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Sensing the City: an Embodied Documentation and Mapping of the Changing Uses and Tempers of Urban Place (a practice-based case-study of Coventry)

Scheduled to take place over a period of three years this practice-based research project, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) at a total cost of £330,500, will undertake a series of site-specific studies of urban rhythms, atmospheres, textures, practices and patterns of behaviour in the West Midlands city of Coventry (UK). Led by Dr Nicolas Whybrow as Principal Investigator, with Dr Michael Pigott as one of the Co-Investigators, the project will make use of the sensate, performing human body as a data-gathering sensor in the first instance, applying techniques of writing or notation and technologies of sound/oral recording, photography, performance and film in the second instance to respond to, document and process such fieldwork activity. The third and final phase of the research programme will be to visualise and present documented text, sound and image material both as an online, interactive mapping of the urban sites in question (presented as a prototypical mixed media website) and via a 'smart' device. The project will also culminate in an exhibition, incorporating a one-day symposium, and a co-curated publication. Together these outputs will present the findings of the project in a form that is accessible to a broader public as well as to professional specialists in fields related to the design and planning of urban futures.

The project’s main researchers include practice-based academics in performance, film and digital technologies from the University of Warwick, in dance from Coventry University's Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE), and a commissioned artist-researcher in immersive performance and site-specific installation with the professional London-based company sirenscrossing. Altogether there are four practice-based micro-projects, which will operate relatively independently in the first instance. Each has a slightly different disciplinary emphasis and methodological approach, but all will contribute to the main project outputs cited above, thus forming a rich, multi-faceted, integrated research portfolio relating to the city of Coventry. The project will also draw in, as consultant, a practice-based academic from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia who specialises in the implementation of body weather movement techniques in urban sites. As a whole Sensing the City will present conclusions about the constitution, character and morphology of urban space as public, habitable and sustainable space by monitoring the instinctive reactions of the body. In other words, as a symptom of the degree to which cities are changing in the 21st century, it will examine the effects on the practices and behaviours of urban dwellers of key features of the atmospheric, aesthetic force-field that is modern-day urban space.

Principal Investigator: Dr Nicolas Whybrow (Theatre and Performance Studies, Warwick)

Co-Investigators: Dr Michael Pigott (Film & TV Studies and Theatre & Performance Studies, Warwick), Dr Natalie Garrett Brown (Centre for Dance Research, Coventry University)

Researchers/Post-docs: Dr Emma Meehan (Centre for Dance Research, Coventry University), Nataliya Tkachencko (Warwick Institute for the Science of Cities and Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, Warwick)

Commissioned Artist: Carolyn Deby, sirenscrossing, London

International Consultant: Dr Stuart Grant (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

Additional project team members: Impact Officer (to be appointed), Academic Technologist (Steve Ranford), Technical Specialist (Rob Batterbee).