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DAL Blog

Digital Arts Lab Blog
Dr Robert O’Toole, Director of Student Experience
Associate Professor (Design Thinking)

What’s the secret of creativity? There’s no simple answer, as every case is different. But there are things we can do to be more creative, to make it more likely. I teach an approach called Design Thinking, in which we have a strategy for creating the conditions in which creativity can happen. There are three essential aspects to this:

  1. Exploring, playing with, tech and materials, getting to know what they can do and what we can do with them. We do this in an open-minded way, looking for alternative applications rather than just seeing the obvious.
  2. Getting to know people, their challenges, ambitions, needs, capabilities.
  3. Imaginatively putting 1 and 2 together, to help people address the challenges they care about using the possibilities we have seen in tech and materials. Making connections and following them up with action is essential to creativity.

Recently, I’ve been playing with a new kind of camera. It captures a 360 image of the world. I also discovered a new feature in the WordPress blogging software, called H5P. This allows the 360 images to be displayed on a web page and interacted with. Annotations, links, images, video and audio may be added. I’ve also been looking at ways in which we can help people to feel at home in a space before they go there. Most importantly we want to keep the presentation of the space feeling fresh and up-to-date, populated with exciting events and new experiences. I connected all these ideas to begin innovating, creating a 360 tour we can keep adding to, giving a sense of the space as a living place. I’m still working on it, but you can have a go here.

Think about how you have connected together challenges, needs, people, spaces, places, and the possibilities of new technologies, materials and techniques.

Catherine Allen, CEO of Limina Immersive, Warwick Theatre Studies alumnus.

This example shows how a well-crafted and implemented narrative can be used to connect the audience with otherwise inaccessible people, places, events, and dilemmas. The medium is VR, but the same approach may be used with other digital media including video, audio, text, and animation.

Working with the BBC, Catherine produced this VR experience as part of the 100-year commemoration of the Easter Rising rebellion in Dublin, Ireland. It’s not a celebration. And it doesn’t take sides. It doesn’t even pretend to be an objectively accurate account of the event. But it is an authentic and empathetic journey through the memory of one of its protagonists, Willie McNeive. In the VR experience the participant begins in the present with Willie recounting his story. Through the magic of CGI we travel back in time to the critical point: we’re with Willie and his Republican comrades in the General Post Office, about to be besieged by the British Army. And then as the action unfolds into a terrible dilemma, it turns to us, the participant: what would you do in this situation? It’s not that there’s a correct answer. The point is to make us, 21st-Century people living in peace, connect on human level. Six years after the release of Voice of a Rebel, people in Europe are again faced with these dilemmas, as Russian forces create chaos in the East of the continent.

This is a flat-form trailer. To experience it in VR, use an Oculus Go, Quest or Rift (Warwick Uni members can contact Robert O’Toole for a demo).

Easter Rising, Voice of a Rebel (BBC 2016)
Professor Michael Scott, Classics and Ancient Civilisation

In his book Ancient Worlds: An Epic History of East and West (2016), Michael Scott explores history as a “connected web of entanglement and interaction” across the whole globe, but also zoomed into small fascinating details that throw new light on the past, its people, and their stories. This is more than just a great read, it’s a call to expand our horizons as researchers, to be more open to interconnections, even if they make things complicated and messy. Here’s a sample from the book:

“Across university departments, across countries, whole tribes of historians study and write about their worlds without feeling the need to raise their eyeline to the wider context of the different human civilisations living and breathing at the same time around the globe, even when the connections sit glaringly before us. We are in the twenty-first century, a global community. And yet, at the same time, ironically, we seem to prefer to write and read about history as if it happened in unconnected, compartmentalised chunks. But what if we undertook to tell a bigger story – not of a monolithic ‘Ancient World’, but of many and diverse ancient worlds?”