Christopher Williams – Making a Web-based Thesis in Artistic Research

christopher holding bass above his head on bridge

How and Why to Make a Web-based Thesis in Artistic Research: field notes from Tactile Paths

See here for a video of the talk, and here for an expanded version of the abstract with links to relevant resources. 

This presentation unpacks the problems and possibilities of publishing a practice-based thesis in the arts as a native website. It builds on my own experience as an author of “Tactile Paths: on and through notation or improvisers” (, a PhD dissertation accepted by Leiden University in 2016, among other web-based publications.

“Native” web publications refer to texts that are written for digital media, rather than to those built for print media and later posted (e.g. as PDFs) on the web. In the context of artistic research, web publishing offers many advantages over print:

  • easy integration of nonverbal media
  • interactive functionality
  • access to increased readership, especially in the art world beyond academia

“While digital dissertations have been around for twenty years or more” digital rhetoric scholar Virgina Kuhn notes in her forthcoming anthology on digital dissertations in the humanities, “the precise processes by which they are defined, created and defended remain something of a mystery.” This presentation thus aims to offer some practical thoughts and reflections to help remedy this situation.

During this session, we will:

  • trace my own motivation, trials, and errors in the construction of Tactile Paths
  • consider how writing for the web can shape and enrich the research process itself
  • briefly compare different web platforms that can be used to build a dissertation website, such as the Research Catalogue, Vega, WordPress, and Hugo.


Christopher A. Williams (1981, San Diego) is a wayfarer on the body-mind continuum. His medium is music. PhD, Leiden Univesity; BA, University of California, San Diego. As a composer and contrabassist, Williams’s work runs the gamut from chamber music, improvisation, and radio art to collaborations with dancers, sound artists, and visual artists. Williams’ artistic research on improvisation, notation, and his body-mind continuum takes the form of both conventional academic publications and practice-based multimedia projects. He also curates the Berlin concert series KONTRAKLANG and works with immersive sound experience makers Charles Morrow Productions.

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