Skip navigation

Dr Paul Dolan

Assistant Professor

Department: Arts

I am an artist and Assistant Professor in the Arts at Northumbria University with 20 years of working in a range of arts and education contexts. My research adopts a critical approach to digital technologies and environment, using a combination of practice-based, social science and fieldwork-based methods. I am part of the Cultural Negotiation of Science research group, Cosmotechnics artists group and since 2020 have produced interdisciplinary research with political ecologist Dr Pete Howson, Northumbria University.


My doctoral thesis In Silico: A practice-based exploration of computer simulations in art  explored the material and temporal relationships between computer generated and natural environments. I used philosophy from media materiality and assemblage theory alongside an art practice rooted in new media and contemporary art.


What are the material costs of digital image production? Since 2020 I have researched the relationship between data centres and the production of computer-generated images (CGI) via render farms – networked computer hardware systems for mass producing frames of animation and cinema. This started with The Cloud In the Sea (2020)- a simulated reconstruction of an experimental Microsoft data centre placed under the sea off the coast of the Orkney Isles, to keep the computer hardware at operating temperature. The following two years of fieldwork and interviews led to a photobook of data centre architecture entitled Colocation (2022), a journal article, exhibitions and a co-authored ethnographic film Tributary (2023).  As part of this research I interviewed companies that re-circulate heat from data centres to grow crops and beer in Amsterdam, and use datacentre infrastructure within apartment blocks to generate heating for Parisians. In Upstream Image (2022) I created an expanded simulation, in which the playback of a 3D-modelled Icelandic data centre site generated enough heat to grow basil seeds in a customised greenhouse.


In 2023 I was commissioned by Colab Sunderland and South Tyneside Council to produce a new work in response to two new energy projects that use water from the River Tyne and an abandoned mine to heat nearby homes.


I am currently working on a project that explores the impact of NewSpace technologies on the environment and global indigenous communities. This is a continuation of thinking through the impacts and underlying ideologies of the hyper capitalist technology sector on the people and places of the Global South. I am interested in using forms of assemblage theory and Yuk Hui’s Cosmotechnics project to understand how technology might be constituted in more sustainable, harmonic and socially beneficial ways.

Paul Dolan

The environmental impact of virtual culture –I am interested in the operational and physical impact of computer simulations and digital media on the physical environment. How can media materialist approaches impact public understanding of ‘the cost of digital production’? What areas of digital production are not seen?

The ontology of computer simulations – I use the term computer simulations to mean animation, videogames and VFX processes across commercial and artistic contexts. I am interested in the ontological form and behaviour of computer simulations – what they are, how they work, and what impact they have on contemporary life. This is informed by theories of ontogenesis and theories of becoming in Giles Delueze and Gilbert Simondon.

How digitally produced time impacts our lives – I am interested in how time is constructed in real-time computer simulations. My research challenges the simplicity of the term ‘real-time’ and offers an Assemblage Theory-based approach to understanding heterogenous temporalities that cut across human, non-human, physical and virtual domains. I am interested in Sarah Sharma’s term ‘power chronography’ and how temporal agency and structures impact our lives.

Cosmotechnical approaches to sustainable technologies

What might a cosmotechnics for the UK look like? What technological myths and cosmologies play into technology production and usage? How might we overcome the negative impacts of globalization to renegotiate locally constituted forms of technology? How can we challenge ubiquitous and dominant forms of technology?

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Crane Footing (2023) and Flue Tower (2023), Dolan, P. 10 May 2024
  • Lithic Orbit: Hyper Super X-Large… Boom! Group Exhibition at Post Territory, Ujeongguk, Seoul, Dolan, P. 19 Apr 2024
  • Thermal Properties: Soho Photography Quarter, The Photographer's Gallery, London, Dolan, P. 29 Jan 2024
  • Renewable Blue: group exhibition, Dolan, P. 17 Jul 2023
  • Tributary, Davoll, J., Dolan, P., Howson, P. 8 May 2023
  • Recalcitrant Temporalities: Heterogenous Time and the Simulated Image, Dolan, P. 1 Mar 2020, Machinic Assemblages of Desire, Leuven, Leuven University Press
  • Expanded Animation, Convento Sao Pedro de Alcantara: 31st Society for Animation Studies, Dolan, P. 17 Jun 2019
  • From Silicon to Pixel: Exploring the material origins of the simulated image, Dolan, P. 18 Jun 2019, The 31st Conference of the Society for Animation Studies
  • In Silico: A practice-based exploration of computer simulations in art, Dolan, P. 1 Jun 2019
  • Spruce Pine, North Carolina (2018) - 8 minute HD video, Dolan, P. 1 Sep 2018

Alice Oldfield The (Re)Wilding of the In-terra-net Start Date: 07/05/2024

  • Arts (general) PhD July 04 2019
  • Teaching & Learning PGCE September 01 2004
  • Higher Education Academy Fellowship FHEA 2018

a sign in front of a crowd

Northumbria Open Days

Open Days are a great way for you to get a feel of the University, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the course(s) you are interested in.

Research at Northumbria

Research at Northumbria

Research is the life blood of a University and at Northumbria University we pride ourselves on research that makes a difference; research that has application and affects people's lives.

NU World

Explore NU World

Find out what life here is all about. From studying to socialising, term time to downtime, we’ve got it covered.

Latest News and Features

Eva Szewczyk grad and career success v2 180624   ES
Cally Taylor
Henry Kippin
a black and white x-ray image of painting of the baby Jesus in a crib
Honorary Graduate John Mark Williams
More news

Back to top