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Research Projects

Engineering And Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) £125,517 (Value to University of Dundee: £125,517) 09.2008 – 12.2011

Making Sense of Creative Interactions
Making Sense of Creative Interactions
Making Sense of Creative Interactions
Making Sense of Creative Interactions
Making Sense of Creative Interactions

Main project collaborators

Dr Shaleph O'Neill, DJCAD, University of Dundee (Principal Investigator)


Dr Shaleph O'Neill (Principal Investigator)EPSRC, DJCAD and University of Dundee logos
Shaun McWhinnie (PhD Researcher)
Dr Louise Valentine (Second Supervisor)

Context and background

Person holding Iphone Creativity is a difficult problem to grapple with. It has been attributed to occurrences of divine intervention, as the outcome of processes in the brain, genius and mental illness. As such, there is no single authoritative definition of what creativity is. The problem of understanding creativity is made even harder as new technology replaces the traditional media or methods that creative people use in their practices, thus altering the very nature of their creative processes. As such, understanding creativity becomes tied to an understanding of the use of technology within creative practices; the continual advancement of digital interactive technologies challenges our understanding of creative practices, as they alter the creative workspace. It is therefore important to tackle this issue now so that we can design better technology for creative practitioners in the future.

Aims and objectives

The project aims to understand the impact of interactive technology on the creative process of working artists; whether interactive tools support or impinge upon creativity, and further, to develop knowledge that will enhance the design of future interactive technologies used by creative practitioners.

The project investigated how creative practitioners use traditional and new media methods within their creative practice. Case studies were conducted that employed observation of real-time working practice in their own working environments. Interviews were conducted that aimed to understand their perspectives on the way in which they cope with the problems that emerge as they use new technologies. The studies aimed to highlight the way in which technology is impacting on the creative practice of different groups of practitioners, and how to improve interactive technologies for creative practitioners.


Research was carried out using Repertory Grid Technique (RGT), a method which balances idiographic input with a rigorous quantifiable framework, to examine the conceptual constructs of a small group of creative practitioners. Preliminary work with RGT revealed some interesting features, for instance the symbiotic relationship between creative thought and creative actions, and the sources of inspiration. The initial data was very exploratory. However, it did reveal that many of the participants were describing similar processes in different ways. The problem was that the rich variety in which people described these ‘similar’ activities, made it extremely difficult to say something general about creativity. Further work will look for some way of standardising the study in order to compare grids between practitioners in different fields, and to find some kind of framework that can then be used in deeper longitudinal studies.


Post-it Notes It will always be a struggle to find the definitive answer for how to design interactive tools for practitioners, however, by gaining an understanding of the processes involved, systems that meet their needs can be approximated. Therefore, the deeper research goal is to understand the conceptual underpinnings of different approaches to creative practice, and their relationship to the conceptual models embedded in interactive creative tools.
Further research aims to include observational studies across many different creative activities with different media in order to investigate this problem, with a view to improving interface designs for creative tools. The research has been reported in international conference papers and poster presentations. Forthcoming journal articles and a PhD thesis will provide a thorough grounding in the research, identifying the next stage of the research.

Making Sense of Creative Interactions - click here for PDF description

EPSRC £125,517
09.2008 – 12.2011