Breakthrough digital media research bring creative and scientific experts together

A new research group at the University of Manitoba spanning multiple faculties is exploring possibilities in digital media experimentation.

The Experimental Media Research Group involves representatives from the faculties of science, engineering, medicine, architecture, arts, music and the school of art, among others. It aims to develop collaborative research and creative works projects related to all aspects of digital media, according to Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research).

Jayas explained that the nature of digital media or new media research requires collaboration from experts in both creative and scientific fields because it deals with digital interaction, production and visualization.

“Therefore, for this field to make significant advances it is necessary for scientists and engineers to work with architects, musicians and artists,” explained Jayas. “Creative groups set the expectations for what needs to be done while the scientists and engineers develop tools to make that happen, and the virtuous cycle continues.”

The research group was initially spearheaded by the faculty of architecture in a forum held in 2005 to introduce the possibility of a new media program to a larger university audience.

“A number of key faculties were involved in that [ . . . ], and that led to an agreement on the part of the deans to see if there wasn’t an opportunity to structure something more formally by way of perhaps a new program or research group that would work in the way of digital technology,” said Herb Enns, professor of architecture at the U of M and leader of the project.

Enns said that it is not uncommon for the collaborative effort of digital media research to have its roots in architecture.

“The simulation of spaces has always been an important part of architectural education,” said Enns.

“There’s a very strong precedent at MIT, an extremely famous group called the media lab [ . . . ], who are doing research in all manners of technology right now, who were born out of the department of architecture.”

The U of M group has begun working on a number of projects, including a collaborative musical instrument.

“It was a case where bringing students from the school of music on board really sort of expanded the capability of this thing that was invented in the computer science program,” said Enns.

Another project involved using radar spectrum surveys.