Professor Stephen Boyd Davis
School of Design
Research Leader, Professor of Design Research
Stephen Boyd Davis is Professor of Design Research at the Royal College of Art. He leads staff research activities in the School of Design, helping individuals and groups to develop research projects and to secure funding, developing the School's – and the College's – research environment, and engaging with the wider world of research and innovation.
Stephen’s personal research is centred on questions of visual representation and forms of knowledge.
He works on the representation of historical time, especially in interactive digital media. His research combines historical investigation and the development of new practice.
He is researching the early days of design research at the RCA, looking at the 1960s origins of the Department of Design Research headed by Professor Bruce Archer.
Stephen Boyd Davis is responsible for staff research activities in the School of Design, which includes Design Products, Global Innovation Design, Innovation Design Engineering, Service Design and Vehicle Design.Show more
Stephen has worked and taught in design since 1976, specialising in digital media from the 1980s when he pioneered the integration of computing into UK art and design education. In 1987 he was a founding member of the Association for Computing in Art and Design Education. In 1992 he cofounded one of the first Master’s programmes in the world dealing with interactive media; its graduates have influenced industry and education worldwide. He is a committee member of the Computer Arts Society which explores the history of the computer in visual and other art forms and encourages new work. From 2005 to 2011 he was head of the Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts, inspired by the work of Professor John Lansdown, a pioneer of the use of creative computing from the 1960s to his death in 1999.
Key themes of Stephen's own research include spatialised media, visualisation, depiction and forms of knowledge, centred on his fascination with representation. His point of view is a pragmatic one, focusing on the effectiveness of particular representations as much as on their alleged truth.
Stephen is extensively involved in the evaluation of research through peer review for UK Research Councils, journals and conferences. He was a panel member for the UK Research Excellence Framework: REF 2014.
Stephen has a BA Hons (1st) in Printed and Woven Textiles from Camberwell School of Art and Crafts (now part of the University of the Arts London), a PGDip in Woven Textiles from Leeds University and a PhD from Middlesex University, where his dissertation explored the uses of space in depiction across a variety of media.
Stephen Boyd Davis works closely with two of his doctoral students and with a recent doctoral graduate to develop innovative work on the visualisation of historic time. For more information, see the Research tab.Show more
Stephen’s interest in spatialised media led in 2005 to the development of a mobile digital game ‘Ere be Dragons’ in collaboration with the arts organisation Active Ingredient – engaging players with the performance of their own body. Funded by the Wellcome Trust it was a world first in combining location-aware devices and heart-rate sensing, enabling players to explore both the external space they inhabit and the internal space of their own body processes. Issues arising from the project are discussed in several conference papers, journal articles and book chapters, including a handbook on information technology in healthcare. The work has been presented internationally. Further developed by the Mixed Reality Lab at Nottingham as ‘Heartlands’, the project won the international Nokia Ubimedia Mindtrek award and the national Galileo Masters Satellite Navigation Award.
Building on this experience, Stephen developed with his colleagues Helen Bendon (narrative), Nye Parry (sound design) and Magnus Moar (interaction) a new approach to locative media in the ‘Scratch’ project for BBC Radio Drama. This focuses on the translocational – using space without being tied to any particular place. The main outcome was a full public performance of a location-sensitive drama for FreeThinking 2008 in Liverpool as part of the European Capital of Culture celebrations. This has been written up in papers and a book chapter.
Stephen Boyd Davis was in 2013 and 2014 a member of the subpanel for Art and Design of the Higher Education Funding Council for England Research Excellence Framework (REF2014), which evaluates research across the higher education sector. He fulfilled the maximum number of years as a member of the Peer Review College of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, and has also reviewed for the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).Show more
He undertakes reviewing for journals including the Journal of Design History (Oxford), Universal Access in the Information Society (Springer) and Interacting with Computers (Elsevier), and conferences including Design Research Society, British Computer Society Human-Computer Interaction, Association for Computing Machinery Computer-Human Interaction and Experiential Knowledge Special Interest Group. He is on the editorial board of the Creative Industries Journal. He has frequently been invited as adviser by a range of bodies, for example the Technology and Innovation Futures Project of the UK Government Office for Science, 2010; Leadership Perspectives on Technology and Art Research, University of North Texas, 2009; Digital Expert advising a British Library working group on changes in higher education research, 2007; consultancy to Skillset on Interactive Media, 2007.
