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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W020610/1
Title: Ecological Citizens: Tools, technologies and means to enable sustainable digital citizens
Principal Investigator: Phillips, Dr R
Other Investigators:
Shepley, Dr A West, Dr S Baurley, Professor S
Simmons, Mr T
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Abierto by Cuartielles AzuKo British Science Association
Crafts Council Dark Matter Laboratories Design Council
Dupont Field Ready (UK) Glasgow School of Art
Hammersmith Community Gardens Assoc. Local Trust Local Works Studio
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham Open Data Institute (ODI) OpenStructures
Priestman Goode Slow Ways Smart Design
Sport England The Restart Project The Royal Society of Arts (RSA)
The Wildlife Trusts (UK) University of Brighton Woodmeadow Trust
Department: School of Design
Organisation: Royal College of Art
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2022 Ends: 31 July 2026 Value (£): 2,652,958
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Human-Computer Interactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Environment Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
26 Jan 2022 DE Network Plus Interview Panel Announced
10 Nov 2021 DE Network Plus Prioritisation Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
To realise the transformational impact of digital technologies on aspects of community life, cultural experiences, future society, and the economy, the RCA proposes to host a DE Network+ focused on digital interventions that would create 'the conditions to make change' towards a sustainable post-industrial society - where the 'product' is the experience, where experiences promote human wellbeing and personal resilience, where the digital interventions are sustainable and promote societal resilience.

To achieve a sustainable society, citizens require agency to control the impact they have on the natural environment. Therefore, an Ecological Citizens (EC) Network+ sustainable digital society would use digital technology to: Decouple the use of materials resources from economic development; add value to products through experiences and services; give citizens agency to take care of their environment (relating to waste reduction and reuse, energy generation); give citizens agency to design their own experiences involving products, which promote wellbeing, learning, self-advancement; enable experiences that empower citizens to do, to make, to repair, to learn, to create, to connect, to communicate, to interact, to understand, to share, to enjoy.

This Network+ foresees the next move in technological interventions is in creating and implementing "the conditions to make change", i.e. the experiences and interactions, and digitally networked societal actors that enable sustainable transitions for societies and communities. To enact this vision, this proposal focuses on a model of 'distributed everything' - knowledge and know-how, design, materials flows, fabrication and hacking, energy generation - as the fundamental societal transformations that are needed to achieve sustainability require a re-examination of how knowledge is produced and used. Co-production of research is a key mechanism for improving the knowledge required for the fundamental societal transformations needed to achieve sustainability [1], and is central to the approach of the EC Network+.

With leading partners, we will inform a truly sustainable 'digital society', built within communities, ensuring legacies through ambassadors, and setting agendas for future transdisciplinary research teams. The EC Network+ will provide a scaffolding to spawn new projects about sustainability at a range of scales (Village, Town, City). This collaborative trans-disciplinary approach is essential for tackling our unprecedented environmental challenges. The network will be built through activities including pump priming, collaborative residentials, learning webinars, strategic roundtables, media and communications, reports, podcasts, and a micro funding scheme. The academic consortium covers the core areas of computer science, sustainable engineering, human-centred design and citizen science. Led by the Royal College of Art (RCA), this proposal builds on Dr Phillips' My Naturewatch, a DIY wildlife camera project that engaged 3 million+ people with UK based wildlife, the circular economy work of the RCA's Materials Science Centre (Prof Baurley), the sustainable engineering and physical computing expertise of the Faculty of Arts, Science and Technology at Wrexham Glyndwr University (Prof Shepley), and expertise in citizen science and policy of the Stockholm Environment Institute at The University of York (Dr West).

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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.rca.ac.uk