New Crucible Website HERE
To reflect the dynamic and networked nature of the Crucible enterprise, we have replaced our web pages with a wiki, aggregating information about Crucible network members, projects, events and research themes.
Old page contents retained for archive purposes (below):
The crucible has always been a melting pot for valuable materials, the origin of new alloys, materials of innovation. How should the post-industrial Crucible melt and blend ideas?
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.
Crucible Research Activities
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:
Project proposals have been funded by a very wide range of private and public research funding bodies including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, the Arts Council of England, East England Arts, the Newton Trust, the Cambridge MIT Institute, Microsoft Research, Xerox Research, Intel Research, Boeing Research, Kodak Research, BT Research, and the European Commission IST programme.
Crucible Educational Programme
One of the main objectives of Crucible is to build a new resource of researchers qualified to work in technology-related research fields. In the current economic climate, all universities find it difficult to recruit and retain research students in specialist technical areas. This is no less a problem in Cambridge, where the "Silicon Fen" area is the preeminent centre of entrepeneurial technology business in Europe. Crucible will not compete for these technology students, but will instead develop valuable technical skills for AH&SS researchers. As many pressing technology research questions are actually interdisciplinary human issues, these students are in fact equally qualified to make major research advances. In the absence of a technology-related design research course in Cambridge, they simply do not have the opportunity at present.
Crucible members have created innovative courses in various departments of the university, at levels from first year undergraduate to postgraduate and PhD research. Current initiatives include a new studio-taught first year option bringing applied social science to computer science students, contributions to a third year certificate programme in humanities-oriented computing for languages students, and a longer term plan for a Master's level degree programme in Digital Product Design.
Together with the Microsoft Research Socio-Digital Systems group, we run a monthly interdisciplinary seminar series for Cambridge graduate students, faculty and local technology researchers. We also convene occasional public debates and seminars on design research topics, with international designers and design research speakers.
The Crucible organisation is structured so as to require minimal funding resources beyond support of the research and education projects themselves. It is not our intention that Crucible should be, at this stage, a separate accounting centre in Cambridge holding project funds or employing research staff. Our projects have always been hosted by a grant-holder in a single Cambridge department (or another university) in the usual way, but with an interdisciplinary project team involving staff from multiple departments. The administrative overhead of proposal preparation and project management is absorbed either by the department, or as a specifically attributed Crucible "fee" in the project budget. We hope to operate with minimal overheads and staff. Crucible staff are mainly dedicated to proposal preparation and the management of interdisciplinary projects. Where there are existing support services within the University, we make use of them - relying, for example, on the Research Services group for legal support in drafting research contracts.
Crucible currently reports directly to two university departments: the Computer Laboratory, and the faculty of Social & Political Sciences. Two directors have been appointed, both widely interdisciplinary, one from each department. The management model is strongly oriented toward the matrix management techniques used in project-based research consultancies, including a central network of design research "evangelists", support and professional project management staff, and common-room, library and teaching resources.
Crucible has close collaborative relationships with several other departments and institutes in Cambridge, each of which has involved multiple projects over a period of years. Those departments and institutes most closely involved in Crucible activities include:
One of the long term goals of Crucible is to support the creation of a national network of researchers and educators having shared interests. The focus of this network is on collaboration between technologists and arts, humanities and social science researchers, leading to reflective research in interdisciplinary design. Within Cambridge University, the network has extended to (in alphabetical order of discipline) Marilyn Strathern, Lee Wilson, David Leitner and Samuelle Carlson (Anthropology), Francois Penz (Architecture), Barry Phipps (Astronomy/Kettle's Yard, Mary Jacobus and Catherine Hurley (Centre for Research in Arts, Social Science and Humanities), Neil Dodgson and Peter Robinson (Computer Laboratory), Rob Phaal (Institute for Manufacturing), Kenneth Ruthven, Bill Nicholl and Paul Andrews (Education) John Norman and Kathryn Lawrence (Educational Technology), Jim Woodhouse, Hugh Shercliff, Tom Drummond and Simon Godsill (Engineering), John Clarkson and Claudia Eckert (Engineering Design Centre), Adrian Poole (English), Rosaleen McCarthy and Brian Moore (Experimental Psychology), Margaret Greeves and David Scruton (Fitzwilliam Museum), Martin Kusch (History and Philosophy of Science), Matthew Jones, Mark de Rond, Jochen Runde and Allegre Hadida (Judge Business School), Michael Harrison (Kettles Yard Gallery), Peter Tyler (Land Economy), Anny King (Language Centre), Lionel Bently (Law), Mel Leggatt (Modern and Medieval Languages), Dominic Scott and Alex Oliver (Philosophy), Sharath Srinivasan (Politics and International Studies), Paul Fletcher (Psychiatry), Duncan Simpson and Tamsin Pert (Research Services Division), Georgina Born and Brendan Burchell (Social and Political Science), Bernard de Bono (Molecular Biology), Ian Cross (Music), David Mackay (Physics), Ellis Weinberger (University Library), Simon Laughlin (Zoology) and others.