He is a consultant on the design of chronographics such as timelines, advising specialist companies and the BBC.
Stephen’s work has been funded by Wellcome Trust, Leverhulme Trust, Economic and Social Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Collaborations have included BBC, BT, and Hewlett-Packard.
Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes
Boyd Davis, S. and Kräutli, F. (2015) The Idea and Image of Historical Time: Interactions between Design and Digital Humanities. Visible Language 49 (3). 100-119. ISSN 0022-2224Show more
Boyd Davis, S. (2015) Beholder of All Ages: The History of the World in a French Mappemonde. Textimage: revue d'étude du dialogue text-image 7 (1). ISSN 1954-3840. Online: http://revue-textimage.com/11_illustration_science/boyd-davis1.html
Boyd Davis, S. (2012) History on the Line: time as dimension. Design Issues, 28 (4). ISSN 0747-9360. 4–17.
Korallo, L., Foreman, N., Boyd Davis, S., Moar, M. and Coulson, M. (2012) Do challenge, task experience or computer familiarity influence the learning of historical chronology from virtual environments in 8–9 year old children? Computers & Education, 58 (4). ISSN 0360-1315. 1106–16.Korallo, L., Foreman, N., Boyd Davis, S., Moar, M. and Coulson, M. (February 2012) Can multiple “spatial” virtual timelines convey the relatedness of chronological knowledge across parallel domains? Computers & Education, 58 (2). ISSN 0360-1315 856-862.
Zivanovic, A. and Boyd Davis, S. (2011) Elegant Motion: The Senster and other cybernetic sculptures by Edward Ihnatowicz. Kybernetes, 40 (1/2), 47–62
Faiola, A., Boyd Davis, S., and Edwards, R.L. (2010) Extending knowledge domains for new media education: Integrating interaction design theory and methods. New Media and Society, 12 (5), 691–709
Boyd Davis, S. (2009) Introduction to the special issue on creative evaluation. Digital Creativity, 20 (3), 133–39, ed. S. Boyd Davis
Foreman, N., Boyd Davis, S., Moar, M., Korallo, L. and Chappell, Emma (2008) ‘Can virtual environments enhance the learning of historical chronology?’ Instructional Science, 36 (2), 155–73
Boyd Davis, S. (2007) A schema for depiction. Visible Language 41 (3). ISSN 0022-2224. 280–300.
Boyd Davis, S., Moar, M., Jacobs, R., Watkins, M., Riddoch, C. and Cooke, K. (2006) 'Ere be dragons: heartfelt gaming. Digital Creativity, 17 (3). ISSN 1462-6268. 157–162.
Boyd Davis, S. (2017) ‘To see at one glance all the centuries that have passed’ - early visualisations of historical time. In: Information Design: Research and Practice. Routledge, London. 3-22. ISBN 978-1-4724-3070-0
Boyd Davis, S. and Gristwood, S. (2016) Computing, Design, Art: Reflections on an Innovative Moment in History In: History and Philosophy of Computing. IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology, 487. Springer. 101-115. ISBN 978-3-319-47285-0
Boyd Davis, S. (2015) May not duration be represented as distinctly as space? – geography and the visualisation of time in the early eighteenth century. In: Knowing Nature in Early Modern Europe. Warwick Series in the Humanities, 5 . Pickering and Chatto, London. 119-137. ISBN 978 1 84893 518 1
Knöll, M., Moar, M., Boyd Davis, S. and Saunders, M. (2014) Spontaneous Interventions for Health: How Digital Games May Supplement Urban Design Projects. In: Technologies of Inclusive Well-Being: Serious Games, Alternative Realities, and Play Therapy. Studies in Computational Intelligence, 536. Springer, Berlin. 245-259. ISBN 978-3-642-45431-8
Boyd Davis, S., Bevan, E. and Kudikov, A. (2013) Just In Time: defining historical chronographics In: Electronic Visualisation in Arts and Culture. Springer Series on Cultural Computing . Springer, pp. 243-257. ISBN 9781447154051
Korallo, L., Boyd Davis, S., Foreman, N. and Moar, M. (2013) Human-centric Chronographics: making historical time memorable. In: Human-Centric Visualization. Springer, New York. 473-512. ISBN 978-1-4614-7484-5.
