Towards Pervasive Media

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: School of Computer Science


The integration of the Internet with social computing and now with mobile and ubiquitous computing is transforming our creative industries, from games to journalism, driving the emergence of new forms of converged pervasive media in which the public contributes as well as consumes content, are available 'anytime and anywhere', and are ever more deeply interwoven into our daily lives. However, reaping the potential benefits of pervasive media for our economy and society requires a fundamental shift in our understanding of how such media are designed, produced and experienced; something that is not currently available within the disciplines of Computer Science and Engineering whose focus is primarily on the underlying technologies. This understanding can however, be found in the Arts and Humanities which for many years have been developing theories and methods relevant to the study of the established media of text, drama, film and television alongside deep understandings of the human experience of place, history and identity that can inform future pervasive media experiences. In short, there is a rich vein of research right across the Arts and Humanities that might fundamentally transform our approach to designing and studying pervasive media in Science and Engineering if only we could bridge the gap between these disciplines. Building upon initial networking within Nottingham's newly formed Pervasive Media Group, we wish to undertake a series of activities to help establish a new cross-disciplinary community of researchers from across Computer Science, Engineering and the Arts and Humanities who can collectively address the challenges of the new pervasive media from very different, but complementary, perspectives. Initial activities (troubadour studies, artist residencies and makefests) serve to catalyse new collaborations and facilitate early ideas generation, while subsequent activities (feasibility projects) will explore the feasibility of emerging ideas and produce proposals for future full-scale funding. We will disseminate the results of the feasibility studies to potential academic and industry partners through a final showcase event and also gather and communicate our reflections on this new style of cross-disciplinary working though a 'crossing cultures' workshop.

Planned Impact

As a feasibility account, our primary aim is to seed future research projects. Consequently, much of our impact will be felt over the next ten to fifteen years as a series of full-scale research projects deliver their results. However, it will also be possible to see some more immediate impact through the formation of new interdisciplinary collaborations, the delivery of a portfolio of proposals, and preliminary results to emerge from feasibility studies. In terms of Economic Impact, The Creative Industries, spanning film, broadcast, architecture, heritage, the arts, games and others, is a vibrant and increasingly important sector of the UK economy. The Government's recent Digital Britain report notes that the creative industries contributes 6.4% GVA to the UK economy, grew at a rate of 4% between 1997 and 2006 (compared to 3% for the rest of the economy), and is estimated to employ 1.98 million people (6.78% of the working population). Internationally, the UK is a leading player in the Creative Industries which delivered 16 billion of exports in 2006 (4.3% of all goods and services), contributing a greater proportion of GDP than for any other nation. Our proposal addresses key sectors within the creative industries including: tourism, heritage and visiting; broadcasting, film and online media; games; journalism; and the arts. We will use the results of feasibility studies to engage commercial partners in new collaborative proposals. We will work with TSB's Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network (CITIN) and Nottinham's Horizon Digital Economy Hub (also focused on the creative industries) to engage partners. Each feasibility project will identify industrial partners who will be invited to a final showcase showcase. Resulting proposals will target TSB and European schemes as well as RCUK programmes. The themes addressed by this proposal are of great relevance to the cultural as well as economic life of the UK as they have the potential to inspire new cultural applications in a diverse range of sectors from the performing arts to more mainstream entertainment. Ultimately, the understandings and techniques that emerge from future projects will enhance our experiences as consumers of new cultural experiences, but also as creative producers or 'prosumers'. Our team has a proven track record of working with artists to create, tour and study public installations and performances that serve to engage the public in new cultural experiences and also communicate our research results. Since 1997 we have co-produced over 20 public art works that have toured world-wide to be experienced by hundreds of thousands of people and that have won international prizes in recognition of their cultural impact. Our artist residencies will lead to new public projects that are commissioned by galleries and festivals ultimately leading to mass-scale installations and/or touring events. Video and other documentation of feasibility projects will be made available through the project website so as to communicate new ideas.


