From July 2018, I am working with colleagues from RMIT's School of Design - industrial designers Juan Sanin and Liam Fennessy - in a $46k collaborative research partnership with Bendigo Hospital to develop a sensory trolley for use by Psychiatric Services. The trolley will help clinical staff to conduct mobile multi-sensory experiences to improve the wellbeing of staff and patients within the hospital, and help build skills in patients in their lives outside the hospital setting. The new research partnership builds on the existing 'Design for Wellbeing' project led by DERC's Sarah Pink and School of Design Dean Laurene Vaughan.
This project uses ethnographic, sensory and visual techniques to investigate how people experience two important commemorative days in Australia: Anzac Day (25 April) and Remembrance Day (11 November). The project team - Shanti Sumartojo (RMIT University), Danielle Drozdzewski (University of Stockholm) and Emma Waterton (University of Western Sydney) - will focus on Melbourne and Canberra, investigating how people make sense of and perceive national commemorative events and what meanings are ascribed to them. This project forms part of a wider international investigation of 11 November 2018 called Commemoration Reframed that Shanti is leading in 2017-2019.
This project examines the digital and spatial responses to the 22 May 2017 Manchester bombing and their overlaps. It aims to understand the affective practices of community building and commemoration that followed this terrorist attack and its political impact, whilst situating it in relation to the multiple political crises facing Europe.
In analysing practices of commemoration and affective communities on social media and in public space during the bombing’s aftermath and first anniversary, the project seeks to develop a methodological approach that can account for digital sites alongside the more traditional political sites of the square and the street. This will generate insights on how practices of commemoration and understandings of being together are changing in the digital era and what can be learned politically from these digital materials in combination with spatial and discursive analyses.
The project is funded by CHERISH-DE at Swansea University. It also establishes a working relationship between the Digital Social Research Unit at Umeå University in Sweden (DIGSUM); the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia; the Critical Global Politics research cluster at Manchester University, and the Migration-Boundaries-Identities and Social Theory and Urban Space research groups at Swansea University Geography Department.
The project team includes Martin Coward (Manchester University), Shanti Sumartojo (RMIT University), Samuel Merrill (Umeå University), Angharad Closs Stephens (Swansea University) and Anna Pigott (Swansea University) and draws together academics working in four different disciplines - Geography, Sociology, Media Studies and International Relations. The team includes expertise in critical approaches to security studies (Coward), the sociology of social media (Merrill), commemoration and digital ethnographies (Sumartojo) and cultural and political geographies (Closs Stephens – principal investigator).
The Exchange at Knowledge Market is a 12-month research partnership between LendLease and RMIT University based at Victoria Harbour in the Docklands. It sees a team of RMIT designers, social scientists and students embedded in the site, leading a series of design studios, research projects and public engagement activities. It is a living laboratory, taking advantage of a unique moment in the development of Victoria Harbour to investigate questions that apply to urban environments around the world. The Exchange at Knowledge Market is also a prototype for community engagement that can be adopted in different ways by governments, councils, developers and communities around the world.
It has three main components:
- A full year of RMIT student studios that investigate and design for urban futures, using Victoria Harbour as a living lab for their work.
- A series of linked design ethnography research projects that focus on what makes a sustainable, diverse and digitally connected community. This will include asking local residents and workers how they understand and experience the precinct and what their aspirations are for Victoria Harbour, and the development of design installations to explore these further.
- A schedule of public workshops, forums and other events that will engage directly with the community, and that will bring a range of experts to speak on some of the challenges facing cities today.
In July 2017, I worked with Dr Tim Edensor to investigating the transformative potential of projection art in partnership with the Gertrude Street Projection Festival, Melbourne. Based on artist interviews and auto-ethnography, findings are currently in draft and will be published in 2018.
In the first half of 2017 I led the team (Joanne Mihelcic, Bianca Vallentine, Sarah Pink and photographer Nick Walton-Healey) investigating how the atmosphere of Queen Victoria Markets is linked to how it is designed. This work, funded by the City of Melbourne, will contribute to planning the refurbishment of the site, a major 5-year project starting in 2017. The final report, which we delivered to the City of Melbourne in June 2017, is available here.
In early 2017 I collaborated with Sarah Pink and Melisa Duque on the ethnographic component of the industry-funded project Acoustic design innovations for managing motorway traffic noise by cancellation and transformation. This was led by Dr Jordan Lacey of the RMIT School of Architecture and Design and funded by Transurban, and researched how innovative electronic sound transformation technology might shape how people experience motorway noise in their local communities. The report is now available here.
In late 2016 I was a Fondation Aix-Marseille Université Visiting Fellow at the Laboratoire d’Études et de Recherche sur le Monde Anglophone (LERMA). During my visit I worked with Dr Matthew Graves on a research project based at the Camp des Milles, to investigate visitors' encounters with the site and its digital elements. Journal articles based on this work are currently under review.
In 2016-2018, I am part of the team conducting a design ethnography in the Psychiatric Services Unit of Bendigo Hospital. With RMIT colleagues Distinguished Professor Sarah Pink and Professor Laurene Vaughan, I am investigating how staff, patients and visitors experience the design of the existing wards in 2016. In 2018, we return to the new hospital building for the second part of this innovative study. Design for Wellbeing is a research partnership with Bendigo Hospital and Exemplar Health and was launched in August 2016, with media coverage that included the Bendigo Advertiser and the ABC.