School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Sarah Martindale

Assistant Professor of Digital Innovation in the Creative Industries, Faculty of Arts



I'm a Nottingham Research Fellow in the Department of Cultural, Media and Visual Studies. Being part of the University's flagship scheme for early career researchers gives me three years of generous support (2019-2022) to study creative R&D problems, innovative production practices and audience responses. With Professor Paul Hegarty, I co-lead the University's Creative and Digital Interdisciplinary Research Cluster, which strategically supports the development of new teams and project ideas across faculties.

I was a Research Fellow at Horizon Digital Economy Research, based in the School of Computer Science, from January 2012 to September 2019. During this time I explored the ways people attach meaning and value to digital interactions and media, as part of interdisciplinary projects investigating digital transformations and their potential future implications. I'm still part of Horizon's cross-faculty team, proud to be a Co-Investigator in its current third phase of activity as an EPSRC Next Stage Digital Economy Centre focused on Trusted Data-Driven Products.

For my PhD at Aberystwyth University I studied Shakespearean film audiences, under the supervision of Professor Martin Barker. My PhD was supported by a postgraduate award from the AHRC, as was my MA in Film and Communication Studies from Queen Mary, University of London, which I passed with Distinction. Prior to this I gained a First Class BA(Hons) in English at Queen Mary and was awarded the Westfield Trust Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement.

Expertise Summary

I study cultural engagement with digital technologies as part of everyday lived experience.

Teaching Summary

Although my current role in the Department of Cultural, Media and Visual Studies is research-focused, I do contribute to teaching. In 2022/23 I am supervising postgraduate independent projects for… read more

Research Summary

Nottingham Research Fellowship: Future Audiences for Transformations in Digital Media

I research within the Audience Studies tradition which offers contextual understandings of media products, shaped by social factors like politics, ideology, economics and identity. The interdisciplinary research projects I undertake offer 'real world' solutions for the creative industries. The approach is 'performance-led': collaborations between creative industry practitioners, who conceive new forms of digital experience; computer scientists, who realise the necessary technical innovations; and researchers, who study how people interact with and value these experiences. This approach originated in the Mixed Reality Lab (MRL) and involves developing new digital media systems in response to an artistic vision and then publicly deploying these as live, performative experiences. Performance-led research projects produce cutting-edge immersive experiences that reach large audiences through international touring. Arts and Humanities scholars' involvement is crucial in connecting these artworks and audience experiences to wider understandings of media history, cultural production, and taste patterns.

This Fellowship allows me to serve as an interlocutor between Arts and Humanities, Computer Science and the creative industries, and thereby generates threefold impact through performance-led research:

  1. immersive, live experiences and creative practices
  2. new modes of audience interaction and engagement
  3. interdisciplinary knowledge about producing and engaging with these experiences

The outputs of this collaborative work demonstrate the potential of new technologies, supported by audience engagement data, and generate tools that can be used by other creative industry practitioners.

Research at this interface requires the ability to understand, translate and blend different academic and creative perspectives and priorities, which is my particular remit.

PhD Supervision

I have supervised three projects to completion: ethnographies of Minecraft's digital economies, refugees' use of social media and brain-controlled film. Four projects are ongoing: Augmented Reality storytelling, game engines for television, performing arts in the platform society and the lived experience of gaming.

Recent Publications

Although my current role in the Department of Cultural, Media and Visual Studies is research-focused, I do contribute to teaching. In 2022/23 I am supervising postgraduate independent projects for the MA Film, Television and Screen Industries and the MSc Cultural Industries and Entrepreneurship. In 2020/21 and 2021/22 I co-taught the postgraduate module CULT4048 Media and Cultural Industries Practices. In 2019/20 I convened the undergraduate module CULT1028/9 Reading Film and Television. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

I was Training Programme Manager at the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in My Life in Data (2015-2019), working closely with the cohort, particularly during Year 1, on modules about research methods, practice-led projects, the global impacts of digital technologies, public engagement and professional skills. I have also supervised postgraduate projects and internships.

Before coming to Nottingham I previously taught for six years at Aberystwyth University across film, television and theatre studies degrees. There I had a wide variety of responsibilities on many modules: marking, seminar leading, lecturing, dissertation supervision and module coordination. Working with diverse students at foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate levels on different topics gave me broad-based teaching experience.

Past Research


Studying user experiences of a physically augmented Virtual Reality experience, which allows six visitors to simultaneously explore a digital recreation of one of the first exhibitions of photography. The touring exhibit presents a precisely aligned physical/virtual space that can be confidently navigated and provides multisensory feedback.

AHRC Creative Economy Engagement Fellowship

Collaboration with BBC R&D and a network of creative and digital economy partners to ascertain how engaging with the research base can produce commercially scalable new models for networked live performance. The primary example of a new collaborative opportunity during the course of this project was a case study of a brain-controlled interactive film called The MOMENT. Because the project encompassed both production and release of the film, I was able to collect a range of data relevant to the creative industries.

Charting the Digital Lifespan

We have yet to experience a complete lifespan in the Digital Age, from conception to death in old age. Those who have grown up interacting with digital technology from a very early age are still young, whilst older technology adopters have identities that pre-date the Digital Age, populated with paper trails of memories. The paths of our digital and physical lives run in parallel, converge and diverge as they mediate personhood in social and cultural life. In this research, we charted the unmapped territory of the digital lifespan as it is now in the UK, and envisioned what this territory may look like in the future - framed against an extant understanding of physical UK lifespans.

Understanding the Multi-Screen Household

This project set out to capture and map the complexity of the interactions between individuals, technologies and content which take place in multi-screen environments. A combination of innovative digital observation techniques and audience research methods was used to collect data about devices, routines and attitudes from households, with the ultimate aim of producing a toolkit for monitoring and making sense of changes in patterns of everyday cultural consumption.


This project explored the potential for integrating biomedical data into television formats in order to provide the viewer with additional information about how onscreen protagonists are feeling and therefore enhance engagement with that experience. My role involves examining television genres, production processes, ethics and aesthetics alongside audience interpretations of and responses to biomedical data.

PhD: An investigation of the status of 'Shakespeare', and the ways in which this is manifested in audience responses, with specific reference to three late-1990s Shakespearean films.

My doctoral project stemmed from my interest in different types of texts and their interrelationships, enabling me to study Shakespeare as a cultural phenomenon. Working within the cultural studies tradition of investigating the role of media in everyday life, the aim was to access and examine people's attitudes towards and experiences of Shakespeare by undertaking audience research.

Building on my doctoral examination of cinematic representations of British heritage in Shakespearean cinema, I have developed a broader interest in the construction of cultural identity within the international contexts of film production and reception, researching British art cinema in relation to Stage Beauty (Richard Eyre, 2004) and Irish national cinema in relation to ​In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008) and The Guard (John Michael McDonagh, 2011).

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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