Dr Daniel Ashton (he/him) - Professor of Cultural and Creative Industries in the Department of Art and Media Technology at Winchester School of Art at the University of Southampton.
My teaching and research focus on cultural and creative industries organisations, work and policy, and digital media technologies. Research in these areas has been presented internationally, published in academic journals, and shared in online videos and articles. My education experience includes programme and module leadership at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and various external examiner and programme validation roles. I am a PhD supervisor and support postgraduate researchers with their teaching professional development. I have worked in partnership with a range of organisations on public exhibitions, teaching initiatives, and research bids.
At the University I am also:
- Theme Leader for Data with Southampton Institute for Arts and Humanities (previously Fellow in Disparate Data and Unexpected Evidence). In this role I explore the possibilities for how data and evidence can be imagined and used across a range of industry, policy, academic and creative contexts. There is a short video introducing the Institute here.
- Associate of the Public Engagement with Research Unit (PERu) contributing to the building and sharing of expertise across the University.
Externally, I am a Senior Fellow of Advance HE and have been a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
- Work in the cultural and creative industries
- Artificial intelligence and creative work/industries
- Data analytics and practices for creative ecosystems
- Arts and cultural organisations
I am an interdisciplinary researcher with a Cultural Studies background engaging with and bringing together perspectives from digital culture, sociology of work and organisations, cultural policy, science and technology studies, and media industries and management. I have experience in developing mixed-methods approaches and am particularly interested in creative methods and dissemination. I enthusiastically explore approaches to research-informed teaching and create opportunities to engage students as researchers.
My research focuses on the following areas:
Work in the cultural and creative industries
I have a long-standing research focus on cultural work that explores policy contexts, organisational practices, the impact of technologies, and issues of identity. This was first developed in my PhD on digital games design titled, 'The industry of creativity: economic visions, creative subjects and innovative technologies in process' (AHRC funded at Lancaster University). This research was subsequently developed in relation to several cultural and creative industries. In 2013 I co-edited Cultural Work and Higher Education (with Dr Caitriona Noonan). Solo authored articles in this area examined “cultural workers-in-the-making” (2013) and pathways into working in the creative economy (2015).
Research and publications with Dr Karen Patel have examined social media influencers and vlogging as a forms of cultural work and in terms of gendered sites of cultural production. Aspects of this were developed with Dr Emma Agusita in the 2018-19 Unexpected Enterprises project funded by Enterprise Educators UK. Findings from this project were shared as an iDoc, a report, and published as a book chapter in Pathways into Creative Working Lives (2020; edited by Stephanie Taylor and Susan Luckman).
In 2021-22 I was the Principal Investigator on the Creative Futures Exchange project funded through a University Global Partnership Award. Developed in partnership with the University of Ghana, the project created spaces for educators, industry practitioners and students to share international experiences and address possible futures for working in the creative industries. The project centred on four online workshops exploring: civic relationships; sustainable business models and practices; platforms and technologies; and equality, diversity and inclusion (equity and belonging). Three thematic reports on internationalisation, creative industries pedagogies, and collaborative online internationalisation of learning (COIL) and a curriculum developmnent resource pack are available on the website here.
In 2023-24, I am Co-Investigator on the AHRC funded Diverse Capacities project. This project will develop and sustain new connections between local government officers, creative communities, and creative industry professionals across sectors in the region. We will showcase new models of connectivity and networking through a report, a series of creative commissions, and a public programme of in-person events and training sessions held in underserved areas across the Solent.
Artificial intelligence and creative work/industries
Since 2019 my research on working in the cultural and creative industries has connected with developments and issues relating to artificial intelligence. This has included presentations at the Cultural Histories, Creative Futures conference (Winchester, July 2019) and Artificial Creativity conference (Malmö, October 2020), and a public workshop and discussion with Dr Karen Patel as part of the University of Southampton’s Human Worlds festival (November 2020). My article ‘Creative work and artificial intelligence: Imaginaries, assemblages and portfolios’ was published in the Artificial Creativity special issue of the open access journal Transformations in 2022. This article examines sociotechnical imaginaries of artificial intelligence and creative work constructed in UK policy discourse and critically nuances this through the concepts of human and non-human assemblages and portfolio working.
Data, culture and place
Past research includes a chapter with Dr Roberta Comunian on universities as creative hubs in Creative Hubs in Question (2019; edited by Ros Gill, Andy C. Pratt and Tarek E. Virani), keynote presentations in China on entrepreneurship and culture-led urban regeneration (Digital Suzhou and Nanjing), and a talk as part of the Southampton Institute Arts and Humanities event on ‘Culture and Post-Covid Regeneration’ available here.
Since 2019, I have been part of the research team for the Arts Council England supported Connecting Culture research project examining young people’s engagement with Southampton’s Cultural Quarter. This connects with my wider research on the UK city of culture competition, including organising a roundtable of academic and practitioner participants with Dr Toby Bennett for the Creativity, Knowledge, Cities 2017 conference.
During 2023-24, I am Principal Investigator on the Public Policy Southampton funded project, Cultural strategies, compacts and futures: The role of local government in connecting culture with place, health and the environment. This project examines how local authorities in England are aligning culture with place, health and the environment through cultural strategies and compacts. Employing a mixed methods research design and convening a knowledge exchange workshop, this project will provide analysis enabling local authorities and their membership organisation (the Local Government Association) to reflect on and explore how cultural strategies and compacts engage with place, health, environment, and other priority issues.
Developing my past projects on creative cities and placemaking/shaping, I am currently researching how data generation and analysis informs understandings of place and decision-making relating to creative ecosystems. This connects with my role as theme lead for data with Southampton Institute for Arts and Humanities.
