A mixed reality environment for live interactive presentation and performance


An innovative project by the Digital Media Technology (DMT) Lab at Birmingham City University is to be a part of the Interactivos? workshop and seminar programme, which is coming to the UK for the first time this June.

The project

The DMT project will act as a launchpad for artists, programmers and device builders to engage with an interactive mixed reality production system.

The real-time interaction system is an ongoing programme to build a new platform allowing an actor or performer to interact with virtual objects in real time, as if they were really there. Current systems rely on the performer to interact with a makeshift object in the place of where the virtual object would be, but the system being developed allows them to interact directly with the virtual object through a remote viewer.

During the workshop, possibilities for audience interaction will also be explored, either directly or even indirectly via social networking and mobile devices.

Interactivos? Birmingham

Interactivos? Birmingham is a UK based, two week international seminar and open innovation prototyping workshop taking place at mac Birmingham between 16-28 June 2014.  The Interactivos? model was conceived by Medialab-Prado as a hybrid between an innovation production workshop, seminar and exhibition showcase. It is a space for reflection, research, collaboration and creation, in which proposals selected by an international open call are developed, completed and displayed.

Six other projects will form the focus of the workshop, all based around the theme of ‘Responsive and Immersive Future Technologies’. The projects come from Brazil, Spain, Germany, Austria and Stevenage, UK.

There is currently an open call for collaborations with the workshops, more information on the event page.

School of Media project in Foreign & Commonwealth Office video

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office mentioned a project by the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR). Watch below:

In partnership with US technology company Meedan, researchers at BCMCR work with citizens in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, and with Syrian citizens in Lebanon, to help citizen journalists become trusted sources.

Research leads to new framework for music curriculum

A framework co-authored by Prof Martin Fautley of the Centre for Research in Education has been published. The framework, published by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), will help schools, music teachers, senior leaders and music education hubs to prepare for the new National Curriculum which comes into force this September.


Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, said:

“I am delighted that the substantial amount of work Dr Alison Daubney and Professor Martin Fautley, ISM expert panel and wider music education sector have undertaken is now coming to fruition.

‘As a subject association, it is crucial that we support music teachers as they get to grips with the new National Curriculum and continue to ensure that opportunities for a rich, broad and balanced education are maintained. We will be working with school leaders, unions and other associations to ensure that this reaches every music teacher in England and secure the future of music.”

There is a short guide for teachers, and a wall chart to help with planning.

Find out more about the Centre for Research in Education.

New research stories

This week we’ve uploaded six new research stories from across disciplines; here’s a snapshot of each:

Criminal justice

David Wilson and Michael Brookes of the Centre for Applied Criminology (CAC) have worked with HMP Grendon for many years. The prison operates as a therapeutic community, and the applied research by Wilson and Brookes has uncovered valuable insights into the experiences of prisoners and staff. Read more


Global human rights

Jon Yorke of the Centre for American Legal Studies (CALS) talks about his research into the death penalty. The work has raised awareness of issues surrounding the death penalty and informed EU policy and legal organisations in the United States. Read more


Conservatoire Collection

The Conservatoire Collection is a commercially distributed software library of sampler instruments, which are based on Birmingham Conservatoire’s impressive Historical Instrument Collection.

The research carried out on the Collection has allowed its unique instruments to be used by the music production and media industries to create new sounds. Read more


Helping planners make decisions

The Centre for Environment and Society Research (CESR) has carried out research on the rural-urban fringe for many years. The team have developed tools such as RUFopoly and EATME tree to help make complex planning issues more accessible. Read more


Human rights in Jersey

Meryl Thomas of the School of Law was commissioned by the Jersey Community Relations Trust to investigate property law. Her research found that the existing laws were discriminatory and the findings led to changes in Jersey property law. Read more


Composing beyond concert practice

Through their award winning compositions and performances, composers at Birmingham Conservatoire have impacted compositional practice and curricula in Higher Education. Their work for the likes of the Cultural Olympiad, BBC and CNN has played a major role in bridging the gap between new music and mainstream culture. Read more

My PhD love-hate relationship

Rachel-Ann Charles

By Rachel-Ann Charles, PhD student, School of Media

I come from the beautiful twin island of Trinidad and Tobago, filled with a rich, exotic culture. However, many social issues, such as poverty, crime, sexually-transmitted diseases and the likes cripple our society. As a result of this, during my final year of my undergraduate studies I decided to utilise my skills in helping young people particularly in at-risk situations to become empowered and be the best they can. So in order to assist them I felt that I needed to fully grasp the theory and practice in this field in order to provide useful solutions to youth in need. I pursued an MSc in Poverty and Development in the hopes of understanding my target group. However, I needed to conduct some specific research based on existing media for social change programmes that currently exist in Trinidad and Tobago. I took a leap of faith and applied to the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at the University as I felt the centre was equipped with the required expertise.

Starting my PhD

I embarked on my PhD journey in February 2012 with so much excitement, drive, and determination, and went ahead full speed. I spent most of my time working on my PhD with absolutely no social life. By the end of the seventh month I was drained and extremely exhausted. Within that time I changed my research topic at least twice and was very much concerned about whether I was behind my PhD schedule.

I had massive anxieties about this, not realising that this process is fairly normal and is in fact part of the PhD development. During that time I spoke with as many people as possible, such as my supervisors, colleagues on PhD programmes and external researchers in my field, as I had quite a number of questions and concerns.


Reflecting on my experience – which is still happening – I often refer to it as a love-hate relationship. Some days I am passionate about my research and everything that comes with it, while on other days I say to myself, “what did I get myself into”. After which I positively affirm my thoughts by thinking “the end justifies the means.” Well that’s my hope anyway. At the start of the process, I can recall researching on ‘what doing a PhD entails’ and I also conducted some specific research into my area of study. I assumed that I understood what I was getting myself into, but it was only when I was on the journey that I started to really understand the PhD process.

There have been quite a number of obstacles in various areas of this process. I think the first hindrance was that I didn’t really know what studying a PhD at Birmingham City University would involve.  My second major problem is that I did not embrace the journey; I started off as if it were a race. However, the PhD requires so much love and attention, in order to mould it into something spectacular. I also think that at the start it’s easy to get lost in the literature but realising that the PhD can only cover so much, sooner than later, aids with managing a wide array of materials.

Why I research

What I love most about researching media for social change is the impact on local, national and international communities. Knowing that my research can impact on youth policy and programmes within Trinidad and Tobago. Knowing that the overall society can be improved…as the youth are the leaders of tomorrow. Those are the factors that keep me going when I encounter obstacles. Media for social change is a fairly new and growing field and my research has wider implications on the teaching and research. I also love that the PhD process allows me to discuss my research through platforms such as research seminars, conference presentations and publications. These dialogues enhanced the overall quality of my research.

Tips for PhD students

My top tips for anyone thinking of doing a PhD are:

  • Find out as much about the process as possible before embarking on the journey
  • Ensure that you are researching something that you are passionate about
  • Embrace your research journey
  • As soon as any issues are identified, take them up with your supervisor(s) immediately
  • Don’t be afraid to discuss your issues with other academics in your department
  • Identify and liaise with an external mentor in your field

The benefits

PGRNet-logoThe best kept secrets are the benefits of studying at Birmingham City University. I became involved in the Postgraduate Research Network (PGRNet) when I started my PhD and this has provided me with enormous experiences. I have managed to network with people from all faculties, and that has contributed to having a well-rounded experience. I have also gained teaching experience, and career experience on campus. Overall I have developed as both a researcher and a professional. I plan to continue research in the area of media for social change, and also develop an organisation that utilises the findings of the research for the greater good of society.