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Annual stipend at the UKRI rate, currently £19,237 for 2024/25, for 3 years 6 months full-time (pro-rata part-time), plus PhD tuition fees and individual research training support grant of £1,750 for conference travel.


17 April 2024


Applications are open to both home fee status (including EU nationals with pre/settled status who meet residency requirements - see document further down the page) as well as international students. Students who do not require UKVI sponsorship via a student visa may apply to study their PhD on a part time basis.

The University of Edinburgh, in partnership with AHRC, SGSAH and the Traverse Theatre are offering a funded Collaborative Doctoral Award.

Please note the residency requirements as detailed in this document.


In recent years, theatre-makers have experimented widely with how to record and distribute live performance through digital media and platforms. Since the return of live, staged performances, profound questions remain about the role, opportunities, business models and implications of digitally-mediated theatre, and the ways in which theatres do – or do not – produce digital ‘content’. 

In partnership with the Traverse Theatre, this research will study how innovative contemporary practices for digitally-mediated theatre production can be applied to create unique, innovative and compelling audience experiences. It aims to explore how digital theatre assets and content can be produced and distributed for online audiences, while complementing live staged productions, enabling new forms of value co-creation for theatre-makers and their audiences. 

Our findings will help guide theatre-makers and performers across the cultural sector in navigating digital futures, building on learning and opportunities developed during the pandemic, while looking forward to engaging with new digital innovations, in AI, gaming and immersive technologies.

The Project

The enforced closure of theatre venues and arts festivals during the pandemic led to widespread innovation and experimentation with digitally-mediated theatre – where a work of performance is mediated, live, or recorded, via another visual or technological medium – to connect with audiences remotely, or asynchronously. Notably, much theatrical work took on new life and meanings as forms of recorded and on-demand content, situated on different digital platforms. 

These developments and others (e.g. AI, Immersive technologies) pose some fundamental questions for theatre: How is the meaning, impact and accessibility of a piece of theatre transformed by the medium(s) through which it is staged, presented and recorded? How can live and recorded theatre be interwoven to create unique and valuable experiences for audiences? What implications does the growth in digital recording and distribution of performance as digital content have for those working in the performing arts? And what role does digitally-mediated theatre have to play in sustainable, contemporary business models for theatre production, particularly given the convergence of technologies in the production of performance, immersive, film, tv, and game and the skill sharing taking place across these domains?

In partnership with the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, this research will examine the recent past, present and futures of digitally-mediated performances by: 1) pursuing in-depth case studies of recent digitally-mediated performances and their value, for audiences and theatre-makers; 2) creatively engaging theatre-makers across Scotland in reflection of current and potential future applications of digitally-mediated performances 3) working alongside, studying and contributing to the delivery of an innovative digitally-mediated programme at the Traverse Theatre. 

Key themes and potential areas of further interest for the studentship include:

  • Understanding how digital assets and data are produced and distributed as part of theatre production
  • Examining the economic sustainability of digitally-mediated theatre
  • Exploring how digitally-mediated theatre offers novel forms of audience experience and value co-creation, between artists, venues and audiences
  • Considering the design of new services and interactions in digitally-mediated theatre
  • Reflecting on the role of data produced through digital media as both an artistic resource and a resource to support programming, and business development. 

The successful applicant will be expected to tailor these themes, and the methodology to their research questions and skillset.

The project has been awarded funding by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH). The PhD will be based in the School of Design at Edinburgh College of Art in the University of Edinburgh. The student will be supervised by Dr. Chris Elsden & Prof. Melissa Terras in the Institute of Design Informatics, School of Design, in addition to supervision from Ellen Gledhill, Head of Business Development at the Traverse Theatre. (UK). 

As an independent theatre, with a history of innovation and cutting-edge production techniques, the Traverse are uniquely placed to support this studentship. The student will have the opportunity to be based at the Traverse Theatre, and be directly connected to a theatre production for a proportion of the studentship.


The student must complete their studies in Edinburgh. PhD by Distance study is not eligible for this award.

The Person

This is a multidisciplinary research area, and we are keen to receive applications from people with a wide range of experience and from across the academic disciplines, or with relevant industry expertise / creative practice. For example, you may come from a background in arts and cultural management, and wish to engage with the design of new technologies and services for live performance. Or, you may have a background in design, digital media, or digital humanities, and be interested to apply your skills in the domain of theatre and live performance. Or you may be a practitioner, working in theatre, with a desire to undertake academic study related to your work. Candidates from entirely different academic disciplines are also welcome, particularly if they have relevant professional experience.

Regardless of previous specialism, the successful applicant for the studentship should (by September 2024) have a First or high Upper-Second class honours degree and, preferably, a Masters-level qualification or comparable professional experience.  A key aim of this studentship is to help develop a future research leader in this important domain. As such, candidates should expect to learn new, cross-disciplinary skills during the project, including those related to qualitative and design methods, engagement with data-driven and digital technologies, theatrical production and arts management. 

Prior experience and key attributes


  • First or upper-second class Honours degree or equivalent,
  • Masters-level degree (or equivalent experience) in Design (e.g. Service, Experience, Interaction), Digital Media, Cultural Economy, Arts Management, Theatre Studies, Digital Humanities or any area relevant to the PhD
  • Demonstrable ability to work independently and willingness to work within a project context with the Traverse Theatre
  • A real and demonstrable interest in current debates surrounding futures of digitally-mediated live performance
  • Willingness and ability to engage with a broad range of audiences to disseminate the work
  • Willingness to work on site at the Traverse Theatre as required


  • An understanding of recent practice and innovations in digitally-mediated theatre
  • Experience of working in / with theatre, and/or live events in the cultural sector
  • Experience of qualitative and / or design-led research methods (interviews/ethnographic research/design workshops) 
  • Understanding of contemporary debates around data-driven innovation, platformization, and convergence technologies
  • Experience of critically analysing academic literature and / or cultural production

Applicants will need to meet the requirements of postgraduate studies at the university, and will also apply through the University of Edinburgh’s online application system.

How to Apply

Apply for the PhD Design (Full-Time) through the University of Edinburgh’s online postgraduate application system by no later than: 17 April 2024

Apply here >

Applications should be accompanied by: 

a) A CV, certified copies of degree certificates and transcripts, the details of two referees and proof of eligibility (eg. a copy of your passport or residence permit)

b) A short example of writing (eg. chapter, paper, blog or article)

c) A statement/proposal, tailored to the call, of no more than two pages describing:

  • Your particular interest in and understanding of the research subject
  • How your experience to date makes you suitable for this studentship, and what you would learn through this opportunity;
  • The impact you hope to make through working with us on this project.

IMPORTANT: please also send an email to the ECA Postgraduate Research team:  stating that you wish to be considered for the “Past, Presents and Futures of Digitally-Mediated Theatre” AHRC/SGSAH PhD studentship, and noting that you have made an online application.  This allows us to fast track your application on the online postgraduate application system.

For queries about the application process 

Please contact 

For further Information about the PhD

Please contact Dr. Chris Elsden (


Closing date for applications: 17 April 2024 

Interview date: 8 May 2024 (interviews will be held online)

Start date: September 2024