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Researchers and communities join forces to harness the power of digital technology

Press release issued: 20 November 2013

Two University of Bristol projects which will use digital technologies to enable researchers and communities to work more effectively together to explore community creativity, cultures and heritage have been awarded just under £1million funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The projects, 'Know Your Bristol On The Move', led by Professor Robert Bickers in the Department of History and 'Tangible Memories: Community in Care', led by Dr Helen Manchester in the Graduate School of Education, will develop digital resources that will be of enduring value for both communities and future research.

‘Know Your Bristol on the Move’ explores how communities in Bristol move through life, across the city and sometimes across the globe.  The project will explore strategies and tools to trace and link the fluid – people – and the fixed – places.  A mobile version of an existing website will be developed alongside two new apps and a 'Know Your Bus' will form a mobile space for digital creation and co-production of research and learning.  The project will also work with various local communities to create mobile archives and develop different tools for communities to carry out their own research.

Professor Bickers said: "This is a really exciting opportunity, and our team will be working with a diverse range of new and established partners across the city of Bristol.  There’s a large critical mass of such projects now at the University, and we shall be working with them as well.  Lots of challenges, but it also promises to be fun."

'Tangible Memories: Community in Care’ aims to help improve the quality of life for residents in care homes by building a sense of community and shared experience through a cooperative exploration of their life stories.  Rather than put these stories in a book or on a website, the project seeks to find creative ways to digitally attach stories to objects that are personally meaningful to participants so that they can remind themselves of important memories and share them with others if they choose.  In addition to helping project participants create memory objects they can keep and share, the project will also work to develop resources for use in other care homes.

Dr Manchester said: "We’re really excited to begin this interdisciplinary, collaboration project with our community partners (Alive! activities) and older people in care homes.  The UK population is ageing with the fastest population increases in the numbers of those aged 85 and over. These changes have wide ranging implications for our communities, our family relationships, the institutions that are important to us, and concerns related to health and well-being and social trust and isolation.

"The care home market is growing exponentially creating new communities of circumstance of older people coming together from diverse backgrounds and with unique experiences.  Pressing questions arise about how we might create 'community' in these settings and what role oral/life history collection and sharing might play in this process."

A total of 11 projects have been funded under the AHRC's £4 million Capital Funding Call for Digital Transformations in Community research Co-Production in the Arts and Humanities.  The call explored the interface and intersections between the Connected Communities Programme, AHRC’s Digital Transformations in the Arts and Humanities Theme, the Cross-Council Digital Economy Programme and other AHRC activities relating to the Creative Economy.

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