Updated: 06 Jan 2012

Scientists, Artists and Businesses Support De Montfort University's New Institute to Pioneer Technological Collaboration in the Creative Industries

20th September 2006

Internet guru Howard Rheingold will speak at the launch a new institute to pioneer a unique model of collaborative research in creative technologies at De Montfort University (DMU) Leicester later this month.

The Institute of Creative Technologies (IOCT) at DMU, headed by Professor Andrew Hugill, will act as a catalyst for research that defies the traditional boundaries of computer science, the digital arts and humanities, and is already exciting the interest of the business world.

The Institute's work will benefit the creative industries - one of the most important sectors in the UK and the East Midlands' economy - and it has attracted the support of Microsoft, the Leicester-based MD of ideas company Sleepy Dog, Toby Moores, renowned computer scientist Steve Grand OBE, of Cyberlife Research Ltd, and the East Midlands Development Agency (emda), as well as award-winning authors and artists.

It will develop research projects, showcase work, present lectures and seminars, and open for visitor days. Guests will be greeted by cutting-edge technology including acoustic installations, ground-breaking holography, and roaming colonies of robot creatures, including ants and dogs.

Jerry Fishenden, Microsoft's National Technology Officer, says the IOCT will undertake some of the most exciting work he's aware of in the UK.

"In the IOCT we have a potential blueprint for the next generation of R&D - and, I hope, the birth of a whole new generation of creative industries and outcomes for the UK and beyond," said Mr Fishenden.

"I find the arts/science divide both pointless and an artifice. It's refreshing to see this new Institute of Creative Technologies breaking down these artificial schisms and setting out an innovative plan to create breakthroughs in a whole host of areas by bringing together disciplines in new and exciting ways," he added.

The IOCT is being championed by Rheingold for this innovative cross-disciplinary approach; sharing expertise and ideas to extend creative technology research beyond the limitations of usually very separate fields.

At the launch on 20 September, Rheingold who will be a Visiting Professor at the IOCT, will give a keynote address on "Cooperation and the Revival of the Commons", calling for a new landscape of inter-disciplinary cooperation to facilitate innovation.

Rheingold said: "Now that commons-based resources such as the Internet, the human genome, scientific knowledge, and the electromagnetic spectrum are threatened by enclosure, the way land-based commons were enclosed centuries ago, it is important to understand the interdisciplinary foundations of cooperative behaviour that enable people to act in their self-interest and at the same time create a resource that enriches everyone - such as the World Wide Web, Wikipedia, or open-source software."

Rheingold will highlight the IOCT's remit for collaborative research which will build on the University's existing research excellence celebrated in the DMU 2006 Research Report which will be launched the same day.

DMU won the accolade of top post 1992 university for research in the most recent RAE. The 2006 Research Report will highlight a wide variety of projects including one on the rise of transliteracy amongst users of common technological resources as praised by Rheingold.

The Writing, Transliteracy and Production research project, headed by DMU's cyberspace researcher Professor Sue Thomas, explores software tools and new opportunities to enable interaction across diverse formats and disciplines as a catalyst for innovative and creative collaborations in a multiplicity of fields from arts to engineering.

Another of the collaborative projects highlighted in DMU's 2006 Research Report explored the intersection of art and science with contemporary sculpture by renowned artist Annie Cattrell using rapid prototyping from MRI images. This combined the artist's skills with DMU's expertise in latest prototyping technology within the Computing Sciences and Engineering Faculty and was assisted by Walsgrave Hospital NHS Trust, Coventry.


Pro Vice-Chancellor Jeff Knight, who will give a keynote speech about the 2006 Research Report, at the launch, said:

"The report reflects on the high level of research in each of the University's faculties and on some world class research groups. We are very pleased to bring knowledge of our research and its spin out projects in to the wider community."

IOCT research projects will include: an internet orchestra; the world's first cylindrical projection hologram animation which will be used as an interactive experience for hospice residents; an animatron, an artificial creature for exploring the role of artificial intelligence in modelling human emotions and expressions and interaction with people in its vicinity; a high-speed research network linking the institute to other universities.

IOCT Director, Professor Andrew Hugill, said: "The IOCT will host and support a wide range of exciting collaborative projects, putting the University at the forefront of research and ideas within the creative industries sector which is possibly one of the biggest growth sectors for the UK economy.

"The East Midlands region in particular has a reputation for leading in the creative industries and the IOCT embodies the very best in innovative thinking in this sector, bringing together the brightest minds from the disciplines of Humanities, e-Science and the Digital Arts to collaborate at the intersection of these disciplines."

Also named Visiting Professor at the IOCT is Toby Moores, the MD of ideas company Sleepy Dog which dreamed up one of the most successful games in the world; the PS2 game "Buzz" published by Sony.

Toby Moores, who will be present at the launch, said: "The UK is one of the most creative nations on earth, DMU is one of the best universities for research in this field, and the IOCT is unique in pulling all the creative people together and putting them in a hot house. This adds up to a clear and visible difference.

"This cross-subject umbrella effect created by the IOCT is going to remove the cap on creativity. It changes the rules. The IOCT is going to be one of the most exciting places in the UK to work over the next five years," he added.

Chris Ward-Brown, Sector Innovation Manager for emda said: "The new Regional Economic Strategy, co-ordinated by emda and published in July, highlights the wider role of creative industries and the need to enhance business productivity by drawing on the region's world class creative capabilities. The IOCT will help to achieve this aim by pioneering new developments and opportunities in the sector."

Steve Grand, who will be a Visiting Research Fellow at the IOCT, is a computer scientist whose work in artificial life simulation earned him an OBE and the accolade of one of the 18 brains behind the 20th century, according to the Sunday Times. His latest project is the building of an artificial robot baby orang-utan which he hopes will learn in the same way as a baby human.

Grand, who will attend the launch, said: "One of the intellectual prerequisites for creating the future is a dialectic between the Arts and Sciences, and the IOCT promises to be one of the melting pots in which that fusion will take place."

Canadian digital author and artist Chris Joseph, aka Babel, has been appointed Writer in Residence at the IOCT. Chris works with author and Reader in Creative Writing and New Media at DMU, Kate Pullinger, on the groundbreaking multimedia interactive novel Inanimate Alice which had its world premier of the third episode at the 2006 Edinburgh Festival. Kate is also currently writing for the IOCT's outdoor LED message screen.

Crucial to the collaborative essence of the IOCT's work, is the fusion of ideas between its Director, Professor Andrew Hugill, and Associate Fellow, writer Sue Thomas, DMU's Professor of New Media who has an international reputation for her work in online creative communities and the culture of cyberspace. Professor Thomas also founded the trAce online writing centre and NLab, the narrative laboratory for the creative industries.

The institute will be involved in new approaches to online interaction and online education, such as 'Web 2.0' - a new way of using the internet where website content is contributed to by a site's visitors rather than a single author.


Notes for Editors

Attendance at the launch is by invitation only but for further information, images, or to arrange an interview, please contact De Montfort University Press & PR Office on 0116 257 7021.

For further information or to be kept informed about IOCT activities, please contact:
The Director, Institute of Creative Technologies,
De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH
Tel: (+44) 0116 250 6146
Email: eedmonds [at] dmu.ac.uk

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