Borg, E. and Boyd Davis, S. (2012) The Thesis: Texts and Machines. In: SAGE Handbook of Digital Dissertations, SAGE, London, ISBN 9780857027399. 13-30.
Boyd Davis, S. (2009) Mapping the unseen: Making sense of the subjective image. In: C. Nold (ed), Emotional Cartography: Technologies of the Self, Emotional Cartography, London, 39–52Boyd Davis, S., Moar, M., Jacobs, R., Watkins, M., Shackford, R., Oppermann, L. and Capra, M. (2009) Art and technology for health. In: A.N. Dwivedi (ed), Handbook of Research on Information Technology Management and Clinical Data Administration in Healthcare, IGI Global, Hershey, Pennsylvania, 616–30
Boyd Davis, S. (2008) ‘Representing space: The pictorial imperative’, in: P. Turner, S. Turner and E. Davenport (eds), Exploration of Space, Technology and Spatiality: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Information Science Reference, Hershey, Pennsylvania, 128–40.
Boyd Davis, S., Moar, M., Jacobs, R., Watkins, M., Capra, M., Shackford, R. and Oppermann, L. (2007) Mapping inside out. In: Pervasive gaming applications: a reader for pervasive gaming research. Shaker, Aachen. ISBN 9783832262242. 199-226.
Boyd Davis, S., Davies, G., Haddad, R. and Lai, M-K. (2007) Smell me: engaging with an interactive olfactory game. In: People and computers XX: engage: proceedings of HCI 2006. People and Computers (20). Springer, London, ISBN 9781846285882. 25-40.
Moar, M. and Boyd Davis, S. (2005) The amateur creator. In: Creativity and Cognition Conference, London, 12-15 April, 2005. Creativity and Cognition Studios, ISBN 1-59593-025-6. 158-165.Conference Proceedings
Boyd Davis, S., Vane, O. and Kräutli, F. (2016) Using Data Visualisation to tell Stories about Collections. In: Proc. EVA London 2016: Electronic Visualisation and the Arts. EVA London: Electronic Visualisation and the Arts, 12-14 July 2016, British Computer Society, London. 221-228. ISBN 978-1-78017-344-3
Boyd Davis, S. and Gristwood, S. (2016) The Structure of Design Processes: ideal and reality in Bruce Archer’s 1968 doctoral thesis. In: Proc. DRS 2016 (Design Research Society) Design + Research + Society: Future-focused thinking, Brighton, UK, 27-30 June 2016. Volume 7. 2593-2611. ISSN 2398-3132.
Gristwood, S. and Boyd Davis, S. (2014) The Reappearing Computer: the past and future of computing in design research. In: Proceedings of DRS 2014: Design's Big Debates. Design Research Society / Umeå Institute of Design, 16-19June 2014, Umeå University, Umeå. 618-632. ISBN 978-91-7601-068-6
Boyd Davis, S. and Kräutli, F. (2013) Time in Perspective: a visual approach to models of time. At: Changing Perspectives of Time in HCI, CHI 2013, Palais de Congrès de Paris, Paris, 27 April - 2 May 2013. Available online.
