Research beyond borders


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Multinational and multicultural collaboration

Professor Jon Rogers, Chair of Creative Technology of the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art at the University of Dundee contributes this short blog post about his motivations for working collaboratively and internationally ahead of UnBox 2014.

unbox_nightlifeResearch in The Arts is in an incredibly interesting place. A place that confidently owns its research processes through, and by, practice in a multinational and multicultural world.  Internally we are challenging notions of scholarship to include research knowledge embedded within artefacts, paintings, films,  photographs and performances.  We are able to look beyond the formal traditions of paper-based scholarship in a way that acts as a beacon from the future of what it means to be an academic. In early February a Guardian article argued that were Peter Higgs (#nobelprize  #godparticle)  to attempt to repeat his speculative research in todays ‘publish or perish’ environment then he simply wouldn’t have been able to.  This may very well be true for our colleagues in physics, but I for one was proud to have submitted two object-based REF returns. One, an exhibition that included a life-size laser-etched statue of a urban-grime rapper from Preston; the other an experimental newspaper that physically connected people to the internet through capacitive touch. 

It was during London Design Festival, where my two REF returns were taking shape in the embodiment of knowledge through practice, that Justin Marshal (Falmouth University) and I met with a visiting group of designers and cultural leaders from India who were on a British Council funded exploration of UK design.  Babitha George, from the creative agency Quicksand and Aanchal Sodhani were two of the members of the group who were looking for people to connect with for the Unbox Festival in 2013.

I’d met Justin at the exhibition at 100% and I had loved the Bespoke project and we’d definitely would be interested in supporting something in India. If the dates for NID could be worked out in a way that you can coincide it with UNBOX, it would be great to have Jon here and discuss plans. Keep us informed!” 

unbox_viewpointAnd who wouldn’t want to work with people who send such inviting emails!   What followed was a wonderful inspiring week-long project based on the Bespoke Project, where Justin and I, along with two Bespoke colleagues Paul Egglestone and David Frohlich, delivered a series of workshops connecting Insight Journalism to social design challenges in Delhi. And what a festival. The blurring of local and global practices, with academic and industry approaches, was refreshing, inspiring and intellectually robust. Talks by John Thackara were mingled with workshops on the future of the museum; craft workshops with branding by smell; classical Indian music with German techno.  I’ve not been treated so well as a participant on every possible scale of measuring an event. I left inspired and with a refreshed belief that the very best research takes place outwith our cherished publications.   It is with delight that I have been invited back as a mentor for this year’s Unbox Festival Labs – a two week event that hopes to:

 “…catalyze cross-disciplinary projects built on collaborations and dialogue, through an immersive, hands-on lab experience over 10 days, around the broad theme of ‘Future Cities’.

unbox_stageThe Lab is being hosted by the world-renowned National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad where I am currently running a research workshop on physical data India. While here I’m  scoping people and places that our Lab participants might connect to when they arrive on Monday.

And don’t worry if you’ve missed out on the Unbox Lab Fellowships, Unbox Festival will be returning in October 2014 and let’s chat over a chai and see what the future looks like for UK research connecting with the very best of India.