Crucible network members in the Cambridge area who are based outside the University include John Knell (Intelligence Agency), Charles Boulton (Innovation Coaching), Sebastian Macmillan (Eclipse Research Consultants), Breton Saunders (Mynah Software), Phil Barnard (MRC Cognition and Brain Science Unit), Rachel Jones (Instrata), Dawn Giles (Arts Council England), Richard Hoadley and Julio d'Escrivan (Anglia Ruskin University), Quentin Stafford-Fraser (Newnham Research), Paul Crank and Krystyna Wojcik (Catalyst Design), Dominic Vergine and Alan Jackson (Aidworld) and Andrew Lovett (composer, performer, and past organiser of the Cambridge Digital Arts Festival).
Crucible has also established collaborative relationships with a number of Affiliated Researchers at other Universities and research organisations. These include graduates and previous members of the Network in Cambridge, as well as senior researchers with multidisciplinary backgrounds in design who have advised and collaborated with Crucible in the past.
Dave Gray is an information designer, educator and management consultant focused on visual thinking and cross-disciplinary group creativity. He is the founder of XPLANE, a global consultancy serving the Fortune 500, which is now part of the Dachis Group, a social business consultancy started by Razorfish co-founder Jeff Dachis. Dave is also a partner at the Dachis Group as well as the co-founder of Vizthink, an international community of visual thinkers. His most recent book, Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers was published by O'Reilly Media in 2010.
William Box is founder and principal of Carnego Systems, a company taking a systems approach to building design, with an explicit recognition that people are the key components of both the design process, and the operational built environment. He has previously worked for BT Syncordia, Nortel, Carillion and Laing O'Rourke. Current projects at Carnego focus on behaviour change and energy usage in building systems.
Matthew Taylor is the director of Escape Artists (http://www.escapeartists.co.uk), a socially inclusive arts charity, based in London and Cambridge, that is working on the development of a system for measuring the wellbeing, in a wide variety of different contexts, through any internet connected device.
Bruce Gernand is a Research Fellow of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, having been Head of Sculpture at the College from 1997-2007. His research concerns are with grounding digital work in the material, and with craft-based techniques for digital form, using a range of CAD, rapid prototyping and sculptural techniques. He has held many teaching and visiting posts, including a Henry Moore Foundation Fellowship. He exhibits regularly in Amsterdam, Britain and elsewhere, and his sculpture was included in the Osaka Sculpture Triennale of 1995.
Jofish Kaye is a research scientist and ethnographer at Nokia Research Centre Palo Alto, where he applies perspectives from science and technology studies to domestic life, holistic health, sex, religion and improv comedy/theatre. He believes that studying the borders can tell you more about what the mainstream will be than studying the mainstream.
Brock Craft's research at the London Knowledge Lab focuses on development of design techniques for Information Visualisation, using qualitative research methods. Additional areas of interest are technology-enhanced education, participatory design, and sketching. He has lectured on Human-Computer Interaction, Design Prototyping, and e-Commerce, and regularly chairs the International Symposium for Design and Aesthetics in Visualisation. Brock has academic training in digital imaging and photography, human-computer interaction and computer science, together with commercial experience in information graphics and in computer network management. He also creates electronic interactive art, and collaborates with contemporary artists on interactive installations.
Alejandro Viñao is a composer who has written music for a wide range of musical genres including opera, music-theatre, choral, instrumental and electro-acoustic compositions. He has also created multimedia works, written film music and produced several radio programmes for the BBC. Viñao has worked in various research centres such as at IRCAM in Paris, M.I.T. in the USA and more recently at the Computer Lab and the Centre for Music and Science at Cambridge University. He is particularly interested in sound interpolation and in musical processes with more than one tempo.
Bronac Ferran is a freelance writer, researcher and producer working nationally and internationally in the field of media art, art law and interdisciplinary practice. She is also a part-time academic at the Royal College of Art's Industrial Design Engineering Department. She was formerly Director of Interdisciplinary Arts at Arts Council England, and served on the Adelphi Commission for Intellectual Property, the DCMS/AHRC Research and Knowledge Transfer taskgroup as well as the Creative Economy taskgroup on Intellectual Property and Competitiveness.
Tim Regan works in Microsoft Research at their lab in Cambridge in the Socio-Digital Systems Group. His research interests are in social software and mobile media. He previously worked on "shoulder to shoulder" computing (applications for several users to interact with, when together in the same room), online virtual worlds, systems architecture, and formal methods. He holds a doctorate in Theoretical Computer Science from The University of Sussex.
