User Innovation Communities

Digital tools for cultural production

shutterstock_user innovationAs the web becomes pervasive and deeply entrenched as part of our daily routines, more people than ever have the basic tools to express themselves through creative activities including: producing and editing video clips, composing music, and creating design artefacts and artworks. Yet sceptics including professionals often criticise this newly found freedom for destroying established business models, and for contributing to a cultural divide by fracturing our common culture into cultural bolt-holes. This proposal seeks to bring the creative public (including user groups and communities) to work alongside the producers (including the professional designers), by mindfully harvesting the public contributions as cultural resources to transform traditional in-house design and reduce R&D wastage; and to induce creativity, and social innovation. We will collaborate with Marks and Spencer to build and test a platform that facilitates contribution to the cultural production of design, exploitation of existing digital tools, and development of new tools. The platform will make available an array of digital tools to encourage interactivity and to further contribute to a register of cultural resources in terms of: a wiki of design artefacts (product forms, functions, etc.); and repertories of ‘data’ on how users perceive, appropriate and incorporate products into their lives, how well products fulfil their needs, how they imbue meaning and explore their individual, social and cultural identities through them, and how communities are formed through consumption and use. The cultural register provides a repository of cultural resources, which encourage reuse across and within different socio-cultural and business contexts. Our project fits Research in The Wild area well in that it enables us to engage directly with user groups and a consumer products brand to test the potential transformational impact of ‘user innovation’ as cultural production with consumer communities, which could feed into other areas of ‘open design’.

The ultimate aim of our research is to create a cultural register of design objects that facilitates sharing and reuse by the producers and the creative public through better use and exploitation of digital tools. The project team brings together researchers with a background in design, user and open innovation, and ubiquitous computing. We will adopt a user driven approach to the design and development of a series of tools that bridging the socio-cultural gaps between user and business communities. The project team will leverage our strong connections with key industrial, public sector and academic groups in UK and internationally, ensuring that the proposed research will have maximum impact to communities of practice and creative and cultural industries. 

Partner: Marks and Spencer