Digital Economy USRG

Digital Economy All-Hands Meeting

November 23, 2011
by Tom Frankland

The conference began on Tuesday evening at Newcastle University’s Culture Lab with an opening reception and technical demonstrations. The following morning John Baird began proceedings with a welcome talk which focused on work conducted under the Digital Economy theme. He began this talk by making a comparison between the aims of the Digital Economy and the philosophy of Steve Jobs, who he quoted as saying:

“technology alone is not enough¬†…¬†its technology married with liberal arts, married with the¬†humanities,¬†that yields¬†us¬†the results that make our hearts sing.”

The first talk of the day was by Professor¬†Jim Hollan from the¬†University of California, San Diego, who had been invited to the conference as a keynote speaker. Jim spent the first half of his talk discussing how the traditional form of computers was rapidly disintergrating into a variety of new forms. He suggested that one of the most exciting things about this development was that¬†it was providing¬†new opportunities for social scientists to capture genuine ‚Äėreal-world‚Äô activity.¬†The second half of his talk focused on¬†what he referred¬†to as ‘history-enriched digital computing’. Jim has published numerous papers on this concept, the most notable being ‘read wear’ and ‘edit wear’. Jim also presented some software he has developed called ‘ChronoViz’. ChronoViz allows multiple chronological data sources to be visualised alongside one another and annotated, a task which is currently very difficult for most social science researchers.

Tom Frankland discussing his PhD research poster

The next session was a series of talks by a panel of industry experts. These were Gary Bolton from Microsoft, Ian Marshall from the financial services, Dave Sharp, a games developer from Binary Asylum, Alan Whitmore from medical science and Aart van Halteren from Philips Research. Each speaker was asked to identify their top challenges for the Digital Economy in respect to their specialist areas. While each of the speakers presented relevant and challenging issues for the Digital Economy, it was the issues raised by Dave Sharp that promoted most debate from the audience. His speech critiqued the relationship between the creative industries and academia, and he suggested that there needed to be more emphasis on turning good academic ideas into commercially viable solutions. He stated that academia moves too slow for the creative industries, and that academia left graduates ill-prepared for jobs.

After lunch we headed off to smaller workshop sessions. The workshop I attended focused on the use of game engines to support academic¬†research, which offers numerous advantages over other tools including reliability and the availability of numerous pre-built libraries. We also¬†talked¬†about ‘gamification’; the process of turning mundane¬†tasks into ‚Äėgames‚Äô which are fun for the user.

The next session I attended was about music and sound. The first presentation in this session examined how families or groups of people in the same household use and consume music. The speakers had found that new technologies have energized opportunities for sociality in the home and have enriched social interactions around music. The next talk examined the potential of musicological tools in two contexts Рin the British Library and in secondary school music classes. Based on ethnographic studies conducted in schools the speakers had developed a tool built around YouTube, which supported students by indicating which chords to use to play along with a video clip. The final presentation in this session was given by a curator from the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. The Pitt Rivers museum has a large and relatively unknown archive of sound recordings, and this talk explored how this archive of sounds was being put to use in the museum to improve the visitor’s experience of their collections.

Given my interest in archaeology I attended the cultural heritage session next. The first talk in this session was about an exhibition hosted at Doctor Johnson‚Äôs house in London. This exhibit consisted of a pen and paper interface which allowed visitors to invent¬†their own word for a¬†dictionary.¬†Once a¬†visitor created a physical¬†entry into this dictionary it was automatically transferred to a digital exhibit and website. Overall visitors input 742 original and innovative words into the dictionary! The second talk examined¬†Scottish heritage¬†sites that are currently unstewarded and have few visual remains. To address this the speakers described a location-based system they had developed which augmented the environment using audio. Among the teams’¬†findings was the discovery¬†that some features in an open environment can constrain¬†where visitors move, whereas others encourage further¬†exploration.¬†The final talk in this session examined how community cultural heritage can¬†be supported by technology. Their work lead to the creation of CURIOS, an open source website and data management system.

The final talk of the day examined how the concept of ‘futures’ could be used to develop new ways of thinking about the digital economy. The speakers gave examples of how predictions of the future have helped to shape¬†new technologies, and suggested that we could perhaps use ‚Äėfutures‚Äô as creative spaces for design, helping us to escape present-day constraints to thinking. The day ended with poster presentations and dinner, which¬†were held at the Great North Museum in the evening. Both myself and Ramine from Southampton University¬†presented posters in a¬†lively and¬†stimulating session.

