Digital innovators discuss new research partnerships

20 September 2013

More than 50 academics and digital arts practitioners gathered at a special event at the University of Sheffield yesterday to identify new research collaborations.

'Digital North' was the second workshop in the 'New Thinking from the North' programme to explore the potential for collaboration between the N8 Universities and external partners in the arts and humanities industries.

The aim of the event was to identify areas where new research partnerships focussed on the digital arts could be formed, and how they could contribute to creating and sustaining culture, identity, community and growth in the North.

Discussions at the event covered subjects such as 'Computers and Music' and 'Digital Inclusion', and delegates heard from speakers from a variety of backgrounds, both academic and industry. The keynote address was given by Gregory Sporton, Professor of Digital Cultures and Creativity at the University of Greenwich. A former Director of the Visualisation Research Unit at Birmingham City University, Professor Sporton was also a professional dancer before moving into digital arts research.

Professor Andrew Linn, Director of Research and Innovation, Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Sheffield, said:

"Digital arts and humanities have become a defining feature of work both within and outside of academia and there are many successful digital projects which use research in creative ways. For example research in motion capture for the performing arts is now supporting nurses in the NHS to work on postural problems, and research has created 3D user experiences of key archaeological sites and reconstructed experiences of immigration in the 19th century.

"The workshop yesterday looked at the potential for new and innovative digital arts research collaborations, as well as some of the issues surrounding how such partnerships should be formed, and although the event was exploratory in terms of what we're trying to achieve we had some very lively and promising discussions."

Bob Pinfold, Creative Director at Manchester-based design agency, Mickey & Mallory, was one of the panellists at the event. He commented:

"The event was a great opportunity to get an insight to how academics interact and develop ideas and also what they think of the current applications for digital technology. There was some really interesting discussion about creativity and technology – and how the potential that these offer often needs to be balanced with the commercial reality.

"It was also really encouraging that there was a real focus on trying to get the beginnings of projects underway and there were some real outcomes in terms of ideas that could have the potential to be taken forward."

The 'New Thinking from the North' programme is supported jointly by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the N8 university partners. The Digital North event yesterday follows a successful Heritage North event in Durham in July. Other events planned as part of the 'New Thinking from the North' project are:

  • Sustainable North – looking at how the economic, social and environmental development of the North are connected and how they can be made sustainable and resilient (Manchester, 30 October), and
  • Imaginative North – looking at how the imagination is being used to influence social and cultural development in the North (Lancaster, 21 November).

Group discussion taking place at the Digital North event.

Gregory Sporton, Professor of Digital Culture and Creativity, University of Greenwich, delivering the keynote provocation.

Read more about the New Thinking from the North programme here.

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