We were recently visited by Simon Barber, a researcher at University of Liverpool.  He was kind enough to send us the following guest post, which explains a little bit of what we do at Interactive Cultures.

On Wednesday February 18, I made a trip over to the School of Media at BCU to visit Professor Tim Wall and the Interactive Cultures team. As a researcher at the University of Liverpool, I was curious to learn more about their work, particularly those areas that engage with local music businesses.

Like some renegade splinter group squirreled away in the heart of Baker Building (I’m thinking of the Major Crimes squad from HBO’s The Wire), Interactive Cultures aim to ‘explore the ways in which groups utilise interactive technologies, and use that knowledge to help professional, commercial and community bodies extend their work online.’

It’s an exciting mission and one that resonates with my interest in online music, technology and business. By making their research useful to businesses and providing a context in which academics can engage with the creative industries in Birmingham, there is an intensely practical and valuable aspect to the work going on at Interactive Cultures.

Indeed, in conversation, the team use delicious phrases like ‘knowledge transfer’, which in my mind is a critical concept that should underpin almost all academic research. Once scholars have made conclusions about the media and cultural industries, how then can this information be of benefit to organisations (be they professional, commercial or community bodies)? It is this practical application of research that I find most intriguing.

My first point of contact was Professor Tim Wall, a passionate team leader with a clear intention to establish a home for cutting edge research. As a jazz scholar, Prof. Tim was no stranger to my current area of research, the industrial mediation of jazz production. This topic opened up a wide-ranging discussion about jazz and Tim’s record collection, which I believe numbers somewhere in the region of 12,000 titles!

After an all-too-brief introduction to Jon Hickman, the technical developer at interactive Cultures, Tim and I made the short journey upstairs to the IC offices to meet a few more members of the team. Inside, I was fortunate to meet Dr Paul Long (co-investigator for urban culture and music heritage in the AHRC KTF), Dr Nick Webber (the funding guru with a penchant for medieval history) and Jez Collins (leader of IC’s culture and heritage project, Birmingham Popular Music Archive).

Coming from a city with a rich musical heritage of its own, I was keen to hear about the projects taking place at Interactive Cultures. They include research into the history of the Birmingham music scene plus a number of research projects dealing with radio. One in particular concerns radio training as a development tool in emerging countries; clearly a valuable application of the medium.

With its growing list of consultancies with local music businesses and a clear concern for the current financial situation in the creative industries, I found the Interactive Cultures team to be clearly engaged with active issues in the community. I am only sorry that I was unable to meet Andrew Dubber, whose excellent New Music Strategies blog (http://www.newmusicstrategies.com), was the impetus that led me to this research hub in the first place.

I look forward to visiting again and hearing more about the work of the Interactive Cultures team.

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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