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Description Towards Pervasive Media supported for feasibility projects that led to further projects, performances and the development of technology platforms.

Towards Pervasive Media Outputs

Four feasibility studies were awarded by the Towards Pervasive Media project:

1: Urban Mediator - 'Anywhere 2'
Dr Jonathan Hale, Department of Architecture and Built Environment
Dr Gary Priestnall, School of Geography
Dr Nick Baron, School of History
Theresa Caruana, artist and Visiting Fellow, School of Computer Science
Lawrence Bradby, artist and writer

This project involved the development and testing of the mobile application 'Anywhere 2' by creating a number of thematic urban experiences or 'artists walk'. Taking the city of Nottingham as a base the experience invites the participants to consider 'urban unconscious' - creating a dialogue on the nature and significance of place, ideas of history, memory and experience as embodied in the built fabric of the city, along with the underlying processes at work in shaping and reshaping the urban scene. One of the most developed of the tours was Neglected Domains, by Richard Woods, featured in the Urban Mediator video clip. Anywehere has subsequently been developed into a generic platform for creative mobile tours that is now bing adopted by cultural partners.

2: Moving Experience: experiential narrative and locative media

Rik Lander, Artist
Dr Liz Evans, Culture, Film and Media
Dr Sarah Hibberd, Department of Music
Dr Nanette Nielsen, Department of Music
Robert Jones, Horizon DTC
Patrick Brundell, Horizon DTC
Dr Jo Robinson, School of English
Dr Jim Moran, School of English
Dr Cathy Johnson, Culture, Film and Media

This project explored how audiences engage with narrative forms across a range of spaces and technologies. It brings together filmmaker Rik Lander ( with academics from a variety of disciplines including film and television studies, music, performance studies, social science and computer science in order to create a pervasive drama experience that incorporates film, theatre, audioplays, music and opera in a public space. In doing so it raises the potential of 'experiential drama' in which the audience is placed directly into a narrative in ways unseen in more traditional entertainment and art forms. Towards Pervasive Media enabled the team to stage a first prototype performance of the performance called The Memory Dealer.

3: Hidden Histories

Dr Michael Craven, MATCH
Dr Liz FitzGerald, LSRI
Dr Claire Taylor, School of History
A feasibility study towards a longer-term three-way collaboration between scientists with an interest in mobile media and informal learning opportunities and both professional and community-based historians interested in enhancing public understanding of selected aspects of the history of the city. 'Hidden Histories' is concerned with enhancing historical literacy, historical 'empathy', and the user's ability to draw informed conclusions about contested historical subject matter. Specifically, the project links mobile devices providing an audio track with historical subject matter, the famous 1830 'Reform Riots' in Nottingham, around which a community history group, 'People's Histreh' is designing a guided 'history walk'.

4: Soultracking; how might artistic visualisation be used to understand physical & emotional displacement?

Dr Jeremy Morley, Centre for Geospatial Science
Professor Svenja Adolphs, School of English Studies
Dr Gordon Ramsay, School of English Studies
Dan Belasco Rogers
A collaboration between artistic motivation and research into text analysis to derive information about mood, and its association with personal position and displacement. The artistic motivation is built on the phrase that "the soul travels at walking pace" and hence that, in our fastpaced life, a sense of displacement is generated because our soul is forever catching up. The feasibility work carried out in this project led to the development of a subsequent artwork with support from Nottingham's Broadway Media Centre.
Exploitation Route The development of software platforms such as Wander Anywhere and of artworks such as SoulTracker and Memory Dealer as described above.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description This award established the groundwork for a series of collaborations with museums, galleries and media companies including BBC (visiting fellowship and iCASE studentship), Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham Castle and Southwell Workhouse and also as part of three European funded collaborative projects - CHESS, MAGELLAN and GIFT.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

Description HORIZON Digital Economy Research
Amount £12,584,584 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/G065802/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2009 
End 09/2015
Description MAGELLAN
Amount £400,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 611526 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 09/2013 
End 09/2017