Don Marinelli gave a hugely entertaining and persuasive keynote presentation¬†at the beginning of the final day of the conference. His talk focused on the ‘Entertainment Technology Centre’ that¬†he and Randy Pausch set up at Carnegie Mellon University. Despite having¬†an academic background and working in academia, Don became disillusioned with it for many reasons and therefore decided to try out a new style of student program focusing on interactivity and group work. There are no structured modules taught on this course, except for in the first quarter. Don emphasises links to industry on the course and companies pay to have work done by the students. The ETC is so respected commercially that students are guaranteed a job in industry on graduation. My favourite aspect of the ETC was the effort Don and Randy had put into making the facilities ‚Äėcool‚Äô, and there was a definite focus on fun in the department.

Overall the Digital Economy all-hands meeting was an excellent conference to attend with many fascinating talks, especially from the keynote speakers. For a longer version of this report complete with social media commentary, please visit Storify.

The next conference will be hosted on the 23rd-25th October 2012 in Aberdeen.

DE Lunch 21.11.2011

This event focused on DE industrial activity and collaboration. There were three speakers:

  • Howard Scott spoke about a new mobile business venture and digital marketing
  • Roksana Moore (Law) provided an overview of the type of IP issues that we may face as part of academic research; copyright (journal rights), contractual issues, patents , confidential information and the public domain, open research and alternatives to IPR copyleft and open source.
  • Kevin Forshaw from R&IS spoke about University support for spin-out and other commercialisation possibilities.


Digital by Default (The Barbican, London) 01.12.2011

Technology has a central role to play in the reform of the public sector, offering more innovative and individualised services. Digital by Default: a revolution in public service delivery will provide essential information on how public sector organisations can deliver efficient, cost-effective public services that are responsive to the needs of citizens and businesses.

JISC DataPool Project

November 1, 2011
by Graeme Earl

The DataPool project will build capacity within the University of Southampton to support effective data management practice across all disciplines, including multi-disciplinary activity, throughout the data lifecycle. A focus on cultural change will be underpinned by development of a clear policy framework, an enhanced technical infrastructure and a strategy for supporting researchers in managing their data in line with the middle phase of the 10 year roadmap identified by the previous JISC funded Institutional Data Management Blueprint (IDMB) project.


  • Implement an institutional research data policy¬†with guidance for researchers;
  • Launch and populate an institutional data repository¬†as part of the research data management infrastructure;
  • Embed effective research data management¬†through close alignment with the University’s multi-disciplinary Strategic Research Groups;
  • Provide integrated training for PhD students¬†through the institution-wide Graduate Centre and curriculum development;
  • Develop the skills of professional support staff¬†such as librarians, IT specialists and bid managers so they can provide coherent institutional support for data management requirements.

Project methodology

The project will take a three-pronged approach:

  • Research Data Management Policy ratification and implementation
  • Research Data Management System implementation
  • Integrated Training, Guidance and Support

By seeking early ratification of institutional research data policy, DataPool will provide the community with evidence of an institutional approach to implementing policy. We have commitment from senior staff such as the Associate Deans Research and the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, as well as researchers representing different disciplines, with data policy “champions” identified for each Faculty. High quality guidance will be provided on specified and requested topics to enable researchers to respond to, and comply with, the policy.

As part of an integrated data management infrastructure a model for using both an institutional instance of Microsoft Sharepoint and EPrints repository software will be developed for the deposit of metadata that describes the research data to be archived, and for the actual deposit of the datasets into a pilot university data repository.

DataPool will deliver a flexible model supporting service and training for researchers, students and support staff. A series of case studies based on real, disciplinary examples of data management practice will involve different data types produced by postgraduate and undergraduate students as well as researchers. A full data management training programme will be offered through the university Professional Development Unit as part of continuing professional development activities for all academic staff. Data management training workshops incorporated previously into a masters course will be extended to other masters modules. Cost monitoring will be used to model scalability of the training programme and provide an evidence-base for financial decision-making.

 Anticipated outputs and outcomes

  • Institutional policy will be shared on the institutional and¬†DCC¬†websites to maximise exposure, with a report on our implementation experience;
  • A model for integrating a data repository into the wider institutional data management infrastructure and culture;
  • Specialist repository support for discipline-specific data shared with the UK repository community (e.g. through the EPrints Bazaar app store);
  • Training materials and case studies to be shared with the community for reuse;
  • A model for embedding training in a graduate school programme for PhD students;
  • Training needs analysis and training programme for support staff to share with all¬†HEIs;
  • Examples of training case studies to enhance continuing professional development for researchers and curriculum development for students;
  • Cost-modelling, including cost-benefit analysis of whole-institution data management training commitment.

Further details: