About the Project

The theory, practice and art of movement capture and preservation: an interdisciplinary investigation

Research Team: Grethe Mitchell (Principal Investigator), Tyler Denmead (Research Assistant)

Project Summary

This project follows on from research into capturing and archiving movement in the Beyond Text project: Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the Age of New Media. Because of its focus on playground activities, the capture, analysis and preservation of movement was an intrinsic part of the large grant project. It is also important in other research in the arts and humanities – not only formal performance, but also transient, ad hoc activities where gesture and other forms of non-verbal communication can play a significant role. A number of projects which feature in the Beyond Text programme fall into one or more of these categories, highlighting the importance of movement to the subject matter of this call.

This project will foster and produce interdisciplinary knowledge exchange by bringing together research from the Beyond Text programme, with knowledge from other academics, archivists, practitioners and experts from the business, commercial and creative sectors, to exchange experiences and identify best practices as well as areas for further investigation, collaboration and partnership.

In doing this, it will address important theoretical and practical issues regarding the capturing, visualisation and preservation of gestures/movement, such as: the balance between complexity and ease-of-use in any system, fidelity (how accurately movement is recorded), completeness (how much detail is recorded), versatility (whether the data recorded is open to other forms of presentation or analysis), and usability (how easy the recording system is to use and how much the system intrudes on the activity). Other associated issues include data preservation, archival permanence, the ethical considerations of consent and anonymity and the relationship between researchers and subjects.

Although considerations of these issues feature within disciplines there has been little discussion between areas and information is often isolated within disciplines. For example, formal movement notation systems are well known within the dance community, but not within other fields. Likewise, computer based motion capture may appear daunting to those from a more traditional humanities background. As a result, potentially useful knowledge is occulted from research areas where it may serve to inspire new capture or visualisation techniques, theoretical considerations or archival practices. In an age of interdisciplinarity and technological convergence, it is becoming increasingly important that knowledge is shared across disciplines, both in terms of identifying common concerns and best practices, and in terms of sharing intellectual and practical resources.

To this end we will produce and disseminate an interdisciplinary review of the different methods, techniques and technologies for capturing, visualising, analysing and archiving movement/gesture and their accompanying historical, disciplinary and theoretical rationales and concerns – making it easily and widely available and contributing to the dissemination of theories and practices.

We will also host two interdisciplinary knowledge-exchange symposia encouraging discussion between the academic, creative and archive community and relevant business, commercial and creative practices. The symposia will focus on theoretical, practical and ethical issues relating to the capture, visualisation and archiving of movement. We will disseminate the results and findings of the symposia through expert-authored chapters of an edited volume of case-studies, research design and results and via the project website.

The project will start with and be sustained by, an online knowledge-exchange and partnership hub, a network and website portal for information, knowledge exchange, discussion and dissemination – allowing the project to extend internationally and last beyond the duration of the project.


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