The Bridge: A Creative Lab For Physical-Meta Production

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Fac of Arts Creative Ind and Education



Strategic funding and technological innovation are driving world-changing advances in fabrication, robotics, AI, and creative technologies. This progress is opening opportunities for creative research to drive the adoption and application of these technologies for the UK's creative and cultural sector and beyond. However, truly disruptive, interdisciplinary research requires creative practitioners to access and assimilate knowledge and expertise of cutting-edge technologies.

We have identified an area of growing research capability at UWE in 'physical-meta production', unsupported by current infrastructure. Throughout educational and industrial structures there is a clear division between the technology enabling the creative industries and the artistic processes of content production. As technology rapidly shapes every facet of the creative economy, the necessary research that considers the aesthetic, cultural and ethical implications often lag. Sophisticated integration of object materiality and touch with virtually immersive environments holds great potential to explore a collision of both creative and digital approaches.

The Bridge, a new laboratory at UWE Bristol will unite arts, humanities, and technologies researchers within a unique, interdisciplinary 'collision space'. It will leverage academic, PGR and technician expertise, maximising resilience, resources, and synergies within UWE's creative and cultural sphere. The Bridge will strengthen this growing specialism at UWE in physical-meta production by (1) providing a space for interdisciplinary, practice-based, design-led creative research, (2) driving adoption of emerging technologies in the arts and humanities to stimulate novel forms of creative expression and production (3) break down technological barriers by providing digital skills support, training, and mentoring.

Creation of The Bridge will overcome the following shortcomings within UWE's creative research capacity:

1) Inhibitory research environments: UWE creative research infrastructure does not meet the needs of interdisciplinary research for physical-meta exploration. The refurbishment of 400sqm will provide a physically and technically enabled research space that facilitates seamless interactions.

2) Digital Technology Entry Barrier: Many Arts and Humanities (AH) researchers are deterred from using technology within research due to high entry barriers and lack of knowledge, reducing innovation opportunities. The Bridge's equipment will be set-up with user-friendly interfaces and a 1.0 FTE in-kind technician will provide and grow technology capacity.

3) Technician Dispersion: Crucial technician capacity remains within siloed within disparate research centre labs. The Bridge will provide a network space for technicians to collaborate on key research themes and technical expertise. Networking this knowledge base will enable interdisciplinary activities and innovative uses of equipment for new purposes.

4) Lack of Equipment and Dispersion: UWE currently lacks appropriate equipment co-location/workflow to enable physical-meta explorations. The Bridge will be equipped with new equipment, upgraded UWE equipment and items refurbished from industry, co-locating digital technologies and physical lab space.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and Sustainable principles and practices will be embedded from project initiation. An accessible and open interdisciplinary research environment will be built whilst simultaneously promoting circular and sustainable consumption. This will be achieved through our commitment to UWE's EDI charter and by sourcing at least 25% of equipment through refurbishment and repurposing existing equipment, respectively.

Ultimately, The Bridge will act as a beacon for the West of England and wider regions, seeking novel applications of technology to enhance AH research, whilst supporting the UK's creative and cultural economy.


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