Digital CoPs and Robbers: Communities of Practice and the Transformation of Research

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: History and Cultures


This project will examine what transformations in research occur as communities of practice (CoPs) from different spheres interact around digital content created from primary source material in the collection of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Through a series of observed workshops, the project will generate data which will show shifts in research attitudes, approaches, and methods. This data will be analysed by the CoPs concerned to promote self-reflection and to scope future research and projects.

Planned Impact

The proposed project will provide impact and evidence of this impact in a range of different ways. The scoping study will be of relevance to Research Councils by providing a case study on how research and knowledge can be transformed through digital media, and on the range of participants that need to be involved. The cross-institutional nature of the project, and the close participation of non-HEI cultural organisations and other groups, will mean that outcomes will impact on the working practices of these groups in the light of the research undertaken. All digital content generated by the project will be made available to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Royal Shakespeare Company for re-use within their own displays and collections. Furthermore, the project will establish a network which will provide a foundation for a larger project in the future which will generate content that will impact on end users of digital data.

The direct measurement of impact will be facilitated through the recording of data at each stage of the project. Prior to the workshops, each of the non-HEI partners will be interviewed about the nature of their own work and how where they see the potential and value of digital data, and they will produce a short document outlining their position for presentation at the first workshop. Evidence will be in the form of these short documents and the interviews will be recorded. Following the workshops, representatives of each of these groups will attend two further write-up meetings and will co-produce the scoping study report. At this point each of the non-HEI partners will be interviewed to explore how the process of being involved in the project has altered their understanding of the potential of collaborative engagement in understanding the transformation of research, knowledge and interpretation around digital data. This will provide evidence of impact for the project.

In summary, the impact of this project will be:
1. On working practices across the disciplines and across the sectors represented by the network, through understanding the operations and languages of each party, and through the understanding of current working practices and priorities. Hence the project will provide social impact by promoting the benefits of new ways of cross-sector and cross-disciplinary research collaboration
2. On future directions of research and policy through the generation of an evidence based scoping report outlining the results of the project in terms of how research and knowledge can be transformed through collaborative engagement with digital content by a broad community of practice
3. On the postgraduate research community through the engagement of students throughout the project
4. On non-HEI cultural institution partners through the provision of digital content and new ways of engaging with this content
5. On the generation of targeted larger projects in the future that will lead to appropriately generated digital content for the wider user-community


10 25 50
Description The project explored what differences digital technologies make to the research process by testing two 'transformations': the digitisation of artefacts, and the interaction of communities of practice (CoPs: groups of practitioners representing particular disciplines, sectors or areas of business, such as digital creatives).

The project found that the different perspectives of CoPs as users, producers, or 'produsers' affects the use of digital resources in arts and humanities research and learning, and recommended further research in this area. As transformers of material from physical artefacts to digital resources, CoPs fundamentally determine the research use of collections. Furthermore, it demonstrated that innovation occurs when users engage outside of their traditional areas of engagement.
Exploitation Route The findings are of value to those engaged in the digitisation of artefact collections, in addition to those making such material available (e.g. online or within virtual learning environments). The research indicates that the decision making around the process of digitisation impacts heavily on the ways that learning and research can occur through its products. The project was relatively small scale and so further research is required in this area. The research recommends collaborative, cross sector and cross disciplinary approaches to digital projects.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The project engaged with representatives from three sectors, including academics and students from a range of disciplines, the cultural sector (e.g. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Royal Shakespeare Company) and private sector businesses (e.g. Substrakt and We Are Caper). The work had an impact on participants and their own insititutions and fed strongly into further research projects. The results have also been presented at a range of conferences to a range of academic and non-academic audiences. The nature of the impact reflects working practices.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural