Dr. Hannah Drayson

Dr. Hannah Drayson [BA (Hons), MSc, Ph.D]
Co-convenor Transtechnology Research
Lecturer in Digital Art and Technology/Immersive Media Design at the University of Plymouth

mail : hannah.drayson [at…] plymouth.ac.uk

Associate Editor Leonardo Reviews

Personal site.

I am an intermedia artist and researcher based in the School of Art and Media at Plymouth University. I co-convene the Transtechnology Research group, supervise Doctoral Students within Transtechnology Research and as part of the Marie Curie funded CogNovo ITN.

My current research is informed by a combination of transdisciplinary theoretical and practice-based research focusing on the theme of the imagination, materiality and the body. My work is particularly focussed on the techniques that are used to mobilise or support the imagination to productive effects, in particularly in therapeutic and medical settings, but also in  the contemporary arts. In addition to reflecting on the methodological concerns and affordances of working with the imagination as a medium, I am currently pursuing a number of research themes around this concept, in particular concepts in philosophy and turn-of-the-century psychology such as ideo-plasticity and the material imagination.

Building on previous work creating instruction-based sound works and audio-visual performance, my current practice involves the exploration of tools such as hypnosis, suggestion and visualisation for the production of imagined experiences. I am currently in the process of building a practice exploring the use of hypnosis as an artistic medium (see Pascal Rousseau’s 2012 essay Under the Influence for an excellent discussion of hypnosis as a medium) and training as a professional hypnotherapist (partly for legal and ethical reasons but also in order to more fully explore the relationships between aesthetic experience and health). I’m particularly interested in understanding in how different technologies are used (intentionally or not) to support or stimulate their user’s imagination: placebo treatments, lie detector tests, visualisations, images, and through that influence the anatomy, physiology or experience of embodiment.

Selected Publications

Drayson, H., “Design(ing) and the placebo effect; a productive idea”. Design Issues. MIT Press. [Paper accepted and in press]


While it has offered an apparent problem for orthodox biomedicine, the idea of the placebo effect is compatible with models of perception and embodiment that inform design theory. It is also, to an extent, occult within a number of design practices that contribute to or are associated with medicine. As a concept, the placebo effect offers an example of how the discourses of medical science shape expectations for engagement with the products of design and also invokes affordances that mediate the affective and somatic potential of cultural products.

Drayson, H., (2017) “Debunking the Self; Jastrow, Münsterberg and the Automatograph”. in A hundred Years of Film Theory. Münsterberg and Beyond: Concepts, Applications, Perspectives, [In press.

Drayson, H, 2013, The Rhetoric of Instrumentation: Objectivity, Instrumental Rationality and Affect. Transtechnology Research Reader 2012/13; Deep History, Contingency and the Sublime. [PDF available here]

Drayson, H, 2013, “When Biometrics Fail: Gender, Race, and the Technology of Identity by Shoshana Amielle Magnet.” Leonardo, Vol. 46, No. 2 (2013), pp. 187-189

Drayson, H., 2012 “Players Unleashed! Modding The Sims and the Culture of Gaming by Tanja Sihvonen.” Leonardo : 491-493.

Drayson, H., 2012, Keynote presentation, International Symposium of Innovation in Interactive Media. Hosted by Media Lab/UFG, Goiânia, Brazil.

Drayson, H., 2011. “‘Imagine Being Slapped’, Physiological Instrumentation, Ontology, and the Placebo Effect”. Transtechnology Research Reader 2011-12. [PDF available here]

Drayson, H., 2011. Gestalt Biometrics, Instrumentation, Objectivity and Poetics. Ph. D. University of Plymouth, [Available at; http://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk:8080/pearl_xmlui/bitstream/handle/10026.1/866/Drayson%20H%20E_2011.pdf?sequence=4]

Drayson, H. 2010. “C.T. Suite by Barry Saunders.” Leonardo Digital Reviews, http://www.leonardo.info/reviews/feb2010/drayson_saunders.php

Drayson, H. 2009. “Constructed Bodies; can biomedical instruments become tools of self-perception?” in New Realities, Being Syncretic, 2009, Ascott et al. (eds), Springer: Wein/New York.

Tahiroglu, K., Drayson, H., and Erkut, C., (2008) “An Interactive Bio-Music Improvisation System”. Presented at ICMC 2008 (International Computer Music Conference) Belfast, Ireland.

Selected Performances

2008 – ‘The Control Group’ Greg Corcoran, Hannah Drayson, Miguel Ortiz Perez.

Club NIME 2008 (New Instruments for Musical Expression), Genova, Italy.

2010 – Shokku A/V. Live improvised performance using processing in collaboration with sound designer Ben Hudson. British Film Institute London (August 2010).

2010 – Shokku A/V. Live improvised performance using processing in collaboration with sound designer Ben Hudson. BFI Stage at Big Chill Festival (2010).

May 2012, FAQ festival, Holland- http://www.faqfestival.nl/concerts.html
Shokku A/V. Live visual performance using Processing, real-time coding and FFT analysis in collaboration with electronic music duo Baconhead.

Past Funded Projects

Gestalt Biometrics and their Applications; Instrumentation, Objectivity and Poetics

Funded by the European Science Research Council (EPSRC).

Gestalt Biometrics combined transdisciplinary literature reviews with a computer science and engineering design approach, informed by perspectives from both arts and humanities and computer science. The research focus was upon biofeedback technologies, a group of sensors and methodologies which include a range of physiological instruments and the problem of holism and experimentation.

The intention of the project is to elucidate a critical and practice based response to the paradigms which surround contemporary sensing technologies as they are applied to the body. Rather than approach these instruments at face value, as objective devices, the project surveyed disciplines such as philosophy, science and technology studies, health psychology, parapsychophysiology and medical anthropology to look for alternative models of the human body that might be compatible with these technologies.

This project drew upon a combination of theoretical and practice-based research into the relationship between scientific instrumentation and the human body.  Drawing on a range of literature from medicine and the medical humanities, anthropology, history, philosophy of science and technology the thesis contributed a practice-led and theoretically engaged account of human body sensing which argued that practice of human body sensing might be recalibrated, re-imagined and validated as a practice that is not inherently and specifically understood as one of objectively revealing, but as productive, active and poetic.