Seed Funded Projects 2022-2023

The Material Knowledge of Trees: AI, Libraries, and Immersive Media

PI: Emile Deveraux (MAH Media and Film)

Co-Is: Alice Corble (Library) & Angela Daly (Law - University of Dundee)

Other partners: Radhamohini Prasad (Independent Filmmaker Kalimpong, India) & Michael Duncan (Computational Biologist at SingularityNET)

For some Silicon Valley tech business leaders and AI developers, the development of radical life extension technologies and Longevity’s anti-aging ethos step humanity closer to the Singularity and the promise of immortality. While medical science works to ‘cure’ the disease of aging, data begins to outlive and replace us. Thoughts recorded throughout one’s lifetime are taught to automatically inform and update the data of others in repositories of AI data, upsetting assumed understandings of the materiality of bodies and the presentation of living forms. The materiality of Trees express mortality-based concerns of knowledge collection.


Harnessing Digital Citizen-Science Data for Pollinator Conservation

PI: Andy Philippides (Engineering & Informatics)

Co-Is: Dave Goulson (Life Sciences) &  Maria Castellanos (Life Sciences)

Other partners: Nicholas Balfour (Life Sciences) & Alan Dorin (Monash University - Australia)

Despite the vital importance of pollinator-plant interactions in maintaining global biodiversity, ecosystem resilience and agricultural output, remarkably little is known about the flower preferences of many pollinator species, which insects pollinate flower species, and how these interactions change in space and time. To fill this gap this project has contributed to the creation one of the world's first online, open access, pollinator-plant interaction database.


Robot Opera

PI: Evelyn Ficarra (MAH Music)

Co-Is: Chris Kiefer (MAH Music) & Tim Hopkins (MAH Music)

Other partners: Elizabeth Jochum (Research Lab for Arts and Technologies RELATE  - Denmark) & James Cath (South East Dance)

Long the domain of popular science fiction, robots increasingly permeate every aspect of society. How will this impact the creative and performing arts? This research strandexplores the ramifications of robot presence through encounters between robots and humans through music, words, movement, image and operatic performance.It also embeds reflective sharing between academics, creative practitioners, programmers and robotics professionals. 

In Robot Opera, we are exploring new modes of musician-machine interaction and co-creation. 


The Big Reveal

PI: Tim Hopkins (MAH Music)

Co-I: David Weir (Engineering & Informatics)

Other partners:  Sam Ladkin (MAH English) & Carol Watts (MAH English)

This project explores the question: can uses of AI and adaptive technology create narrative fiction in audio form, responsive to location, in AR experiences for audiences using headphones and mobile devices? 

Imagine an audience member at point A, wearing headphones, listening to pre-scripted narration that reveals creative spirits at large – talking to them, drawing listeners into a story.  Other scripted text awaits at locations B, C, D etc. The user moves unpredictably between them – as they do, AI generates spoken text that bridges the story from one place to another, regardless of the route, with compelling narrative traction. The threshold between AI and not-AI may be undetectable, or may announce itself, like a door to a different realm.

New developments in generative pre-trained transformer technology extend uses of deep learning to produce text. This is a branch of machine learning/AI that may have many potential uses and societal impacts.  The project explores this through a use of AI and AR as a creative space for a multidisciplinary collaboration between engineers and artists.   


Language of live immersive sound and video in a new opera

PI: Ed Hughes (MAH Music)

Partners: Andrew Wicks (singer), Matthew Farrell (singer), Richard Casey (pianist), Adam Staff (programmer), Dom Robertson (performer), Pete Cant (performer)

This pilot started in June 2022 with two workshops in the ACCA that explored the role of live sound and live video in opera and what the impact might be on the opera spectator. For the project, the PI created a short chamber opera based on a Brothers Grimm story, The Death of the Little Hen. The short story touches on archetypal operatic themes such as love, death, loss and grief, but with irony and humour, because the materials (a dead hen, a mountain of nuts, a straw) are small-scale compared to opera’s usual stage of action (Orpheus, underworld etc.).

Opera is a form of theatre in which sung music is primary but which requires collaboration with text, acting, mechanised scenery and lighting to realise its unique musico-dramatic properties. So, opera as multimedia would seem ideal for collaboration, however, some technologies, including the use of video and electronic/amplified sound have generally been resisted by the genre.

During the workshops, the beginnings of a live electronic language were being evolved by the sound engineer, using interactive software responding to the live music, the team began to see the possibilities for a distinctive and immersive aural relationship between on stage sound transformed via speakers in a circle around the auditorium. In addition video artists, experimented with a range of props including children’s creative play objects (stickle bricks) on a tabletop, to develop a representational visual language for the opera, which played onto the ACCA cinema screen.


Earth Law and Earth Arts

PI: Bonnie Holligan (Law)

Co-I: Jo Walton (MAH English) 

This mini project focused on a creative intervention employing automatic text generation (The Earth Law Judgment Generator), while also opening space for wider conversation between arts practice and Earth Law. It asked questions such as: Can ‘making kin’ with more-than-human others be reconciled with rights-based legal rationality? Can playful and interactive artworks help jurisprudence to embrace multiplicity, provisionality, interconnectivity, and permeability in ways that are better aligned with the more-than-human world?

On 13th June 2022, SHL hosted a workshop exploring the intersection of art, law, and the more-than-human. The workshop heard from Sabrina Gilani (Law, Politics and Sociology) on AI and nonhuman agency, and Sandra Nelson (SHL) on law, tech, and transgender bodies. Bonnie Holligan (LPS) and Jo Walton (SHL) launched the Wildlaw Judgment Generator, and Helen Dancer (LPS) introduced the UK Earth Law Judgments Project. There was much thought-provoking discussion, and the workshop offered a chance for the Sussex Humanities Lab and Law to get to know each other better. We hope that it will inspire further conversation and collaboration.
Further info here


Utopia on the Tabletop

PI: Jo Walton (MAH English)

Co-I: Suzanne Tatham (Library)

Utopia on the Tabletop is a forthcoming collection of scintillating interventions and essays about tabletop roleplaying games and their relation to utopian theory and practice. Edited by SHL’s Jo Lindsay Walton and supported by SHL's Open Practice Group, Utopia on the Tabletop will explore Tabletop Role Playing Games (TTRPGs) in their intersections with utopianism. While often considered conspicuously “analog,” in distinction from their digital Role Playing Games cousins, TTRPGs actually have a much more complex relationship with the digital, shaped by gaming platforms and gaming social media such as Roll 20, Twitch,, and Discord, and encompassing a diverse array of digital project management, performance, and creativity tools. How might the utopianism of storytelling and play intersect with the utopianism of these (post-) digital affordances?

The collection will launch in late 2022 / early 2023. It will be a collaboration with MAH’s new poetry and poetics imprint Both Are Worse. In the meanwhile, you can keep an eye on Vector, where you’ll be able to get a sneak peek at some of the chapters throughout the second half of 2022. See also the related Applied Hope Games Jam.