Exciting PhD Studentship Opportunity

Three-year PhD Studentship (full-time) working on the IN-TOUCH Project

Commencing October 2018 or January 2019

Supervisors: Professors Carey Jewitt and Sara Price (UCL)

PhD focus
The studentship is linked to the IN-TOUCH: Digital Touch Communication Project. IN-TOUCH is an innovative five-year ERC Award led by Professor Carey Jewitt. – https://in-touch-digital.com/.

The successful applicant will work with the IN-TOUCH team to explore the consequences and impact of digitally mediated touch on how we communicate in the context of virtual reality environments, wearables, or robotics. We are keen to explore touch via these technologies in the context of either work and/or health and well-being. As the project is highly exploratory, we are also interested in and open to applicants’ ideas within the scope of digital touch communication.

The successful candidate will need a commitment to interdisciplinary and innovative ways of researching digital communication and want to work as part of a team. We do not expect applicants to have specialist expertise in social science work within digital touch communication, as this is an emergent area. The form of the doctorate is to be written (rather than practice-based, although a making or prototyping component is possible). The student will be based with the IN-TOUCH team at UCL Knowledge Lab, a leading interdisciplinary research unit focused on digital communication and learning, and based within the Culture, Communication and Media Department, University College London.

IN-TOUCH project

What is the potential of digital touch technologies to shape what and how we touch, and what does this mean for communication? The IN-TOUCH project brings digital touch into sharp focus through a socially oriented framework that integrates the micro lens of multimodality, and the experiential lens of sensory ethnography and the arts to interrogate the latest digital touch communication devices. In addition to mapping the landscape of digital touch technologies, our aim is to obtain a deep understanding of the social and semiotic character of touch as it is mediated by digital technologies, and its’ consequences and impact on human communication. The project’s work is guided by four key objectives, to:

  1. Develop innovative methodologies for researching digital touch communication in this fast-changing, complex digital terrain;
  2. Describe, explore and critically analyze the social and semiotic understanding of the communicative potentials and consequences of digital touch;
  3. Advance new theoretical insights on digital touch communication through grounded empirical research and interdisciplinary scholarship;
  4. Contribute to knowledge on the use of digital touch technologies, interventions and design.

The project has a commitment to interdisciplinary and innovative ways of researching digital communication across the social sciences and the arts.

Candidate Requirements

Candidates must have:

  • A first class or upper second undergraduate degree, and a Master’s degree (preferably with Distinction) in a relevant discipline, including but not limited to Social Science (sociology, anthropology, communication studies), Design, or HCI or computer science
  • Experience of conducting qualitative research
  • Proven excellent spoken and written English
  • Demonstrate a strong interest/knowledge of social aspects of digital technologies and communication (in its broadest sense)
  • The ability to work collaboratively in an interdisciplinary team
  • Research experience/knowledge of digital touch technologies would be an advantage

Knowledge and skills to be developed: This is an excellent opportunity for a student to further develop interdisciplinary knowledge and practical experience in: qualitative research in an exciting interdisciplinary team, with a focus on methodological innovation, digital technologies and touch communication. The studentship requires adventurous and flexible researchers. The programme of work will be across three years: Year 1: attend social science, technology and arts doctoral courses and seminars, conduct literature reviews, plan the detailed research, contribute to the project website and social media, apply for research ethics committee approval and access to relevant empirical sites, complete upgrade. The student will be involved in selecting the focus of the study with guidance from the supervisors. Year 2: Conduct empirical fieldwork/case studies. Year 3: Complete data analysis and write up the thesis. Throughout the PHD you will contribute to the work of IN-TOUCH, workshop events and seminars, and be a part of the research team.

Funding Details: The studentship is a (tax free) stipend for 3 years that requires the student to contribute to the fees* out of the stipend.


Year 1 (2018-19): £24,195
Year 2 (2019-20): £25,375
Year 3 (2020-21): £26,683


Year 1 (2018-19): £4,275
Year 2 (2019-20): £4,361

Year 3 (2020-21): £4,491

**The fee is further topped-up/subsidised by the department of Culture, Communication and Media.

How to apply: Eligible candidates should apply via email to c.jewitt@ucl.ac.uk with:

  • An up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV)
  • A covering letter (max 2 pages A4) on your interests in digital touch communication and a sense of the questions that you are curious to explore regarding the consequences and impact of digitally mediated touch on how we communicate in the context of virtual reality environments, wearables, or robotics, with a focus on either work and/or health and well-being (this will be negotiated with the supervisors).
  • An outline of your research methods training and experience (max 1 page)
  • A copy of a piece of your own work: e.g. an extended blog post, a piece of relevant coursework, a written (in English) publication for a peer reviewed journal (if jointly written publications are submitted, please indicate your role in the writing and percentage of effort).

Closing date: The deadline of applications by email to c.jewitt@ucl.ac.uk is 3rd September 2018 (midnight GMT). A panel will review the applications. You may be invited to interview in early September 2018, and references may be requested.

For informal inquiries, contact Carey at c.jewitt@ucl.ac.uk or Sara at sara.price@ucl.ac.uk.