system that automatically estimates the skill of players and difficulty of given research tasks. selects the most fitting task for each player, and generates new, artificial tasks if there are no tasks matching the player’s skill available to keep the player engaged. The goal is to develop a suite of software modules that any citizen science game maker can easily implement to optimise engagement.

Find out more about the Automatic Levelling for Science Games project here.


Perspective Media: Personalised Video Storytelling for Data Engagement
(December 2017 - May 2019)

Dr Jonathan Hook

The devices (e.g. phones, smart thermostats and even cars) and organisations (e.g. councils, supermarkets) we interact with on a daily basis, record and store ever more data about things we do and care about. By empowering people to access and interpret this data, we can transform the way we understand and make decisions about key aspects of our lives (e.g. health and energy use) and have a greater say in how we are treated by the government and other groups. 

This project will pioneer a new way of presenting data to the public that a large and diverse section of the population will be able to, and equally crucially, want to use. We propose that this can be achieved by creating personalised video stories that tell us how our data relates to our lives and the people around us. 

Find out more about the Perspective Media project here.

Technologies for the Future

GAMBIT: GAMification for Better living in the cities by Influencing Tourist behaviour
(October 2015 - September 2017)

Dr Sebastian Deterding

An illustrative photo of the City Walls of York.

With its remarkable historic heritage, York experiences many urban challenges, such as high crowd density and congestion at peak times. GAMBIT aims to assist city services, using a smartphone app that integrates existing data from the city management platform with real-time data gathered from the user.

The smartphone app will guide visitors to under-utilised attractions based on relevant real-time information, enticing behavioural change and allowing them to use the city more intelligently. In a two-way communication flow, gathered data will be fed back to optimise city services. Local businesses are also supported, e.g., by offering online vouchers or prizes within the game, having geo-localised the players. This project will efficiently and harmoniously enhance the city experience and services for both visitors and residents.

Find out more about the GAMBIT project here.


Enhanced Audio Description
(April 2016 - May 2018)

Dr Mariana Lopez

A photograph from a screening of some of the work of the Enhancing Audio Description project at the Tate Britain. The photo features a crowd putting questions to Mariana (the Principal Investigator).

 

With the number of visually impaired people in the UK expected to rise to 4 million by 2050, accessibility should not be an afterthought, but an intrinsic part of the creative workflows involved in Film and TV productions.

This project seeks to explore how sound design techniques can be used to rethink accessibility to film and television for visually impaired audiences by considering: the application of surround sound rendering, interactive media systems and first person narration. The project involves a collaboration with a Project Advisory Panel that includes representatives from both the film and television industry as well as the accessibility sector. 

Find out more about the Enhanced Audio Description project here.


Cinematic Virtual Reality: Understanding of Emerging Markets and Development of New Tools
(July 2017 - July 2019)

Mr John Mateer, Dr Guy Schofield

WBA Boxing champion Carl Frampton, during the production of the BBC’s Fight Game project

Cinematic Virtual Reality is a rapidly changing and emergent new medium building on film and television production. Working with Wild Rover Productions, a well-established broadcast television production company, this project explores the field in two complementary strands.

The first involves the development of new tools to enhance production of high-end Virtual Reality content, enabling producers to focus on storytelling rather than implementation. On the other hand, the second involves research into business aspects of this emerging medium, including the marketing and distribution of VR content, to develop effective monetisation strategies.

Find out more about the Cinematic Virtual Reality project here.