Kräutli, F. and Boyd Davis, S. (2013) Known Unknowns: representing uncertainty in historical time In: Proceedings of Electronic Visualisation and the Arts 2013. British Computer Society, London. 61-68. ISBN 978-1-780172-15-6
Boyd Davis, S., Bevan, E. and Kudikov, A. (2010) Just in time: Defining historical chronographics. In: Proc. EVA London 2010: Electronic Visualisation & the Arts: Proceedings of a conference held in London 6–8 July, British Computer Society, London.Boyd Davis, S. (2010) Time machines In: Proceedings of Technology and ‘The Death of Art History’: Computers and the History of Art, annual conference, 10–11 November 2010, British Computer Society, London.
Parry, N., Bendon, H., Boyd Davis, S. and Moar, M. (2008) Locating drama: A demonstration of location-aware audio drama. In: U. Spierling and N. Szilas (eds), Proceedings of Interactive Storytelling: First Joint International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, ICIDS, Erfurt, Germany, 26–29 November 2008; Lecture notes in computer science (5334), Springer, Berlin, 41–43.Conference Presentations
Parry, N., Bendon, H., Boyd Davis, S. and Moar, M. (2009) ‘Moving tales, exploring narrative strategies for scalable locative audio drama’, ISEA09 International Symposium on Electronic Art, 23 August – 1 September 2009, Queens University, Belfast (unpublished)
Korallo, L., Foreman, N., Boyd Davis, S., Moar, M. and Molife, P. (2009) ‘Using virtual environments to enhance chronological understanding of history in middle school children’, Cognitive Psychology Section Annual Conference, 1–3 September 2009, University of Hertfordshire (unpublished).
Boyd Davis, S. (2007) ‘A Word about the Weather: depiction and visualisation’, From Abstract Data Mapping to 3D Photorealism: Understanding Emerging Intersections in Visualisation Practices and Techniques, 19 Jun 2007, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design.
Exhibitions, Artworks and Performances
Boyd Davis, S. and Gristwood, S. (2016) Online Exhibition commissioned by Design Research Society: Early Design Research at the RCA: The Royal College of Art in the 1960s and 1970. http://www.drs2016.org/exhibition/
Skinner, P., Parry, N., Bendon, H., Moar, M., Boyd Davis, S., Collingwood, F., Mortimer, J. (2008) 'Scratch', locative audio drama for BBC
Narratives of time: the invention of the modern timeline. Invited talk for first joint conference V&A and Science Museum ‘Sensing Time: the Art & Science of Clocks and Watches’ 18th June 2016.
"The idea of a measurable space" - Joseph Priestley's 1765 Chart of Biography. Invited talk at the Institute for Historical Research, University of London in the series ‘British History in the Long Eighteenth Century’, 1 June 2016.
Invited contribution on the ideas of Joseph Priestley to ‘LUNÄ Talks: Uncertainty Scenarios’ Fig. 2 with Marjolijn Dijkman (Artist), Jay Griffiths (Author), Cathy Haynes (Artist and Curator), ICA, London, 1 June 2015. Online.
Driverless Cars and Human Beings: a design research approach. Invited talk and panel as part of the Design Council ‘Leading Business by Design’ Summit, Birmingham City University Parkside Building, Birmingham, 18 June 2015.
Navigating time - diagrams as time machines. Invited talk in conjunction with ‘How to Construct a Time Machine’ exhibition curated by Marquard Smith at MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, 23 January - 22 March 2015. At Tenderbooks, 6 Cecil Court, London, 17th March 2015.
Sentiment Mapping - Analysis of social media to improve passenger experience Invited short talk, with Mike Saunders, CEO Commonplace, for Smarter Travel 2015, Birmingham ICC, 6 February 2015.
”Almost at a Single Glance” - Visualisation of Historic Time in the Eighteenth Century’ invited talk for Antiquarian Horological Society, Burlington House, 22 January 2015.
The Shape of Time. Invited talk at The National Archives ‘Big Ideas’ series, 3 November 2014, The National Archives, Kew.
Sentiment Mappers: Transport Intelligence. Invited talk for Imovation Festival, Transport Systems Catapult, Milton Keynes, 11 June 2014.
‘If an idea bear any relation to quantity of any kind’ - devising and printing historical time in the eighteenth century. For symposium: Printing mathematics in the early modern world, 16 December 2013, All Souls College, Oxford.
