Marianne R. Petit and Anjali Vats will share their experience and expertise

An artist-educator whose work blends technology and traditional storytelling and a race, law and popular culture expert have joined the School of Digital Arts (SODA) as visiting scholars.

The appointment of Marianne R. Petit and Anjali Vats further enhances SODA’s strengths in understanding the future of creative digital storytelling and the social and legal issues that arise from the widespread adoption of new technology.

They are the latest visiting academic appointments at SODA, joining Oscar-winning animator Michael Dudok de Wit and celebrated musician and filmmaker Barry Adamson who joined earlier this year.

Petit and Vats will enhance the new School’s research and knowledge exchange activities and could play a part in SODA’s innovative new co-labs teaching approach, bringing together students, teaching staff and industry and sector experts on live projects.

Professor Toby Heys, Head of SODA, said: “I am delighted to welcome Marianne and Anjali as SODA’s new visiting scholars. Their depth of international experience and expertise in digital arts, technology and society will be invaluable in enriching our understanding of the future of technology and creative digital storytelling. I look forward to working closely with them to shape our teaching, research and industry and academic engagement as we get closer to opening our doors in September.”


Currently Associate Arts Professor at New York University, Petit is an artist and educator whose interests are in combining technology, traditional book arts, and sequential storytelling to create new forms of narrative for the 21st century.

Her art explores fairy tales, anatomical obsessions, graphic and narrative medicine, as well as collective storytelling practices through mechanical books that combine animation and paper craft.

She has exhibited internationally, been featured in publications such as Hyperallergic, Make, and Wired, and broadcast on IFC and PBS. Her movable books can be found in numerous museum and library collections.

She said: “I am so pleased to join the wonderful faculty and staff of SODA in this exciting new venture! I look forward to exploring together the role of the arts, storytelling, and healing during these complex times.”


Vats is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law with a secondary appointment in the Communication Department at the University of Pittsburgh.

Her work explores issues related to race, law, rhetoric, media studies, and popular culture, with particular focus on intellectual property. Her book The Color of Creatorship: Intellectual Property, Race and the Making of Americans examines the relationship between copyright, patent, and trademark law, race, and national identity formation.

From 2014 to 2021, Vats was Associate Professor of Communication and African and African Diaspora Studies at Boston College and Associate Professor of Law at Boston College Law School, where she taught Critical Race Theory and studied questions of Critical Race Intellectual Property.

Before becoming a professor, Vats served as law clerk to the now retired Chief Justice A. William Maupin of the Supreme Court of Nevada.

She said: “I’m thrilled to be joining the faculty and students at SODA to collaborate on projects in the digital arts and develop a project on Prince and intellectual property rights. Manchester strikes me as the perfect place to do both!”

7 July 2021