Giles Lane is founder and co-director of Proboscis, an artist-led studio with a focus on research, public engagement and participation. He is a Visiting Tutor on the MA Design Critical Practice at Goldsmiths College (University of London) and is a Research Associate of the Media and Communications Department at London School of Economics. Giles was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2008 for his contribution to community development through creative practice.
Lizzie Muller is a curator, writer and researcher specialising in interaction, audience experience and interdisciplinary collaboration. She is Senior Lecturer in the School of Design at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her doctoral project investigated the audience experience of interactive art. She was initiator of the Crucible series of New Technology Arts Fellowships in 2002 with the Junction and Kettles Yard.
James Leach is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. While a Research Fellow at King's College Cambridge, he was a central figure in several Crucible projects, investigating the theory and practice of description, with an emphasis on how material and social forms emerge from the processes of interdisciplinary collaboration. James is a social anthropologist who has conducted fieldwork in Papua New Guinea on kinship, place, myth/ritual, material culture, ownership and intellectual property. His subsequent fieldwork in the UK has focused on issues of creativity, knowledge production, and ownership in arts/science collaborations.
Amrit Srinivasan is a professor at IIT Delhi, with research interests in comparative sociology of knowledge and culture applied to new technologies. She works on pedagogy of design through the Design for Emerging Contexts (DECOS) Network for sustainable, ICT-based student teaching in India, Brazil, Turkey and China, and through Lens - Learning for Sustainability, in which Thailand, Finland, the Netherlands and India are creating multipolar networks for curricula in Product Service Systems Design with Politecnico Milano, Italy. She recently initiated PAEDIA - Peoples Archive (Education Industry & the Arts) - a not-for-profit based in Delhi, to fulfill the growing demand in India, for curricula focusing on lay skills and innovation traditions within an STS framework.
Martin J. Eppler is a professor of information and communication management at the University of St. Gallen (HSG), faculty of management sciences. He teaches knowledge visualization at different universities in Switzerland, Austria, Finland and China and conducts research on the role of visualization for knowledge-intensive collaboration and communication, particularly between experts and decision makers. (www.knowledge-communication.org).
Gerhard Fischer is a Professor of Computer Science, a Fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science, and the Director of the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design (L3D) at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research is focused on new conceptual frameworks and new media for learning, working, and collaboration; human-computer interaction; cognitive science; distributed intelligence; social creativity; design; meta-design; domain-oriented design environments; and universal design (assistive technologies).
Simon Biggs is an artist working with new media within an interdisciplinary research oriented practice. Many of his works employ interactive systems and behavioural programming. He produces interactive installations, network projects and works employing new materials. He is also active as a writer on new media arts and as a curator. He is currently Professor of Art at Edinburgh College of Art.
Mark Gross teaches computational design at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Architecture. He previously co-directed the Design Machine Group at the University of Washington, developed a design computing curriculum at the University of Colorado, and co-founded the Sundance Lab for Computing in Design and Planning. He worked at Negroponte's Architecture Machine Group, Papert's MIT Logo Lab, and Atari Cambridge Research before joining the faculty at Colorado. He is a member of the IEEE, ACM, AAAI, and the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture.
Andrew Barry is Lecturer in Human Geography and Fellow of St Catherine's College, University of Oxford. His recent book "Political Machines: governing a technological society", breaks new ground in Science and Technology Studies. His insights into the social and political constructs surrounding and arising from technological concepts gives us a new way of understanding the future of design.
Scott deLahunta is a Research Fellow at Dartington College of Arts who researches the relationship between performing arts and emerging technologies with a particular interest in radical cross and interdisciplinary practices. He works in affiliation with a number of European institutions in roles that vary from advisory to project development and management. With a background in professional dance, he is currently working on a new Masters in Choreography with a focus on technologies in Amsterdam.
Chris Roast is a Reader in the School of Computing and Management Sciences at Sheffield Hallam University. He has degrees in Human Computer Interaction from the University of York and in Design Research from the Royal College of Art. His work is fundamentally multi-disciplinary, aimed at creating formal models of user requirements and usability of information artefacts. He was the primary technical chair of HCI98, and remains an active committee member of conferences in the field.
Jeff Patmore is Head of BT Exact's Strategic University Research & Collaboration programme, directing programmes of work with some of the world's top academic institutions and collaborating with some of the best technology and business minds in academia. He has over 30 years industrial experience in telecommunications and currently his principal fields of interest are innovative multi-disciplinary teams, HCI, software agents and the Semantic web. He is a Fellow of the RSA, a Director of Young Engineers for Britain and a contributor to the Cambridge-MIT Institute.
