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Our CI Small Research Grant holders are…

We are delighted to announce the funding of five small research projects to support a wider Creative Informatics research community.

Responding to our recent call for applications, we have selected five exciting projects that highlight the breadth of the Creative Informatics programme, and also support the development of Early Career Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, and Edinburgh Napier University.

String Figures: Ailie Rutherford and Bettina Nissen

Dr. Holly Patrick, (The Business School, Napier University) will undertake ‘netnographic’ work to understand how freelance creatives are mobilising online communities in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Josh Hosking (Edinburgh College of Art) will pursue a more exploratory and technical project to create a new ‘grammar for gesture creation’. Victoria Evans (ECA) offers a practice-based research project to examine new modes of interactive online exhibition for collaboratively generated artwork. Dr. Bettina Nissen (ECA) will undertake a participatory project with artist Ailie Rutherford to explore the design of alternative value systems in creative communities, rooted in values of social justice and mutual care.

And last but by no means least, Dr. Ita Jansen (ECA) looks to the future of Independent Cinema as the sector responds to the Covid-19 pandemic, through digital production and alternative distribution strategies.

Abstracts for each of these projects are included below, but if you’d like to find out more, please join us at our ‘CI Researcher Show & Tell’ event on Tuesday the 19th of May.


CI Small Research Projects 2020

Creatives in Crisis: How freelance creatives mobilise online communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (Holly Patrick): Despite the economic importance of the UK’s creative industries, much of the work undertaken in the sector is characterised as low paid (e.g. Siebert and Wilson, 2013), insecure (e.g. Gill and Pratt, 2008), and sometimes even exploitative (Banks and Hesmondhalgh, 2009). The often individualised and freelance nature of creative work, and the power imbalance between these workers and those who purchase their labour or products led to falling wage rates and insecure employment across many creative occupations, even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. As a largely non-unionised group of workers, freelance creatives have often found it challenging to resist these power imbalances and achieve fairer pay for all.

This research will utilise a netnographic approach, supplemented by online video interviews, to consider how freelance creative workers are affected by the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic and explore how they are mobilising online communities to respond. By uncovering the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on these workers, this research will better enable the government, professional associations and the third sector (where relevant) to support freelance creatives, in addition to developing academic knowledge on how macro social events impact on labour relations in the creative industries. I welcome approaches from anyone who is interested participating in or hearing more about the research at h.patrick@napier.ac.uk .


Victoria Evans – Oscillations, 2019, credit Siyao Li

Oceanic Heterotopias (Victoria Evans): Oceanic Heterotopias is a practice-based research project, through which I will develop an online interface that allows users to interact with tidal information to create ambient music. Using a process of data sonification (the use of non-speech audio to perceptualise data), the interface will enable the creation of distinctive tidal ‘songs’ whose tones and rhythms correspond to the current tidal pattern of the audience member’s chosen location.


This artist-led, collaboratively generated artwork will form an ongoing, interactive audio-visual installation, capable of mapping the natural oscillations of the UK coastal environment in a poetic way through sound. It will also explore questions about what a collectively activated online art exhibition might be, especially in a time of social distancing.

Creating a grammar for gesture creation with limited sensors and computing power (Josh Hosking): Current schemes for gesture recognition are prohibitive for many uses either by cost, portability or the range of possible gestures. Solutions using cameras are very good at detecting a range of hand or movement based gestures. These however require a static camera and a high level of computation, both of which are expensive. Simpler options are heavily reliant on context. A Nintendo ‘Wiimote’ can be used for gestural inputs, however the relationship between the input to the remote and the in game output is dictated by the expected input to the game and so a gesture is more easily derived. A structured approach, drawing on transformational grammars for translating sensor data into recognised gestures, would facilitate users to create custom gestures using simple sensors with limited computing power.

The ability for user customisation and the development of novel gesture signatures provides new opportunities for HCI, particularly in the ability to exchange and disseminate gesture signatures and packages across existing platforms, allowing for collaborative creative output in art, design, music and in accessibility contexts. To open these possibilities, I propose to create a gesture grammar where several pieces of sensor data are used to recognise gesture signatures.

Mapping Digital Film Production and Distribution Strategies in Times of Covid-19 (Ita Jansen): Covid-19 has a severe impact on both the production and distribution of Cinema. Film practice is intrinsically collaborative and requires face to face contact, hence social distancing measures are forcing productions around the world to halt. For the same reason cinemas have closed, film festivals and international film markets have been cancelled or postponed, including the Cannes International Film Festival.

In Times of Rain (Itandehui Jansen 2018), credit Iwao Kawasaki

In response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, broadcasters, funding bodies and film festivals have taken a variety of measures and approaches to continue production and / or distribution. Different film festivals, markets and commissioning events have opted for online streaming editions. This project maps diverse innovative (online and digital) film production and distribution strategies that were developed as a response to Covid-19 crisis.


Through a comparison of alternative digital production and distribution strategies of independent films it is possible to gain a better understanding of the possible future of production and online distribution for Independent Cinema.

String Figures – Collective value mapping of a distributed feminist currency network based on principles of social justice and mutual care (Bettina Nissen & Ailie Rutherford): String Figures is a continuation of the collaborative Crypto-Knitting-Circles project between researcher Bettina Nissen and artist Ailie Rutherford co-developing ideas for possible use of new technologies in feminist community ­currency. Working with local organisations in Glasgow as well as international networks with similar ethos and aims, this project will explore new forms of shared, online tools for mapping community value exchanges, hidden labour practices, shared skills and knowledge throughout a distributed network.

Taking a community-centred approach to empower and enable communities and creatives we will collectively design a system for shared experiential learning across feminist and social justice groups moving from a local to a trans-local network of mutual care, solidarity and fair labour practices. The term String Figures by Donna Haraway acts as a metaphor for the inextricable threads that connect us all which have become more visible and essential in the current global crisis. Shifts in language towards solidarity economies, mutual aid and online collaboration highlight the need for new tools and visions of future alternative models of distributed power and labour practices to challenge the increasingly visible issues of the current economic model and the digital gig-economy.

This CI small research grant forms part of a wider Creative Scotland funding grant for String Figures.

If you have any questions about CI Small Research Grants, contact the Creative Informatics team at creativeinformatics@ed.ac.uk.



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