Hundreds of Things

i-DAT, in collaboration with University College Falmouth, invites applications for a 3-year full-time PhD studentship to engage in an applied, practice based research project to explore the potential of smart networked technologies (topically described as the ‘Internet of Things’) to map and evaluate the movement and relationships of people and resources across a geographically distributed communities.
Project overview:

The research will take place through collaborating cultural and heritage venues and regional art galleries distributed across Cornwall. These venues act as active nodes on a dynamic network, linking communities of local residents to a transient community of visitors. They operate as conduits for exchange for ideas, knowledge and physical objects. They also become nodes on more problematic seasonal networks, such as supply chains for food, traffic and amenities (water, electricity and sewerage).

The research will engage in participatory design process through the use ‘provocative prototypes’ or ‘cultural probes’. It will explore the use of smart networked technologies, such as RFID’s, networked sensors, mobile phones, web and embedded technologies, to reveal the complex processes that exist within this networked ecology.

Applicants should therefore have accomplished digital media production skills, such as programming (such as processing, AS3, max msp php, java, etc) and hardware and basic electronics (such as arduino, xbee, RFID, etc).

These processes can be described as a ‘techno-ethnography’ that embraces quantitative data (such as server hits, financial transactions, GPS tracking of artefacts and people, etc) and qualitative data (such as stories, images, audio/visual recordings and conversations).

Supervisory team:
Mike Phillips, Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Director of i-DAT ( , University of Plymouth, Faculty of Art, Centre for Media Art & Design Research.

Phil Stenton, Professor of Pervasive Media and Associate Dean for Research & Enterprise at the School of Media and Performance at University College Falmouth.

The title of this project ‘Hundreds of Things’ refers to the Anglo-Saxon geographic division of Cornwall into sections of land or ‘Hundreds’. The Hundred was a section of a shire liable to provide for a hundred men under arms, or containing roughly a hundred homesteads. Hundreds were the only widely used administrative unit between the parish and the county in size and acted as a mechanism for passing information across the region.

Today such a system might be described as a dynamic mesh network, with each Hundred being a router node processing and distributing information. Hundreds of Things embraces this forgotten system by recognising the importance of a cultural network that acts as a vehicle for knowledge, trade and social and cultural capital.

The project builds on previous process and technologies deployed by i-DAT, such as Cornwall Culture (CAM’s campaign for Cornwall as a European Region of Culture, and, as well as international collaborative projects such as the ‘Am-I-able Network’ (New Media Research Network fund at Canadian Heritage).

i-DAT has secured the collaboration of IBM Hursley Innovation Centre to develop the Smarter Planet Lab at the University of Plymouth. This project draws heavily on the skills and technologies being jointly developed by i-DAT and IBM within this resource. The ‘Hundreds of Things’ project is synergetic with the IBM Smarter Planet initiative that seeks to embed intelligence and connectivity into distributed objects and provide a technological infrastructure to provide real time data on environments, ecologies, buildings, people, objects and cities.

The Smarter Planet ambition recognises: ‘Trillions of digital devices, connected through the Internet, are producing a vast ocean of data. And all this information – from the flow of markets to the pulse of societies – can be turned into knowledge because we now have the computational power and advanced analytics to make sense of it. With this knowledge we can reduce costs, cut waste, and improve the efficiency, productivity and quality of everything from companies to cities.

The ‘Hundreds of Things’ project will directly link the technologies emerging to facilitate the Smarter Planet rhetoric to the problems of a geographically distributed cultural network to explore a qualitative and quantitative understanding of its regional impact.