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Designing Change: Critical Creativity in the Digital Age (foundations)

The Digital Arts Lab is currently developing a suite of modules.

This second year module will run in Spring 2022. It is available to all Arts Faculty students.

A third year applied module, following on from this, is planned for Spring 2023.


Digital change agents are people with a supercharged capability for applying technology to solving problems and improving the world. You might assume that they are geeky Comp Sci graduates hiding away in dimly lit basement offices somewhere on the Internet. This is simply not true. Arts and Humanities graduates are the real heroes of this story. Their diverse disciplinary backgrounds and interests share many key elements required for success: storytelling, visual thinking, critically-creatively working with language, working iteratively, exploring multiple possibilities, and being comfortable with ambiguity and radical difference. When combined with an understanding of digital technologies, a digital-creative mindset, key concepts and methods (Design Thinking, Systems Thinking), and working in the right kind of collaborative environment, they can achieve great things.

This module will provide students from across the Arts Faculty with everything they need to become successful digital change agents, for the benefit of the Faculty, the wider community (through public engagement), and beyond.

What does it take to expand on Arts and Humanities learning to become a successful digital change agent? Based on research carried out at Warwick and around the world, including work with successful Warwick graduates over ten years, we have designed a module that introduces and provides scope to practice the essential elements: Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, Visual Thinking, knowledge of and skills with key technologies, remote team working, project management and much more. We use a “problem based” approach (as used in our successful IATL Design Thinking modules), with a range of case studies and design challenges of interest to Arts and Humanities students. Some of these are focussed on developing capabilities within the Arts Faculty itself, others are outward looking, applying our capabilities for the benefit of the wider community. The module begins by exploring each student’s home disciplines, and with a transdisciplinary mindset, the commonalities and connections between them. We will focus especially on the common challenges of public engagement, and how digital technologies are used and may be used in the future. We will introduce the students to the work of our digital-creative industry partners, providing them with opportunities to develop their own network of innovators and experts. The students will critically and creatively reimagine Arts and Humanities practices, proposing ways in which they may be transformed through technology.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Describe and evaluate the use of technology in your home discipline, compared to other disciplines and practices in the Arts and beyond.
  • Know, recognise, and diagnose the common reasons for failure and success in digital transformation projects.
  • Articulate ideas from your own disciplines, illustrating how they challenge and help us to overcome the limitations of techno-centricity.
  • Understand key concepts from Design Thinking and human-centred design, and how they address the limitations of a techno-centric approach.
  • Know how transdisciplinary Design Thinking combines diverse academic, artistic and professional disciplines to create teams capable of creating and implementing fresh ideas.
  • Systematically and creatively engage with new technologies, using methods from Design Thinking and Systems Thinking, so as to understand their implications, potential, and limitations.
  • Initiate and shape digital change projects with appropriate teams of experts and participants, playing the role of digital change agent (in this module limited to smaller projects that are feasible within the timescale).
  • Use, configure and advise on a core set of current and emerging technologies (including advanced Teams, VR, AR, mobile computing).
  • Articulate your own transformative journey reflectively, and empathise with the differing needs, ambitions and values of others.


We will use the same assessment approach that has worked well in our IATL Design Thinking modules. Students complete a series of design challenges (first individually, then in pairs, and then in small groups). Each student creates their own short account in the form of a design study (text, images, audio, and/or video as appropriate). Feedback is provided continually to help the students develop their responses. The studies are equivalent to 1,500 words in total. At the end of the module each student completes a 1,500-word reflective essay, describing how they engaged with the module, relating it to their home department and the Arts and Humanities more widely, evaluating the concepts and methods introduced, and sharing their vision as a digital change agent.


Each week will consist of 2 hours of online study (videos, readings, activities), 1 hour of scheduled online collaboration (whole class and in groups), and 1 hour of scheduled practical activities (on campus and field trips).


Dr Robert O'Toole
BA (hons) Philosophy, Warwick
MSc Computing and Cognitive Science, Sussex
PGCE Information Technology, Warwick
PhD Design Thinking, Warwick

"I am an award winning teacher (HEA National Teaching Fellow, Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence), based in the UK but working internationally. I specialise in developing and implementing transformational strategies that work for real people in schools, colleges, universities and businesses. Research-led and practically focussed, I use empathetic and participatory methods to create designs that fit, stick, spread and grow. I teach and research Design Thinking."