What is the future of death and dying? Would our desires change if we could design our own sexuality? Is identity stronger if our stories and memories are more carefully curated? What happens when humans and robots share public space?
Our art and technology programme at Watershed is interested in the practice led, critical exploration of questions about the future. We believe that bringing together different perspectives, skills and types of knowledge improves our collective ability to produce more meaningful products, experiences and insights.
From 2012-2016 we led REACT with UWE Bristol. Itself a collaboration between Watershed and five Universities, each of REACT’s 53 projects was a partnership between an academic and a company - brought together to explore a new idea and make a prototype. Over the programme we teamed up philosophers with publishers, historians with game designers, archaeologists with digital agencies, political scholars with film makers… and asked them to produce something jointly which they wouldn’t have been able to alone. With our support they made products for sectors such as heritage, publishing, documentary, and children’s products.
As producers of the programme we designed a process and held a space which supported commercial, cultural and research outcomes. To date the participating companies have earned upwards of £2.5m in further investments, and Universities have upwards of £2.3m from funding bids. You can read more about the results and how we achieved them in the REACT Report.
We believe in the power of the arts to be at the leading edge of technology development and convene and produce research projects that push the boundaries of what is possible. Programmes like Being There which looked at how cutting-edge robotics can enable people to participate in public space, and Virtual Realities, a new project that will investigate what VR might mean for documentary all utilise and expand the power of our community to explore complex problems. Building on our learning from the Studio and from REACT, our methodology for University collaboration is always founded on values of openess, generosity and equality - proactively delivered through a hands on approach.
We are interested in reinventing what engagement with a University might mean and our long term collaboration in the Pervasive Media Studio allows us to just that. We are now running MA courses in Creative Producing and Comtemporary Film Culture with UWE Bristol and have our very own Watershed Professor of Design Futures (the brilliant Jen Stein).