Inventing the Timeline: a history of visual history. Invited talk for Information Design Association. Royal College of Art, 29 January 2013.
Correspondences: is translating like drawing? Invited lecture, University of Leicester (Research Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies, School of Modern Languages), 22 March 2012.
Practice-Based Research and the REF2014. Kingston University London, 23 October 2012.
The Eye of History: Pioneers in Visualising Historic Time. Invited lecture, Université de Bourgogne (Centre de Recherches Texte/Image/Langage), 9 March 2012.
Boyd Davis, S., trans. (2009) ‘Chronological (machine)’, in: The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert (collaborative translation project), Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library, Ann Arbor, 400–1
Book ReviewsBoyd Davis, S. (2011) ‘Book review of Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline’, Journal of Visual Culture, 10 (2) 269–71
Short ArticlesBoyd Davis, S. (2011) ‘Joseph Priestley: The man who drew time’, Postings From Priestley House, the Newsletter of The Friends of Joseph Priestley House (49). Joseph Priestley House, Northumberland, Pennsylvania. ISSN 570-473-9474
Awards and Grants
2012 AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with Dr. Sonia Ranade at The National Archives to investigate the visual representation of uncertainty in historic data.
2011 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council CASE studentship on the Visualisation of Cultural Data (£70,000) for innovative digital timelines of cultural information to be designed in collaboration with a software engineering company, System Simulation Ltd.
2011 Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art curatorial award for work on the Professor John Lansdown Archive.
Stephen Boyd Davis has wide-ranging research interests.
Spatialised media: Where media were once constrained by the rectangles of the page and the screen, they are increasingly experienced within the spaces we inhabit and move through.
Depiction and representation: This work aims for a coherent account of the huge range of graphical depictions across cultures, through history and across media including painting, photography, film, television and interactive media.
Chronographics: The visual representation of time, such as in timelines, is often considered trivial. Science and design are brought together to tackle problems of representation and interaction with time.
Representing research knowledge: Practice-led research creates new demands on how knowledge is represented, such as in the PhD dissertation. Digital media add new opportunities.
History of computer art: Rediscovering neglected work and ideas from the pioneers of computer arts.
Current and recent research
Stephen Boyd Davis undertakes innovative work on the visualisation of historic time, and investigates the origins of the discipline, focusing on the eighteenth century.
Stephen’s historical investigation focuses on the pioneering figures Jean-Louis Barbeau de La Bruyère and Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg in France and Joseph Priestley in England. His publications discuss graphical metaphors for time, the influence of mechanical thinking and the direction of time in graphics, as well as investigating the published intentions of the original authors. Other publications include a refereed translation, a book review for the journal Visual Culture and a short article for the Joseph Priestley House Museum in Pennsylvania. Invited talks to a series on scientific illustration at the Université de Bourgogne. In April 2013 he presents a paper to Scientiae 2013 at Warwick University.
Experimental studies codirected with Professor Nigel Foreman in the Department of Psychology at Middlesex University, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, have been conducted by a PhD student, Liliya Korallo (now Dr Korallo), investigating the effects on learners of different forms of historic time visualisation. This led to articles in the journals Instructional Science in 2008 and Computers & Education (two articles) in 2012 as well as presentations at various conferences and a Springer book chapter scheduled for 2013.
So far the chronographic opportunities opened by digital technology have not, with a handful of exceptions worldwide, been matched by quality of design. Stephen’s experimental chronographic work includes Historical Interactive Timeline (HiT) with Emma Bevan and Aleksei Kudikov in collaboration with the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (proceedings of EVA London 2010: Electronic Visualisation and the Arts). In 2012 Stephen began supervising a research student, Florian Kraütli, at the software engineering company System Simulation, supported by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Industrial CASE studentship awarded through the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network, to further develop these ideas. Florian graduated in 2016 and now works at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Current doctoral students are Sam Cottrell undertaking an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with The National Archives, and Olivia Vane, an AHRC-funded LDoc student currently working with the Wellcome Library.
