The DCRC runs five broad research themes: Pervasive Media, Play, Participatory Media, the Attention Economy and Connected Communities. Our research agenda will evolve over time in response to new questions and new funding opportunities.
Pervasive Media is a research field at the junction of media production, pervasive computing and design. Sensors, databases and live data streams are being built into the fabric of urban space affording newly reflexive relationships between citizens and their environment. Culture can be spatialised in new ways where stories and images are made available on the move. Digital content can be tagged to physical place for advertising, education and entertainment. The explosion of the apps market has made these new forms suddenly available as well as economically viable. Social networking and gaming can make the ‘virtual’ city a stage for play and performance. In this environment Media producers increasingly find themselves cast as ‘experience designers.’
Play, the UWE Play Research Group ran the first academic conference on computer games in the UK (2001). It now focuses on the cultural significance of play and games in the context of digital technicity. Games research at UWE is internationally recognized and members of the Play Research Group have published core texts within the emerging field of ‘games studies’.
Participatory media are the new forms of social media production, which are central to the idea of ‘Web 2.0’ The continued expansion of the internet beyond the desktop offers participants possibilities to interact with media that are refashioning the whole enterprise of cultural production. The influence of the blogosphere, the mobility of citizen journalists, the expansion of peer-to-peer media distribution, and the continuing escalation of diverse forms of video and photo sharing have all shaken the foundations of the mass media industries. The development of the idea of ‘User Generated Content’ (UGC) in the first ten years of the 21st Century demands serious critical attention.
The Attention Economy is the social and technical milieu in which those who live in industrial democracies spend much of their lives. If an economy is the mode by which a given society commodifies scarce resources, then the ‘attention economy’ situates human attention as a scarce commodity. Through an ever-burgeoning technical apparatus of surveying, data mining and internet search-tailoring the attention of individual minds is estimated, costed, marketed, bought and sold. The ‘attention economy’ is enabled by the new technologies of search that produce metrics for all user behaviours. The dominance of this mode of conceiving and calculating attention, above all that of the young, can be seen to be bearing fruit in many national, regional and global phenomena. The traditional values of the public sphere are unmistakably reshaped though these processes.
Paying Attention - a European Science Foundation conference convened by the DCRC
Connected Communities are addressed by the DCRC through two projects running under the AHRC’s Connected Communities scheme, and several more in development. The Connected Communities theme offers DCRC the opportunity to focus its broad areas of research in the context of social value. We are interested in the idea of ‘Creative citizenship’ understood as everyday civic engagement and participation using creative resources, forms and talent. Our Keeping in Touch project in partnership with Knowle West Media Centre asks what can we learn about people’s everyday use of mobile media and communication technologies that would support the aim of strengthening communities? Our Measuring Value Networks project with partners Watershed Media Centre aims to produce the first iteration of a multi-criteria method which other cultural organisations could use to assess the value of their work. This research will illustrate the operation of value networks and show how they strengthen and develop the communities within which they operate.