Dr Dan 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 projects.
- Work and the Creative Economy
- Culture, Data and Place
- Arts and Cultural Organisations
Work and the creative economy
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.
In 2023-24, I am Co-Investigator on the AHRC funded Diverse Capacities project. This project focuses on developing and sustaining new connections between local government officers, creative communities, and creative industry professionals across sectors in the Solent region.
My research on working in the cultural and creative industries also connects 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 was Principal Investigator on the Public Policy Southampton funded project on cultural strategies. This project examined how local authorities in England are aligned culture with place, health and the environment through cultural strategies and compacts. The project report and a range of related materials are accessible through the project website here.
Developing my past projects on creative cities and placemaking/shaping, I am currently researching 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. This research has been pursued through two projects:
Firstly, as 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 sector partners (explored in an article on City of Culture data relations and frictions published in Arts and the Market). The project 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.
Secondly, as 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, journal articles in Poetics and European Journal of Cultural Studies, and a two contributions to Ordinary Things exhibition. 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, co-authoring with Dr Ronda Gowland-Pryde an article in Cultural Trends in 2019 later published as a chapter in Audience Data and Research: Perspectives from Cultural Policy, Arts Management and Practice.
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.’
From 2020-2023 I was the module leader for the undergraduate option Business Skills for the Creative Industries.
From 2023 I am the Programme Leader for the MA in Arts and Cultural Leadership. Through the MA Arts and Cultural Leadership, students engage with a diverse network of partners to understand and shape the role of arts and culture in society.
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’
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
- MA Creative Industries Futures, ACM and Middlesex University
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.
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.
I completed my AHRC funded PhD, titled 'The industry of creativity: economic visions, creative subjects and innovative technologies in process', at Lancaster University (2005-08). 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. From 2023 I am the Programme Leader for the MA in Arts and Cultural Leadership.
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.
Centre for Higher Education Practice Faculty of Arts and Humanities Champion
Co-Director of the 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)