Category Archives: engagement

Launch of the Digital Cultural Heritage cluster in the Centre for Data, Culture & Society

I’m pleased to announce the launch of the Digital Cultural Heritage cluster, part of the Centre for Data, Culture and Society. The cluster has been in development for the past year, and I’m the cluster lead/facilitator.

There are about 25 University of Edinburgh colleagues associated with the cluster so far, and we hope it will continue to grow as more people who are doing work in this area get involved. In addition to providing a way to amplify the University’s work in this area, we are also aiming to host workshops, showcases, roundtables and other events (including some to be co-organised with the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Network); facilitate research networking and exchanges; and develop exhibitions and teaching resources.

You can visit the Cluster’s new web site at

Digital Cultural Heritage cluster home page

digital cultural heritage research update

One of the four main strands of research I pursue  is about digital cultural heritage engagement and learning, and lots has been happening!

In London for the Critical Heritage Futures conference.

The Artcasting project continues to generate great speaking, writing and conversation opportunities – most recently at the AHRC and Association of Critical Heritage Studies’ Critical Approaches and New Directions conference in London in early October. My colleague Michael Gallagher and I gave a talk about mobilities, mobile technologies and heritage futures. Particular highlights for me from the event were Chris Whitehead‘s keynote, and Hayden Lorimer’s fascinating overview of work at St Peter’s Seminary at Kilmahew. It was also fantastic to see so many of the people I first met last year at the ACHS conference in Montreal, and to hear that Liz Stainforth is going to be spending a few months in Edinburgh as an IASH fellow at the start of next year.

Also re Artcasting, I’ve just finished and submitted a paper about hospitality and digital co-production; and the team recently reconvened with a number of others who have helped us a lot in thinking about Artcasting futures, to talk about a whole bunch of fascinating issues still to be explored. There is a summary of these on the Artcasting site blog.

Beyond Artcasting and its ripples, London also allowed a bit of time for Koula Charitonos and I to talk through some ideas – including to propose a symposium for next year’s ICLS conference on museum visitor experiences in the digital age. We hope this will be able to come together!

Here in Edinburgh, the new academic year has brought a number of new members to the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Network – not least our new chair of digital cultural heritage, Melissa Terras, who joined the University of Edinburgh this week. We’ve already tempted her to get involved with a couple of projects in development – it’s going to be great to have her here. Sian, Chris, James, Kirsty, Melissa and I hope to organise a few DCHRN events in the new year.

Serendipitously, I’ve got the opportunity to supervise not one but two masters students this year who are exploring aspects of 3d printing, scanning and visualisation in cultural heritage contexts – I look forward to learning lots from both of them about this topic.

Last but not least, I’ll be in Manchester for the Researching Digital Cultural Heritage conference on 30 November-1 December (sadly only for the second day) – the programme looks amazing.

Activist arts and youth inequalities workshop, 7 June 2017

I’m spending the day with a fantastic group of artists, youth organisation representatives, researchers and arts experts for a workshop at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, aiming to collaboratively explore and develop ideas for a project to explore the potential of contemporary art to raise awareness, provoke thought and motivate change in relation to youth inequalities. I’ll post some notes and other materials later, but we’ll be using the hashtag #artineq.

The other organisers of the event are Marlies Kustatscher and Alan Brown.

My time in the Scottish Parliament

This year I was delighted to have been appointed a Scottish Parliament Fellow by the Beltane Public Engagement Network. This meant I got to spend a day a week in the Scottish Parliament over a roughly six-month period.

I really can’t say enough good things about my experience as a Fellow, working closely with Donald Jarvie and Scotland’s Futures Forum. My understanding of public engagement, the policy sphere in Scotland, and the value of networking and collaborating beyond academia has been deepened, and it’s really had a big impact on how I think about my identity and priorities as an academic.

My Fellowship focused on online and distance learning in Scotland, and looked in particular at issues around Massive Online Open Courses. I briefed Parliament colleagues about MOOCs, co-ordinated resources and activities to get them to explore these courses by signing up for one in early 2014, and worked with the Forum and the Learning and Leadership team to embed MOOCs as part of the professional development infrastructure of the Parliament. The MOOC strand culminated in a workshop in April 2014, bringing together groups of non-academic experts in four topic areas, including wellbeing and community energy, along with MOOC experts from the University of Edinburgh, to discuss the potential for creating MOOCs for public engagement and knowledge exchange. These teams are now taking their ideas forward, with further input from me.

MOOC scoping workshop, 7 May 2014, Scottish Parliament


Two other strands of activity emerged during the Fellowship. The first involved discussions with the Shetland Learning Partnership, when Scotland’s Futures Forum was asked to help plan scenarios for secondary, further, higher and adult education in Shetland.

One of the sights of Shetland - in the taxi, stopped at the runway's level crossing to wait for a plane to take off!
One of the sights of Shetland – in the taxi, stopped at the runway’s level crossing to wait for a plane to take off!


The second was a collaboration with the Forum to host a ‘Creative Futures for Scotland’ roundtable event exploring how the growing popularity of individual and collaborative creativity (for example, crafting, 3D printing and web coding) could impact on learning, innovation and wellbeing in Scotland.

making coding crafting
My question about Scotland’s creative futures.


All three areas of work are continuing beyond the end of the Fellowship. I greatly appreciate the support I’ve received from Beltane, Scotland’s Futures Forum and the University of Edinburgh.

Public engagement activities

I’m delighted to have been appointed as a Beltane Parliament Engagement Fellow in the autumn. I’ll be developing engagement events for Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and other parliamentary colleagues, on the topic of “Distance and online learning for an innovative and inclusive Scotland”. The fellowship will be starting at the end of September, and will run til the end of March. I got to attend a working dinner at the Parliament back in June, and started to get a sense of the many interesting topics and issues that the fellowship will raise.

MOOCs were on the agenda, of course, but also the Scotland’s Futures Forum 2025 project, and broad questions about what quality online education really means, and what Scotland should be doing to achieve it. I’ll start a project blog closer to the time, but in the meantime, feel free to be in touch if you’d like to discuss anything further re this.

Another fun thing on the horizon: my colleagues Hamish and Sian and I are taking part in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas – part of the Edinburgh Fringe. Our event is on 22 August at 3:30pm, and our topic is “The Disembodied University”. We’d love to see you there!