Immersive & Inclusive

Research Student: Leslie Gaston-Bird
Supervisor: Dr Enzo De Sena
Supervisor: Dr Russell Mason

Start date: 2020
End date: 2023

Project Outline

Diversity and inclusion initiatives for underrepresented groups in music technology and audio engineering have recently received increasing attention as organizations strive to improve the balance of participation; however, participation remains low. Further, actual participation rates are not clear for the field of immersive audio. Therefore, this study seeks to discover current data regarding the numbers of underrepresented groups in this field (RQ1). Initial research has shown fewer than 10% of participants are from underrepresented groups.

The reasons for this lack of representation were investigated to determine barriers to entry that exist in the industry (RQ2). Research uncovers barriers such as microaggressions, discrimination, and unequal access to training. Further, interested women and minorities who express interest in STEM, music technology, and audio leave earlier and at higher rates than their white male counterparts due to these barriers. This has been described as a “leaky pipeline”.

Potential remedies to remove or reduce these barriers were investigated (RQ3) by looking at training programmes in STEM. Such programmes have proven successful in mitigating barriers by providing role models, networking, mentoring, and training in safe, affordable spaces.

This report hypothesizes that a programme similar to those studied will have value in addressing representation of women and minorities in immersive audio. A qualitative study based in grounded theory is proposed to determine the degree to which removing one or more barriers impacts the experiences of these groups by way of workshops in immersive audio (RQ4).

A preliminary survey and interviews conducted after workshops for Women’s Audio Mission provided insight into how this impact can be measured and articulated. The results will inform the design of subsequent workshops and interviews. Thematic analysis will be used to discover the barriers experienced by participants and how the training programmes have helped to minimise these, which will in turn help to answer RQ4.