An interest in the uses of space is implicit in much of Stephen Boyd Davis’ research, but is most specifically addressed in his investigations of representation in depiction and visualisation. This was the subject of his PhD and an extensive report for BT in 2002. An article for Visible Language journal in 2007 proposed a general schema for depiction, while a chapter for Exploration of Space, Technology and Spatiality (edited by Turner, Turner and Davenport, 2008) is concerned with the relationship between the planar space of graphic representations and the world space that they represent. The aim is a coherent approach to the spatiality of depiction including film, television and video games, tracing continuities historically to suggest a significant pictorial imperative. A book chapter for Christian Nold’s Emotional Cartography: Technologies of the Self (2009) attempts to bring some rigour to the notion of subjective mapping of our relation to place. A guest lecture at the Royal College of Art in February 2009, when Stephen was working at Middlesex University, developed an earlier discussion paper for the Arts & Humanities Research Council Information and Communications Technology Methods series questioning any simple distinction between depiction and visualisation. As with much of Stephen’s work, the argument is made that images are pragmatically constructed to serve purposes, and that this is as important as any alleged truth value as representations of the world. These themes were taken up again in an invited talk for the Research Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies at the University of Leicester in 2012.
This research is centred on practice and is described in Stephen Boyd Davis’ Practice section under the Info tab. Work with the BBC, together with Nye Parry, Helen Bendon and Magnus Moar of Middlesex University, led to a book chapter for Springer on interactive storytelling in 2008. The scientific aspects of another locative project led to an invitation to write a book chapter in 2009 for the Handbook of Research on Information Technology Management and Clinical Data Administration in Healthcare (edited by Dwivedi for IGI Global).
Representing Research Knowledge
Stephen Boyd Davis is keen to consider how forms of knowledge are changed by emerging technologies, especially in university research. His contribution to an article with Tony Faiola and Richard Edwards of Indiana University for New Media and Society in 2010 looked at whether student designers evaluate their work with users or rely on subjective judgements. In 2009 Stephen organised a symposium on ‘Creative Evaluation’ for the Design Research Society and Computer Arts Society, focusing on the potential for designers to use digital techniques to probe how their artworks and design works are experienced. This led to Stephen editing a special issue of Digital Creativity (volume 20, issue 3) on the same subject. An invitation to co-chair a series of seminars for an Economic and Social Research Council project on the Digital Dissertation in 2009–10 led to the co-editing of the SAGE Handbook of Digital Dissertations, for which Stephen co-wrote a chapter with Erik Borg of Coventry University on the effects of technologies from typewriting to interactive media. Stephen also gave an invited lecture for the research methods course at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design in May 2010, and for the Practice Research Unit of Kingston University on Practice-Based Research and the REF2014 in 2012.
History of Computer Art
Stephen is an executive member of the Computer Arts Society of the BCS. In 2012 he received a curatorial award from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art to enable the archive of creative computer pioneer Professor John Lansdown (1929–99) to be catalogued and made available. Stephen is currently developing a research project to investigate the work of L Bruce Archer, especially the relation of Archer’s ideas to his uses of computing (see next).
Origins of Design Research
Stephen has worked closely with RCA archivist Neil Parkinson and with Dr. Simone Gristwood of Lancaster University on investigating the origins of Design Research in the 1960s and 70s, particularly focusing on the Department of Design Research (and its predecessors) led by Prof Bruce Archer from 1961 to 1986. This has led to conference presentations and an online exhibition commissioned by the Design Research Society.
History on the Line: time as dimension
Professor Stephen Boyd Davis
Art and technology for health.
Professor Stephen Boyd Davis, Magnus Moar, Robin Shackford, Rachel Jacobs, Matt Watkins, Leif Oppermann, Mauricio Capra
Penelope Skinner, Nye Parry, Helen Bendon, Magnus Moar, Professor Stephen Boyd Davis, Faith Collingwod, Jeremy Mortimer
The Thesis: texts and machines
Professor Stephen Boyd Davis, Erik Borg