Crucible Network for Research in Interdisciplinary Design
Crucible is a research network within and around the University of Cambridge. Its purpose is to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration of technologists with researchers in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AH&SS). The main focus of this collaboration is on design as a meeting point for widely differing research disciplines. Crucible activities include the establishment of new research programmes, training of researchers, input to policy bodies, and identification of suitable funding sources for research in interdisciplinary design. Crucible provides both a scientific and organisational framework for this research.
Why the name? The crucible has always been a melting pot for valuable materials, the origin of new alloys, materials of innovation. We believe that the post-industrial crucible must be a place for melting and blending valuable knowledge and ideas.
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Crucible is a network, not an institute. Our approach has been to establish, facilitate and maintain collaboration between academics whose expertise can contribute to the goal of interdisciplinary design research. This has resulted in a matrix of connections: diverse projects, each structured in accordance with the skills and experience of the researchers involved, and a broad range of researchers both inside and outside the University. Crucible involvement has ranged from direct management of local teams to coordination and advisory input on large national and international initiatives. Projects to date include:
- Cambridge Festival of Interactive Technology
- Culture, Communication and Change A project examining how people, young and old, at home and at work are using communications today in the US, UK, China and Australia. It is designed to provide analytic value and insight for planning future generations of retail communications services.
- Investigating agency and intent in the experience of designed interaction, taking perspectives from psychiatry, consumer research and artificial intelligence.
- From Creators and Critics to Communities. How are digital technologies changing the landscape of engagement between high-profile creative artists and their audiences?
- New ICTs, civil society and bottom-up governance in the developing world is an inaugural research project of a multi-disciplinary Centre of Governance and Human Rights in Cambridge.
- How are objects and their meanings connected? Artefacts of Encounter is an investigation of cultural treasures, the museums where they are shown to the public, and the different communities of scholars and public who engage with them via technology.
- New Century Cities is an initiative spanning technology research, public policy, urban planning and social science, to understand how we are building new cities, settlements and communities in locations such as Media City UK.
- What does it mean to be a computer 'virtuoso'? By studying expert musicians who use computers, in collaboration with the Centre for Music and Science, we can develop new understanding of human experiences with technology.
- The World Health Organisation is working with Crucible members to improve local response to outbreaks of new viral diseases such as Ebola. The challenge is to integrate field workers into a global research community, while empowering them to customise procedures and technical infrastructure to local conditions.
- Funded practice-based research workshops on collaborative performance technologies (with Anglia Ruskin University and CRASSH) and Museums of the Future (with the Fitzwilliam Museum and Cambridge Architecture faculty).
- As participants in the EPSRC Creator cluster, Crucible members are investigating New Research Processes and Business Models for the Creative Industries.
- Working with 20 senior designers in fields including architecture, aircraft, automobiles, fashion, medical devices and websites, to determine the processes and structures that represent best practice across design, coordinated by the Engineering Design Centre;
- Does interdisciplinarity lead to innovation? Many influential people believe it does, but on what evidence?. This NESTA-funded project at CRASSH compiled a guide to research policy and best practice in Interdisciplinary Innovation.
- Engineers, psychologists and musicologists are working to inform the art of violin-making, by constructing Virtual Violins to understand the relationship between the acoustic properties of the instrument and human perception of musical sound.
- The Distributed Working Project, which aims to establish new ways of analysing and developing distributed teams and workgroups by bringing together theories of human communication, the sociology of work and workplace design;
- Educational applications of physically-embedded computing to the world wide web, as a member of the European WEBKIT project;
- Choreography and cognition: Two choreographers, ten dancers, six psychologists and neuroscientists, a film-maker and an anthropologist working together to discover the cognitive grounding of movement and choreographic practice at Random Dance Company.
- Aidworld, a charity working with computer science and humanitarian relief and development specialists, building software for ultra-low bandwidth Internet access in developing countries
- National and international policy conferences on topics such as Collaboration and Ownership in the Digital Economy and Evidence of Value: ICT in Arts and Humanities;
- Performance interfaces, notations and live music programming. Laptop music performers (Nick Collins), music technology developers (Chris Nash) and electro-acoustic composers (Alejandro Viñao) are working on the boundary of computer science and the music, with the Centre for Music and Science.
- People with Alzheimer's have increasing difficulty in communicating as the disease progresses, even with members of their own family. Lorisa Dubuc is working with public health professionals and community volunteers to investigate whether modern communication devices can assist communication by those with the disease -- even among people in the same house.
- Social property and new social forms: prerequisites for creative and interdisciplinary collaboration, investigated through colloquia and interdisciplinary design workshops;
- What happens when paper charts disappear from a hospital ward? The intensive care unit at Papworth Hospital implemented a fully digital bedside record system, under the gaze of a variety of social scientists and information systems experts. The results led to publications in both clinical medicine and technology research, contributing to future best practice.
- An interdisciplinary design collaboration with drug discovery company ArQule, investigating design tools for new organisational models of Computational drug discovery;
- Development of socially-aware computing technologies for use in a fine arts context by multimedia artist Alexa Wright;
- Investigating the conditions in the built environment that lead to innovation communities, using a novel approach to Architectural ethnography;
- An interdisciplinary design collaboration with Microsoft Research, investigating patterns and contexts of web usage in local government;
- Technical support for the multimedia staging in London of a suppressed 1930s opera, Maschinist Hopkins;
- Assessment of query mechanisms for use in mobile web browsers on handheld devices.
- What is the nature of innovation in the cultural sector? This policy project, working with the Arts Council of England, DCMS/Living East, AHRC and CRASSH, investigates whether information and communication technologies can support the creation of value out of arts and humanities research.
- A study of the role of gender in free/libre and open source software, funded by the European Commission, and leading to a policy report and recommendations on gender in open source.
- Building architectural artworks from "smart" materials with Simon Biggs and Eugene Terentjev;
- An experimental programme to explore and evaluate modes of collaboration between artists and technologists through New Technology Arts Fellowships;
- Evaluation of remote collaboration in a distributed design studio, working with the Martin Centre for architectural research and the MIT Urban Design Studio;
- Human factors and evaluation methodology for Dasher, a hands-free text entry sytem (results recently described in Nature and by the BBC ).