Methodological Innovation in Digital Arts and Social Sciences (MIDAS)

Principal Investigator: Carey Jewitt, Institute of Education, University of London

Co-Investigators: Susan Broadhurst (Brunel University), Douglas Atkinson (London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London), Kevin Walker (Royal College of Art), Sara Price (Institute of Education)

Project duration: 1 April 2013 - 31 May 2014


This project addresses a pressing problem for contemporary research: how to synthesise methods from the arts and social science to develop innovative methods. Interdisciplinary methods informed by the arts are increasingly considered necessary to understand the bodily, visual and aspects of people’s everyday worlds. Although challenging, working across this frontier has considerable value for research: opening up different perspectives, generating imaginative questions, and enabling access to a wider range of research tools, and a deeper holistic understanding.

The project brings together a team of experts from the arts and social sciences to investigate this methodological challenge and develop new innovative approaches. This exploration focuses on how to research bodily actions in technology-rich environments: a complex topic that connects arts and social science research. The project is innovative in its inter-disciplinary approach, exciting experimental environment, deep exploration of practice-based research, and holistic approach to the body/digital-physical research.

The project will investigate methods used to research embodiment in different disciplinary contexts, identify connections and synergies, and seek methods to exploit and evaluate these synergies. It will achieve this through an in-depth study consisting of 6 inter-connected cases studies: 3 in the arts (performance, fashion, design) and 3 in social sciences (e.g. in simulation in medical education, mobiles for education, online games). Each site is a hub of methodological innovation, research on the body/physical interaction, and advanced digital technologies (e.g. body scanners, motion capture, programmable interactive 3D environments). Participants (researchers and students) routine practices will be observed in situ (e.g. studios, meetings) to reveal the ways methods are used and communicated, the kinds of objects made, and the principles that shape method practices in the arts and social sciences. Field-notes, photographs, and occasional video recording will be used to document these. Data will be analysed to understand the different ‘methods world’ of each site attending to all communicational forms (i.e. multimodal ethnography). The analysis will inform methodological experimentation across the project to combine, extend and develop methods and evaluate their applicability. Experts will attend a series of workshops to explore perspectives, experiences, and contribute to the development of future methods.

The project will produce online resources to promote interdisciplinary methods across the arts and social sciences, a public event, performance and exhibition on innovative methods for researching the body/physical-digital interaction. These methods have wider relevance for a wide range of topics across the arts (e.g. museum studies) and social sciences (e.g. disability, security) and contribute to enhancing the quality and range of research in the UK and globally.

Listen to Carey Jewitt talk about the project in NCRM podcast series. For further information please see the project website or follow on Twitter @MIDAS_LKL .