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Dr Karen Thornton

Assistant Professor

Faculty/Dept/School Faculty of Eng & Digital Technologies
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My area of research is within documentary and issues of representation in factual discourses. My PhD research explored the role of remediation, simulation and spectacle within contemporary BBC television documentary practices, in relation to public service broadcasting, and in October 2022 took part in a panel discussion exploring the future of the BBC on the Radio 4 series Inside Science 

In 2019 as part of community engagement and outreach I developed a project with Schools of Sanctuary, exploring issues of representation in under-represented, local communities.  Collaborating with young refugee and asylum seekers This Is Me was an exhibition-based photography project which facilitated the young people telling their story through a series of chosen artefacts

My current research project is with Dr Mark Goodall in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the BBC, re-working the J B Priestley WWII Postscripts. Working with six artists who have a connection to Bradford, their stories have been developed into a series of aural soundscapes (or contemporary postscripts) which will be published on BBC Sounds. As part of this work, I am in the process of making a series of short films, visually re-working the completed postscripts and

My latest, forthcoming publication is a chapter in The Art of Fact: The Place of Poetics Within Documentary Filmmaking called “Rolling Thunder Review” and the manufacture of history which explores the way in which Martin Scorsese mixes fact and fiction in his 2019 film Rolling Thunder Review: A Bob Dylan Story and the way in which ideological and historical “truths” can be sought in constructed representation(s).


My main research interest focuses on discourses of power and representation in contemporary film and television. More specifically, I am interested in exploring the representation of (working) class in British factual series, examining the link between neoliberal politics and austerity measures. In addition, I am interested in precarity and how this is represented within British cinema. 

Other areas of interest include examining the relationship between public service broadcasting and the role of spectacle in contemporary documentary, using a media archaeological approach to draw parallels with early cinema and contemporary practices. 

I am also interested in collaborative projects, working with film, photography and sound to explore issues of self-representation and identity.