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PhD studentship: Beneath the archive

The National Archives (TNA) and City, University of London are offering a fully-funded PhD studentship (including fees and living allowance) on the research theme of Understanding users’ mental models of digital archives to inform user-centred design.

Digital technology is profoundly changing what it means to be an archive. Future digital archives will (by necessity) be very different, providing new opportunities for engaging users. For example, the current shift to predominantly born-digital content is breaking-down distinctions between ‘catalogue’ and ‘archive’, and the move from hierarchically-arranged to inter-linked records (facilitated by Linked Data) has potential to facilitate greater exploration and serendipitous discovery.

To ensure widespread use, next-generation archives must be designed to complement archiving and knowledge-production practices, bridging the conceptual gulf between designers and users. However, archives are inherently complex and demand a more detailed examination of users’ needs. In particular, detailed knowledge is required of users’ understandings of digital archives (their mental models).

Your PhD will aim to understand users’ mental models of digital archive content, collections and interfaces, how they are shaped by the design of existing digital archives and other information environments (e.g. search engines, library catalogues, digital libraries) and the implications for the design of next-generation digital archives that appropriately shape and are shaped by users’ mental models.

Your research will primarily be qualitative in approach, involving detailed observations of digital archive use, and will develop theory and guidelines for digital archive design. It will also feed into a range of user-centred development projects at The National Archives.

Additional Information

About the studentship
This studentship is funded by an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership. Your university fees will be paid for 36 months and you will receive a tax-free stipend towards living costs. The annual stipend for UK-resident students is likely to be around £17,327 (including London Weighting and an annual contribution of £550 towards working across two institutions). UK students are eligible for the annual stipend, plus fees paid. EU students are not eligible for the stipend (only their fees will be paid). Non-EU (overseas) students are not eligible to apply.

More information and to apply
For more information and to apply, visit www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/cdp-understanding-user-mental-models.pdf. Note that you must have a Master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction, Psychology or Library/Information Science to apply (or expect to have finished your degree by 1st October 2018).

City, University of London and The National Archives are committed to equality and diversity.

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