Claire van Rhyn

MPhil work

Ancient Technology: The role of the body and senses in communicating rapid cultural change

My practice-led research looks at how we use our bodies and senses to transmit the culture that we are part of. It is an investigation into how we experience and make sense of our culture, and in turn enact the culture. Here, culture is defined as an intangible choreographic process negotiating experience and expression, simultaneously situated in individuals and groups. 

My research is an enquiry into the capacities of groups of people to adapt their culture in situations of rapid change. Understanding the tacit aspects of cultural transmission is key to supporting cultural change. This cross-disciplinary project specifically looks at how these processes are enacted within the changing landscape of learning communities, including case studies of compulsory school environments and other learning settings. 

Utilising an experimental design approach to map and model the mechanics of cultural transmission, I seek to understand culture as a complex social technology, where the body acts as interface and recording device for culture. This proposition is explored through interactive probes in learning communities undergoing rapid change. Combining choreographic exercises with digital and material elements, my practice prototypes media and systems that interpret cultural transmission and the mechanics of change.


  • Claire van Rhyn
  • MPhil


    School of Communication


    Information Experience Design, 2015–

  • Degrees

  • MSc Education Research, University of Exeter; BA (Hons) Education, University of Roehampton
  • Experience

  • Head designer, De Kat Magazine, Media 24; Designer and art editor, New Holland; Art direction and design, Quarto Publications; Researcher on projects with Universities of Oxford, Exeter and Roehampton; Freelance creative learning cultures consultant; Co-director of Shambhala Art Europe
  • Conferences

  • Tracing the Transmission of Culture Through Sensory and Embodied Means, Emergent Culture Conference (European Sociological Association), 2016; Being Relational Workshop, DRS2016, University of Brighton, 2016; The Role of Sensory Aesthetic Transmission During Rapid Cultural Change in Educational Settings, Emergence, Intersubjectivity and Aesthetics, University of Exeter, 2016; Places and Spaces: The mobilisation of social-centred learning across multiple places and spaces, British Conference of Undergraduate Research, 2013
  • Publications

  • Developing and Trialing a Measure of Group Thinking, Learning and Instruction, 2016