The SMARTlab PhD Origins
Founded by Professor Lizbeth Goodman in 1992 while at the BBC and Open University, where research was informing the new field of interactive learning models for students at a distance, SMARTlab’s research team and its methods have evolved through four institutions, including the University of Surrey, Central Saint Martins, University of East London and University College Dublin (UCD). SMARTlab’s core team has graduated over 60 practice-based PhDs in that time, and the institute has achieved major international status.
SMARTlab is engaged in a broad spectrum of research areas, which operate across a number of research clusters, covering areas such as Performance, Social and Community Media, and Gaming. The method is intrinsically transdisciplinary, due to the backgrounds of those involved. Artists and technologists come together as scholars to collaborate in the teaching and learning environment. SMARTlab researchers are active in the design of new bespoke tools and assessing their potential through socially based research models.
SMARTlab’s core research strategy is to bring together performance specialists with artists, scholars, computer scientists and policymakers to share a commitment to creative technology in writing and public dissemination of findings in more scholarly forms. Several members of the team are post-doctoral faculty, having completed their PhDs with us in recent years. We promote a collaborative research and writing for publication model.
Over the years, we have found that many scholars engaged in practical research (whether in the arts, technology, or social and educational innovation) have encountered difficulties in placing their work in relation to the academy. We have worked to overcome problems in finding appropriate ways to ‘measure’ artistic practice in research exercises, by identifying appropriately flexible and experimental forms for innovative research processes and outcomes.
At SMARTlab any prescriptive model of creativity and reflection is avoided, in order to enable students to develop their own praxis. Therefore, a thesis could comprise a substantial collection of original creative material, together with a written thesis that contextualises the work within an academic framework. The inclusion of ‘practice’ in a PhD context is premised on the notion that research questions in many fields can be rigorously worked through in a range of practices (of which writing is only one).
The SMARTlab supports a highly selective group of PhD researchers. This group works together live and online, with contributors from around the world, to co-create and debate the nature of ‘practice-based research’. Students and supervisors come together three times a year (in February, July and October) for intensive seminars at SMARTlab’s main centre. These seminars focus on research methods and transdisciplinary critical practices, group critique, feedback, and the relationship between practice and theory. Candidates are encouraged to work together on joint experiments, to meet regularly with experts or join debates online, to share work-in-progress, and to take an active role in contributing and receiving feedback within the group and in sub-groups, known as research clusters.
A PhD is...
An original and substantial contribution to the field of study of publishable quality.