Sian is a full-time PhD student in receipt of a Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship in Open World Learning and is based within the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET).
Thesis Subject: The Informal Learning of History through Popular media.
Sian's research focuses on audience/player learning practices and their engagements with, and responses to, classical content in popular media, particularly digital games that represent ancient Rome. The research aims to establish how knowledge of the past is is constructed informally and how learner engagement is promoted within games, and how this engagement compares with other visual media (such as TV or film) that represent similar content.
The first stage of the research project consisted of an online survey, with the purpose of exploring audience/player motivations, activities, perceptions, and learning with and through TV, film and digital games. It assessed perceptions of all periods of history (defined by the respondents) and as such provided a broad overview of these different elements of engaging with history represented in different media forms. Over 600 respondents completed the survey, the findings of which are currently being prepared for publication.
The current stage in the research consists of an ethnographic study that specifically focuses on games that represent ancient Rome, and the learning activities and practices of the players of these games. This can include the discursive practices relating to these games of players in both on- and offline contexts; players that create game "Mods" or "After Action Reports" (AARs), as well as how an academic background in a related historical subject (such as ancient history) impacts engagement with these games, in order to understand the interplay between formal and informal understandings of ancient Rome. The study will use a combination of interviews, solicited diaries, and observations of online forum interactions of the study participants to investigate these different elements.
Ultimately, in terms of historical learning and knowledge, the thesis will begin to address how different media forms relate to one another; how they frame the content differently or the same; how these forms differently offer opportunities for engagement and learning about the ancient world; and what the roles of culture, technology, identity and social interactions are in the construction of historical understanding.
Sian received her BA in Classical Civilizations from the University of Leeds, where her dissertation explored classical receptions and how the ancient world is presented on film, to highlight issues of political, social and moral concern. She studied for an MA in Classical Studies, also at the Universty of Leeds, and continued to look at reworkings of Classical history and myth in literature and media. Her MA dissertation focused on how Homeric retellings in the films Troy (2004) and O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) are used to memorialise the past and also to provoke ethical debate about contemporary issues. After working professionally for several years as a teaching assistant and supply teacher, she completed a course in Information Technology and Learning at the University of Gothenburg before embarking on the PhD with the Open University.
Sian's research interests reflect her background as both a historian and an educational scientist, though are not constrained only to those fields: ancient history; digital games and learning; film & media studies; classical reception studies; digital humanities; educational research; gender studies; game studies; informal learning and cultural studies, amongst others.