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Blog

Intelligent Futures: Automation, AI and Cognitive Ecologies

CHASE DTP

Intelligent Futures was a postgraduate and ECR conference, supported by CHASE DTP and Sussex Humanities Lab. Over the course of two days, the conference challenged researchers to find original, philosophical and cultural approaches to Artificial Intelligence. The interdisciplinary explorations spanned the social sciences, informatics, psychology, art, literature and more, promoting critical and speculative engagements with technical cognition.

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BAME Masterclass blog | Nadifa Mohamed

CHASE DTP

Nadifa Mohamed gave a masterclass at UEA on ‘Writing Violence: Literature as Reportage/Recovery’ and she began by sharing with the group how she came to write her debut novel Black Mamba Boy, for which she won the 2010 Betty Trask Award. The novel is a fictionalised account of her father’s experiences as a child and young man in Africa in the 1930s and 40s.

By Elspeth Latimer (CHASE funded student, University of East Anglia)

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CHASE Creative Writing Residency day 5

CHASE DTP

We arrived on the moon last Friday.

"I know the world is meant to be round, but I ain't sure about this place."

There's a swimming pool I haven't yet swam in. There's a pool of inspiration and I haven't yet come up for air.

No need.

There are these people, different people, articulate and crazy and clever and full of colour and spit and I'm swimming around in it. It's a joy and it's a story and it's a lesson and it's unforgettable (though that might be tested in X amount of years).

For now though the conversation is open, discoverable, possibly impossible but impossible to curb.

I is they and you are we and we are together and we are alone.

And the work is of the highest standard. And the work is aiming higher and aiming laterally and climbing the mountain to our broken hotel and navigating the city and remembering the jungle and swimming the sea and landing on the island and loving fucking and vulnerability and burying our father while holding our queerness and helping the priest while staving back hunger and forgiving tyrants. And forgiving tyrants. And remembering the loved dead and so much more through poetry, where phones claim souls and mongrels reclaim their identity and we all howl at the moon.

So of course we are not really on the moon.

That would be silly.

But we are cosmonauts and this is our journey.

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CHASE Creative Writing Residency day 4

CHASE DTP

Another sunny day in North Norfolk on the CHASE residency retreat. The lanes around the barn in which we are staying are full of blossom and the verges white with cow parsley. Crows caw loudly in the large horse chestnut in the field next door.    We are falling into a productive pattern of writing in the morning and classes in the afternoon. Today we had a masterclass on narrative in poetry and prose, followed by a workshop which featured a play set in an Iraqi car wash in Wolverhamption and the opening of an historical novel set in India which drips with atmosphere.    I have personally been working on the synopsis to my novel and have found the peace and quiet really useful for getting on with this hard task. Usually this would have taken me much longer than it has this week. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to be here

NDACA: The Heritage Story of the Disability Arts Movement

CHASE DTP

NDACA, the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive, is a £1-million Heritage Lottery Fund project which celebrates and preserves this history; the protests, songs and artwork of the individuals who were central to this unique movement. From the satirical cartoons of Crippen, to the subversive cabaret performances of ‘The Tragic but Brave Show’, NDACA tells these stories, bringing new digital and object meaning to the Disability Arts Movement.

By Chloe Trainor, University of Kent

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On the Social in Architechture

CHASE DTP

With a focus on housing and public space, the first of three sessions co-organised by the ICA, the Architecture Space and Society Centre at Birkbeck (ASSC), and CHASE brought together practitioners, theorists, activists and students to try and answer what might at first seem like a trick question. ‘Where is the social in Architecture?’ Surely the answer is ‘everywhere’? After all, is there any aspect of architectural space and architectural practice which is not thoroughly social? 

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CHASE placement at the Science Museum, September 2016 to June 2017

CHASE DTP

Harriet Barratt, University of Sussex (@harrietmb)

I spent ten happy months on a CHASE-funded placement at the Science Museum in 2016-17. Working in the Medicine collection, I split my time between my own collections research and investigative projects for the museum. The museum is due to launch a major refurbishment of the Medicine Galleries in 2019, so it was an exciting time to be involved in their work.  

Ceramic inhalers similar to those used by Marcel Proust to treat severe asthma. (© Science Museum, photograph by Harriet Barratt)

Ceramic inhalers similar to those used by Marcel Proust to treat severe asthma. (© Science Museum, photograph by Harriet Barratt)

My research focuses on the role of material objects in experiences of illness, and how literary writers represent these experiences. At the Science Museum I focused on objects relevant to the authors I’ve been researching – stomach pumps in relation to Virginia Woolf’s overdoses, X-ray machines similar to those featured in Thomas Mann’s work, and prosthetic limbs relevant to the work of Flannery O’Connor, for example. I also produced three reports for the museum itself – an audit of the Psychology Collection and two reports on object collections from Victorian asylums. This involved research trips to archives in London and Suffolk, trying to track down more details of obscure nineteenth-century institutional technologies (a ‘tell-tale clock’ used to track warder patrols, anyone?).

