Digital culture in society

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Crucible led the bid for a national Digital Economy research hub to be based in Cambridge, jointly hosted by the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University.

The Crucible proposal was one of those shortlisted for funding in 2009, but the eventual funding decision was that there would be no research hub dedicated to digital culture research.

Anglia Ruskin subsequently followed through its commitment to this proposal, establishing the research centre Cultures of the Digital Economy, building on some of the themes that had been proposed for the national hub. Members of that centre have continued to engage in Crucible activities, and with the Digital Humanities initiative at CRASSH. Alan Blackwell, who had led the hub bid as nominated Director, was made an honorary research fellow of Anglia Ruskin, and an advisory board member for CoDE.

Core Crucible team:

Research area directors:

Crucible members involved in preparing the proposal:

Other Crucible collaborators outside Cambridge:

Proposed objectives of the hub

This research aims to invent new kinds of digital technology that help people to have rich and fulfilling lives, not simply faster and cheaper versions of the activities that they do already. People use computers, the internet and digital media not simply to do business, go shopping and fill out bureaucratic forms, but to do things they find personally meaningful and enjoyable. In fact, it is these kinds of desire - we call them digital culture - that have motivated most of the idealistic researchers who invent new digital technology. Commercial opportunities tend to come later, after businesses and governments work out how to make money from the things that motivate people to have full and enjoyable lives. This research is unusual for EPSRC, because rather than looking at the utilitarian opportunities for new technology, it investigates the imaginative cultures that motivate people to create new things. This includes looking at familiar digital media (music, film, games) in new ways, but also looking at the way that digital culture crosses boundaries into theatre, documentary and fictional writing, museums and other places of human imagination. All of these things do result in economic activity, both nationally, but also in specific places - the cities where production studios, broadcast media and technology companies attract a mix of creative artists and technical skill. However in this research we start with the people, not with the business idea. Working with research techniques from history, literature, anthropology, music and many other fields, each part of our programme looks for new ways of understanding creative and cultural experience, moving from that understanding to the invention of new digital technologies and business opportunities. This involves careful management - we have many leading technology experts involved, but we want them to hold back, rather than working in their usual way, to build on new user insights from academic disciplines that don't usually have the opportunity to influence technology change. The result will be adventurous new developments for the digital economy as a whole.