Q&A with Professor Carey Jewitt
1 What is your role and what does it involve?
I am the Director of UCL Knowledge Lab, a research centre based in the faculty UCL Institute of Education. We undertake leading interdisciplinary digital research and design in education and beyond, including research on games and playful learning, smart technologies, creativity and coding, digital cultures and media literacy, multimodal interaction, and designing for diversity. Based on research evidence, we devise new pedagogies, design and implement innovative digital media and technologies for teaching and learning, and inform policymakers and educational stakeholders. My own research explores how technologies shape the ways that people interact and communicate, I look beyond language alone to understand the multimodal character of interaction.
2 How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I joined as a junior contract Researcher in 1997 working with Professor Gunther Kress on the ‘Multimodal Science Classroom’ project. We explored how school science teachers use image, gesture, body posture and interact with model, as well as talk, to teach science concepts. It is an inspiring and exciting place to work and its excellent research environment and colleagues that have helped me to develop my career. Before coming here I worked as a social researcher in health and sexual health for a variety of health and primary care trusts to understand how GPs and other Health practitioners and patients communicate with one another.
3 What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your students about the subject you teach?
That understanding and engaging with a diverse range of views on a research problem can be the best way to moving forward and that notions of ‘coherence’ can be unhelpful when understanding the chaotic new-ness of the digital.
4 What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
The work achievement I am most proud of is MODE, a large grant funded by the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods. It enabled me and a team of colleagues (Dr Jeff Bezemer, Dr Sara Price, Professor Gunther Kress and others) to push at the frontiers of digital and multimodal research by exploring how new digital technologies remediate how people communicate and interact in relation to learning, work, health and well being, and personal relationships. The project resulted in many research outputs and training materials as well as the first ever textbook on multimodal research: Introducing Multimodality (Jewitt, Bezemer, and O’Halloran, 2016).
5 Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list.
I want to contribute to understanding of touch as it is digitally mediated. Through my new IN-TOUCH project, a European Research Commission Consolidator Grant over 5 years (2016 – 2021), I am setting out to examine how the rapid expansion of digital touch technologies is set to reconfigure touch and the tactile in new ways, and its social significance for communication as it re-shapes what can be touched, leads to new touch-based capacities, practices and new forms of knowledge about the world. In doing so I want to develop theoretical insights and methods to help generate a social account of touch in digital contexts by integrating ideas from the micro-lens of multimodality, the broad-ethnographic lens of sensory anthropology, and the experiential-lens of the arts.
6 What would it surprise people to know about you?
My first degree is in Fine Art. I have A levels in Pure and Applied Maths, Chemistry and Art.
7 What other piece of research outside of your own subject area interests you?
I find most things interesting and as an interdisciplinary researcher I tend to think everything is in or near my subject area, but if I had to choose one piece of research that is really outside of my subject area it is microeconomics, politics and human behaviour. I am a huge fan of the work of the Institute of Fiscal Studies.