Fully funded AHRC PhD Net Art Studentship, with Center for Study of the Networked Image and Rhizome

  • Deadline:
    July 4, 2016, midnight

The Centre for the Study of the Networked Image, London South Bank University invites applications for an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with Rhizome, commencing in October 2016 for a period of up to three years (Full Time).

The Project

The research seeks to understand and potentially resolve problems closely associated with curating and archiving born-digital artworks, which are not single objects but assemblages that change and sometimes mutate over time, or lack clearly definable boundaries. The studentship offers the opportunity to develop a practice-based doctoral research focused on Rhizome’s Artbase, which will establish new understandings of the relationship between the technical and cultural coding of software, and methods through which new works can be accessioned and made usable by an online audience.

Born-digital artworks are some of society’s most vulnerable cultural materials, where obsolescence and loss of cultural history are perpetual risks. From interactive software-based art, to early hyptertext literature, these works (‘born-digital’ because they were created in digital form, rather than having been converted from print or analogue equivalents) are an important record of our cultural and aesthetic history as a digital society. Born-digital archives hold heterogeneous types of artworks that require a new terminological framework and registration methods.

Whilst there has been significant research exploring the transformation of physical objects into digital surrogates in museum digitisation projects, the problems of preserving and maintaining access to born-digital art, challenges many principles of preservation and curation originating in analogue culture. Born-digital artefacts still tend to be treated like objects (‘content’) independent of systems (‘platform’) that handle them. This misunderstanding leads to the idea that the systems can be switched out and it is only the ‘content’ that needs to be curated, archived or preserved, turning a blind eye to what has been a key mode of production and expression in digital art: the design of systems and the negligibility of a separation of ‘content’ and ‘form’.

The research therefore aims to develop perspectives on born-digital archives as a process of cultural and technical mediation. The relevance of theories that describe and analyse ephemeral or changing artworks, such as performance and dramaturgy and their emerging models will be considered. Furthermore it will develop a methodological overview of the curation of born-digital art in online archives, taking into account the specific dynamics between artwork, user and software environment.

The PhD project will take the form of an embedded, qualitative study, developed in partnership with Rhizome, in which the researcher will become part of the organisational culture of this world-class digital art institution. Fieldwork will involve the revision and development of art-historical criteria for the Rhizome ArtBase on top of which modes for the presentation, and in extension: institutional ownership, of born-digital art will be developed.

The Partnership

This Partnership offers a collaborative supervisory team, including Dr Annet Dekker and Professor Andrew Dewdney at London South Bank University and Rhizome’s Digital Conservator, Dragan Espenschied. The successful candidate will profit from the academic and practical resources of both partner institutions, becoming a full participant in the community of research students at The Centre for the Study of the Networked Image and embedded in the organisational culture of Rhizome.

The Centre for the Study of the Networked Image is part of London South Bank University and brings together a group of researchers who are seeking new knowledge and understanding of how network and computational culture has and is changing the production and reception of art and photography.

Rhizome is both an ‘online organisation’ and an independent affiliate-in-residence of the New Museum, New York, where many of its public events are held. Through this programme, Rhizome is one of the only institutions internationally who are actively and significantly involved with the preservation of born-digital art on a hands-on level. The ArtBase serves as the bedrock of Rhizome’s award-winning, research-based Digital Preservation program, led by renowned Digital Conservator, Dragan Espenschied.


Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree and a Master’s qualification in a relevant discipline.

Studentships are open to residents of the United Kingdom or the European Union including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Candidates must be ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK in order to be eligible for a ‘full’ award (fees plus stipend). EU nationals who are not ordinarily resident in the UK may be eligible for ‘fees-only’ awards. Non-EU students are not eligible. Eligibility is dependent upon satisfying AHRC academic and residency criteria: see Page 13 of the RCUK Training Grant Terms and Conditions

Prior curatorial or programming experience, demonstrated interest in current and past forms of digital art, and software design and is desirable.

Value of Award

The studentship funding is subject to final confirmation by the AHRC but will be fully funded for three years full-time (or five years part-time) and will begin in October 2016. The award will include a full fee waiver capped at the value of the full-time Home/EU rate for M.Phil/PhD degrees, in addition to an annual stipend set at Research Council rates (currently £14,057 plus £2000 London weighting, paid quarterly; pro rata in the case of a part-time award)

In addition the AHRC provides an extra £550 per annum for Collaborative Doctoral Award students, and the student will be eligible to apply for funding from London South Bank University and Rhizome for certain other research-related expenses.

Application Process

All candidates must apply online to London South Bank University here.

Please provide an additional covering letter indicating the scholarship you are applying for and your particular research interests in the field of the proposed doctorate.

The deadline for applications is Monday 4th July 2016. Interviews will be held in the week of July 25th.