- 2022-23: Principal Investigator on the Local government data analytics for culture and creativity project funded by Southampton Institute of Arts and Humanities’ Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) funding. This project built on my experiences working in the research and evaluation group for the Southampton 2025 City of Culture bid with Southampton City Council and cultural and creative industries stakeholders (developed as an article on City of Culture data relations and frictions currently under review). It engages with policy contexts identifying the creative industries as assets to local economies and communities to address the research and policy gap around how local authorities generate and use data. The project has created a steering group with members from higher education, local government, and the cultural sector. A knowledge exchange event was held in July 2022 and further outputs are in development.
- 2023-24: Co-Investigator on the Arts and Humanities Research Council Neighbouring Data project. Building on the creative methods developed during Feeling Towns, this 2023 project addresses key research challenges relating to the generation, connection and visualisation of data about place. It seeks to make clear, research-informed recommendations for using place-based data in towns and small cities. For more, please read the introduction to the project here.
Arts and cultural organisations
Closely linked to the above research areas, there a number of other projects focus on different dimensions of arts and cultural organisations.
I recently completed a project supported by the Winchester School of Art Strategic Research Fund examining the funding of culture/cultures of funding. This project included a workshop with academic, industry and policy participants documented in this video, presentations at several conferences and journal articles in Poetics and European Journal of Cultural Studies. It is also the basis for collaborations with Laboratory Adelaide: The Value of Culture at Flinders Research (Australia), including a presentation from Professor Julian Meyrick at John Hansard Gallery and a visit to Dr Tully Barnett in Adelaide in March 2020.
I have undertaken research on data practices of audience profiling and segmentation, and co-authored with Dr Ronda Gowland-Pryde an article in Cultural Trends in 2019.
I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and hold a MA in Professional Practice in Higher Education. I have led two HEA funded research projects in relation to working in the creative and cultural industries, and published pedagogic research in journals including Journal of Further and Higher Education and British Journal of Sociology of Education. In 2022 I am co-editing (with Professor Dawn Bennett, Dr Zoe Hope Bulaitis, Dr Michael Tomlinson) a special issue of Arts and Humanities in Higher Education titled, ‘In the name of employability: faculties and futures for the arts and humanities in higher education’
From 2008 to 2015 I was a Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University (UK) teaching on the Media Communications and the Creative Media Practice degree programmes. I joined WSA as the MA Programme Leader for Global Media Management in April 2015 and held this role until September 2020. In July 2018, the teaching team received a Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Award. The nomination highlighted how ‘the teaching team have distinguished themselves through a collegiate approach and a commitment to developing innovative ways to engage students through research-informed and technology-enhanced learning.’ Importantly, the award and recognition extended to Postgraduate Researchers who had contributed as Visiting Lecturers. The teaching team were also nominated under the “student experience” category in the 2020 Vice Chancellor’s Awards.
Distinctive parts of the programme include study visits, guest speaker lectures, and research-informed learning and teaching linked to the Winchester Centre for Global Futures in Art, Design and Media. Each year there is an annual symposium in which students on the programme join with invited academic researchers and industry practitioners to explore a specific theme: ‘Ludic Economies’ (2015), ‘Creative Organisations’ (2016), ‘Data Visualisation’ (2017), ‘The Work of Storytelling’ (2018), ‘Technologies of Gender’ (2019) and ‘Mobilities’ (2020). For more information, please visit the MA Global Media Management course page. For updates, please visit the GMM blog.
From 2020 I am the module leader for the undergraduate option Business Skills for the Creative Industries and continue to teach on MA Global Media Management.
From 2023 I am the programme leader for the MA in Arts and Cultural Leadership.
I also contribute to the WSA programme for postgraduate researcher and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities Orientation for Teaching and Demonstrating modules for postgraduate researchers.
I have undertaken roles as an external examiner and on validation panels for several UK universities. I am currently the external examiner for the following:
- MSc Digital Transformation & Entrepreneurship, University of Chichester and H Farm Spa (Italy)
- MA Music Business Management, University of Westminster
I have held Chief External Examiner roles in the School of Performing and Digital Arts (Royal Holloway University London) and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (Kingston University). My validation panel experience includes: chairing validation events; panel membership for validation with overseas provision; panel membership for partnership approvals within higher and further education and with industry partners.
External roles and responsibilities
I have undertaken or currently undertake the following roles and responsibilities:
Winchester School of Art
- Chair – Board of Examiners: Postgraduate Taught (2019-2023)
- Co-Director – Transforming Creativity Research Group (website and blog) (2017-2022)
- Member – Education Group
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
- Member – Futures Strategic Advisory Group (supporting the delivery of Faculty vision and strategic objectives by providing subject, discipline, expertise and guidance on proposals and activities)
- Member – Academic Renewal Project Board (part of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities ‘Futures’ programme)
- Member – Research Ethics Committee
- Member – Faculty Enterprise Board
- Member – SIAH Knowledge Exchange Network
University of Southampton
- Champion for Faculty of Arts and Humanities to the Centre for Higher Education Practice Champion
- Mentor for Professional Recognition of Educator Practice (PREP)
- Member – University Developing Career Support Working Group
- Member – PERu Evaluation of Public Engagement Working Group
- Co-Director - Work Futures Research Centre
- Vice Chancellor’s Awards: Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise (with Southampton Institute for Arts and Humanities) (2022)
- Vice Chancellor’s Awards: Teaching Award (as Programme Leader with MA in Global Media Management) (2018)