Digital and social media

Capturing a sense of place

The Motion in Place Platform: capturing the relationship between human movement and site

Through Digital and Social Media, researchers at Sussex are developing technology to communicate across space and society.

The Motion in Place Platform brings together a cross-disciplinary group to develop new technologies allowing researchers to move out of the studio,to map and measure the human experience and response when moving through places.

The Animazoo IGS-90m
motion-capture suit.

The Animazoo IGS-90m motion-capture suit.

Over centuries, societies have built up a wealth of written knowledge of human behaviour and emotion in response to specific environments. Such narratives are, however, subjective and not necessarily quantifiable. At the same time, the physical study of a site or the cataloguing of material objects often falls short of capturing the human experience of a site. In an effort to develop new tools for recording and articulating the human physical and emotional response to specific environments, the Motion in Place Platform (MiPP) is developing technologies and research strategies to enable the study of how people understand a site by moving through it.

Understanding human movement

The MiPP team will use two tracking systems to capture different forms of movement data on site. The first system will be developed in collaboration with Brighton-based motion-capture company Animazoo, who will adapt their IGS-190m, currently the most advanced inertial motion-capture system on the market, for use outside a studio. Using gyroscopic sensors attached to flexible suits, this system will allow the collection of high-resolution, full-body data from two people in a fixed area over limited time periods, recording, for example, the movements needed to collect water from a well. The second system will use software developed for the Apple iPhone to capture positional data from large numbers of people moving over a large areas within extended time scales. The goal of MiPP is to develop low-cost and user-friendly systems for generating motion data with a greater degree of flexibility than current research tools such as cameras and GPS loggers. These tools will also provide additional information on aspects of human behaviour and responses to place that is often lost when using written texts, 3-D models and virtual recreations.

A dancer taking part in the

A dancer taking part in the research.

MiPP is funded in part through a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council's (AHRC) Digital Equipment and Database Enhancement for Impact (DEDEFI) scheme, and brings together a cross-disciplinary team of researchers directed by Kirk Woolford (Media, Film and Music, Sussex) and including, among many others, Sally Jane Norman (Director of the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts [ACCA], Sussex) and Martin White (Computer Graphics Centre, Sussex).

The team has an initial year to develop the Platform, and conduct tests in conjunction with the University of Reading's Silchester Field School. At the completion of this pilot phase, the Platform will be hosted until 2013 through the ACCA, a cutting-edge research and teaching infrastructure with a strong focus on creative arts, performance and technology. Ultimately, this hardware, software, and data will be made available to researchers throughout the UK as part of the programme of the AHRC to develop digital resources for the wider academic community.

Sally's perspective

Sally-Jane Norman

The plans for the new Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) are to create a 21st-century, multi-use, interdisciplinary facility on the Sussex campus that will encompass creative arts research, teaching and work with regional partners. The MiPP's place in ACCA is a wonderful piece of timing, as a resource that will serve as a hub for the UK's academic and creative community.

Sally-Jane Norman
Director, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts