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Expressivity and the Digital Puppet:
Mechanical, Digital and Virtual Objects
in Games, Art and Performance


On this page you can read a short biography of myself and a summary of my PhD study that examines the performance and creation of 'digital puppetry'. You can follow the following links to more detailed information and examples:

Researcher Biography

Ian Grant

Ian Grant is Deputy Head of School, Art and Design (Acting) at Thames Valley University, as well as a prolific computer programmer and a digital creative working across performance, puppetry, installations and real-time computer graphics. He programmes web, iphone, ipad and mac software specialising in graphics and media applications.

You can read his blog at daisyrust.com. His latest work involves making performance systems to control virtual and mechanical objects in ways akin to traditions from world puppetry.

Prior to helping to manage a School of Art and Design, Ian was a senior lecturer in Digital Arts at TVU, and before that a lecturer in Modern Drama Studies at Brunel University, UK where he explored improvisation, mask techniques, puppetry, and applied theatre in community settings.

He has a secret ambition to play piano and sing jazz vocals in bars and lounges. Which, in recent times, he fulfilled with a regular gig in the Pit Bar at the Old Vic Theatre, London.

PhD Title

Expressivity and the Digital Puppet: Mechanical, Digital and Virtual Objects in Games, Art and Performance

PhD Summary: The aims of the investigation

The current PhD study explores the interface between traditional puppetry and emerging computer technologies, through historical, theoretical enquiry, case studies and practical experiments. The thesis will evaluate and test with users (puppeteers, audiences, animators and programmers) the expressive qualities of innovative interactive systems.

In this context 'innovative' means both emerging, new, technology or established technologies that are being re-defined by their communities of use and are finding new applications within the performing arts, particularly puppetry performance.

  1. I aim to explore the related contexts of digital puppetry, real-time animation, mimetic and non-mimetic kinetic objects, automata, 'cybernetic sculpture', performance systems and the technological interfaces to such phenomena.
  2. I aim to create evaluate and create puppet/object theatre performances/installations that use original software and hardware systems that are designed to explore 'performance expressivity', with reference to relevant historical, art, entertainment and technological precedents.
  3. I wish to theorise and form a taxonomy of 'expressivity' in relationship to digital domains and puppetry. By 'expressivity', I refer to different domains of action including: voice, face, body, hands and gesture.

PhD Summary: Research Questions

Through practical, theoretical and historical research I wish to explore and answer the following research questions:

Primary Question: What is 'expressivity' in the context of computer controlled and user controlled physical and virtual objects?

Three main overarching questions

  1. How do new and emerging technologies facilitate innovative techniques of design and control of puppet-like objects?
  2. What are the most effective designs for interactive tools to create and sustain experiences of expressive play and improvisation?
  3. How do the domains of traditional puppetry and emerging interactive technologies relate?

Curriculum Vitae

My current CV: contact details available on request.

Snapshot for CV Ian Grant's Current CV [ PDF]
Daisyrust Projects

daisyrust | about | phd proposal | shadows and surfaces: phd update 2009-2010