Once I had been given training in object handling and hazard awareness, I was given free rein of the Medicine collection and online database. This meant that I could carry out really targeted research. I also took part in departmental meetings, giving me a good insight into the workings of a major national museum. One of the most useful elements was meeting other researchers working across a range of areas of medical history, some of whom are now close friends. We were also able to attend the staff private views for the new Wonderlab gallery and Robots exhibition, which was a lovely bonus.

Wooden right above-knee prosthesis made for a 16-year-old solider in 1894. He wore it continuously and made multiple home repairs to it until he was (very reluctantly) supplied with a new one in 1972. (Object number 1999-469, made in 1894, © Science Museum, photograph by Harriet Barratt)

Wooden right above-knee prosthesis made for a 16-year-old solider in 1894. He wore it continuously and made multiple home repairs to it until he was (very reluctantly) supplied with a new one in 1972. (Object number 1999-469, made in 1894, © Science Museum, photograph by Harriet Barratt)

A few practical points in case anyone reading this is thinking of taking on a placement: the internal training took some time to access, so I would recommend building lots of cushion room into your plans if you possibly can. If your placement is of direct relevance to your research (as opposed to a more internship-style placement, for example), I would also recommend considering a part-time arrangement. I applied for the maximum six months’ funding but stretched out the working days over ten months. It was helpful to be able to incorporate my new findings and thinking into my writing as I went along, rather than feeling that I was shelving the thesis in the meantime. I’d also stress that, if your ‘ideal’ placement or host partner isn’t listed on the CHASE website, you might be able to negotiate something from scratch – my placement began from an email enquiry and, with lots of help and support from CHASE, grew from there.

Working directly with objects allowed me to reflect on the value of material sources, and how much they can tell us about how we conceive of shared histories. Material evidence gives us additional and sometimes crucial information on the often surprising origins and usage of an object – the signs of repair on a beloved prosthetic leg kept far beyond its ‘natural life’, for example, or the use of surplus domestic lace for World War One bandaging. However, I’m increasingly convinced by the need to work simultaneously across text, object and theory; the medical objects accompanied by a piece of oral history, or even the smallest scrap of evidence about their origins, were infinitely richer than those that had been collected with no supporting information at all. This realisation sounds rather obvious, but it helped me to examine and rethink the methodological assumptions underpinning my thesis.

Stomach pump and mouth gag similar to those used by Virginia Woolf’s doctors after a veronal overdose in 1913. (Object number A138067, unknown date, © Science Museum, photograph by Harriet Barratt)

Stomach pump and mouth gag similar to those used by Virginia Woolf’s doctors after a veronal overdose in 1913. (Object number A138067, unknown date, © Science Museum, photograph by Harriet Barratt)

Being in the collections also helped me to understand some of the knottier, less glamorous questions faced by curators, collectors and conservators. For example, Henry Wellcome collected multiples of the same object: do we really need to spend time, energy, space and materials preserving and storing 80 identical forceps when, say, five would probably be enough? How do you handle or dispose of historic items that you wouldn’t have chosen to collect in the first place, especially if you have an implied obligation to preserve them? How do you articulate your curatorial choices to a public audience in an engaging way? I have a much better understanding now of the issues which museums will face as money and space gets more and more squeezed.

I’m so glad I took up the opportunity of a CHASE placement. Huge thanks go to CHASE and the Science Museum (particularly Steve Colburn, CHASE Placements and Partnerships Officer, and Oisín Wall, Research Curator at the Science Museum) for a truly enriching experience.

Placement report - Unruly Media

CHASE DTP

My CHASE placement occurred over a six-month period in the London headquarters of Unruly Media, a global video ad tech firm. Unruly are an industry leader in the distribution of online video advertising—for instance, those ads and trailers that pop up when you are reading an article online, or that you might opt-in to play on your favourite website.

Erin Pearson - University of East Anglia

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My CHASE-funded placement at INFORM

CHASE DTP

During my placement I worked with INFORM (The Information Network on Religious Movements, based at the London School of Economics. Founded in 1988 by renowned sociologist Professor Eileen Barker, INFORM is a charity that specialises in providing the public with balanced and detailed information on new religions and minority movements.

Aled Thomas - Open University

 

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‘Close’ Encounters – Norwich Cathedral Library Visit 2017

CHASE DTP

Delegates from all disciplines, departments and CHASE institutions were offered exclusive access to the hallowed shelves of Norwich Cathedral’s library for one afternoon only. Tucked inside the cloister is a collection of liturgical and secular works which have been donated and accumulated over the years by the diocese, with the earliest printed text in this collection dating to 1474.

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