Matthew Postgate is head of Research and Innovation at the BBC. He joined Crucible when he was Executive Producer in Mobile technologies, with a role including the distribution of content to mobile devices and creation of interactive mobile services. Principal interests include digital product design, the effect that new technologies have on society, and technology regulation.
Arlene Oak is an Assistant Professor in the department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta, and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Culture and Communication at the University of Calgary. She has taught the historical and social context of design to students in design practice programmes, and helped develop an MA in the History of Printed Graphics (now part of the Critical Studies component of the MA in Graphics Practice) at University College Northampton. Her PhD research analysed how language is used during design practice (in tertiary-level design education) to express, and help constitute, the personal identities, social relations, cultural values, and assumptions that inform the creation of objects of material culture.
Kerry Rodden is a Usability Analyst at Google, in Mountain View, California. Her general interests are information retrieval and human-computer interaction; her PhD research at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory included evaluating novel interfaces for browsing through images, and studying how people manage their personal collections of digital photographs. From 2002-2003 she worked on a Crucible project at Microsoft Research, investigating the next generation of web browsing interfaces.
Dawn Nafus is an anthropologist at Intel in Portland, Oregon and was trained in the Department of Social Anthropology at Cambridge. She has interests in discourses of 'the technological', cultural notions of time, migration, mobility and border spaces, and gender and technology. She has done research in Russia and the UK.
Ken Wood is Assistant Director at Microsoft's Cambridge Research Lab where he heads the Computer-Mediated Living Group. The group's remit is fundamentally interdisciplinary, bringing together psychology, sociology, hardware engineering and computer science to address the problem of designing technology to support everyday life. Ken's research interests include human-computer interaction, information retrieval, multimedia communications, and ubiquitous computing. Prior to joining Microsoft, he was with AT&T Labs Cambridge, and before that Oxford University. He holds a doctorate in Computation from Oxford University and an AB in Applied Mathematics and Economics from Harvard University.
Bill Thompson is a technology critic and essayist. He writes a weekly column on technology issues for BBC News Online, and is co-presenter of the BBC World Service programme Go Digital. He is an external lecturer at London's City University, and appears regularly as a speaker at events relating to digital media and policy.
Sally Fincher is a lecturer in the Computing Laboratory at the University of Kent where she teaches and researches in Computer Science Education and Human Computer Interaction. An area of especial interest is the use of Patterns and Patterns languages to describe design expertise and to scaffold the transfer of design knowledge.
Gary Marsden is an Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town, where he works on the design of technology for use in the developing world. He is co-author of Mobile Interaction Design, a popular textbook for those working on new forms and contexts of user interface technology.
Martyn Dade-Robertson is a research associate at Culture Lab Newcastle, where he works on cultural and cognitive aspects of physically-anchored systems of spatial organisation. He originally trained as an architect, and has a particular interest in participatory design prototyping, and in the application of architectural methods to the design and analysis of spatial hypertexts.
Bob Bloomfield is Head of Innovation and special projects at the Natural History Museum, London and a Fellow of NESTA (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts). As a senior policy developer at the Museum he focuses on innovations and initiatives that broadly contribute to Science and Society, including leadership of major redevelopment projects such as the Museum's Earth Galleries and the Darwin Centre.
Alan Blackwell was recently appointed to a Readership in Interdisciplinary Design at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, having prior qualifications in professional engineering, computing and experimental psychology. He has 12 years experience of designing industrial systems, electronic and software products. He has taught design courses and supervised postgraduate design research students in Computing, Architecture, Psychology, Languages, Music and Engineering. He is a fellow of Darwin College, and a director of Living East, the cultural consortium for the East of England.
David Good teaches psychology in the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, and at King's College where he is a Fellow. His research is in the field of social psychology with a specific focus on social interaction. He has been involved in the development of new initiatives devoted to the social application of ICT in education and the workplace. He is also education director of the Cambridge-MIT Institute, and has developed new initiatives designed to understand and deploy those educational practices which have an impact on the development of entrepreneurial abilities. He has served on the Council of Cambridge University, and currently on the Council of the Royal College of Art.
Nathan Crilly is a University Lecturer in the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre. His interests are in the areas of industrial design, product aesthetics and consumer response. In particular, he is focusing on the potential for product appearance to act as a medium of communication between designers and consumers. Nathan holds a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering, a PhD in Product Aesthetics and has professional experience in the fields of aerospace design, materials research and information technology.
The Crucible research and education programmes, as well as specific proposals, have benefited from the valued assistance of many researchers outside Cambridge. We wish to acknowledge assistance received in these projects from colleagues at institutions including MIT, The Open University, University of Wales in Cardiff, University College London, University of Coventry, University of East Anglia, The Arts Council of England, University of Washington, and Academia Europaea.
For further information, contact Alan Blackwell.