In 2019 I was lucky enough to to be awarded a South West Creative Technology Network Fellowship in Automation. This is a summary of the research, both practical and academic that occurred as well as thinking, ideas and emotional responses to the whole field of automation that I encountered. It is not an academic response – I am not an academic and this isn’t an argument.

I also want to discuss where I am now and where all this will take me – I think – in the future. In this summary I am going to mention things briefly to try to get a holistic sense of the activity and then go into more detail in future writing about the specifics of what is talked about here.

First of all, I should like to say that I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to take part in the fellowship. To be able to access all the information and knowledge made available has been exhilarating, energizing, confusing, worrying and it has filled me up. To meet amazing people doing incredible and exciting things in this field has been a massive privilege and a huge learning experience which has profoundly changed my approaches to my work and thinking. I am still processing much of this and I think it will feed in for many years to come. Thank you to all who enabled this to happen – it has been life changing.

I have not written about this yet, simply because I did not feel I could make sense of it properly. Now I am at the end of the fellowship, this is my attempt to summarise and draw some conclusions. I know already that this will not be a conclusion, just a staging point.

BSWCTN (Before the South West Creative Technology Network)

Very briefly: I make things mostly with clay, teach etc. You can see more of what I do here and here and here.

We are in this new age, this “4th Industrial revolution”. As someone who is principally involved in the use of some of the earliest technologies known about with the most basic of materials, what does this mean for me? How do I find my place in this? Can I find my future before it arrives? Will it help me make sense of the present? Probably not but I am curious to find out.

In my application I wrote about my early experiences with tech, collaboration,making art and outlined my areas of research I thought I would want to follow.

These came in 2 sections (though originally it was a lot more wordy):

  • Automation and Craft: The relationship between the Handmade and the Machine.
  • Automated Transport for urban sustainability.

Then I talked about what I would like to do:

  • Researching new developments in the area of the handmade and technology exploring academic and artistic dialogues.
  • Researching the development of human behaviors in a domestic context in response to the encounter and embrace of new technologies (especially automation). How have behaviors changed over the last 40 years. How do different groups in society take on new technology (age / socio-economic background / race / religion / gender / sexuality etc)?
  • In what ways has the advent of automation, created or removed barriers for different groups and how might the continued development of automation in society affect these groups in the future.
  • Material science research to explore new uses of ceramic materials especially in relation to conductivity, but in other areas also.
  • Engage in and conduct practical research to explore ideas that come about as a result of the questions above.
  • Dream a bit…. To get outside of the technology and think of good stories and work out ways to tell them.

Looking back on this now, I know I wanted to do way too much. It is not clear enough and I should have focused on just one or two more specific simple tasks. I feel like the (greedy) boy in the sweetshop , I want to eat (know/do) everything.

Before the first meetings I had started to play already exploring ceramics and electronics using gold enamel and a piece of tech from Bare Conductive called a “Touch Board”. You can see more about this strand of research here.

DSWCTN Part 1: Deep Dive

The initial stage of the Fellowship was a three month period of intensive research and exploration punctuated with three 2 day meetings in different centres of research; Plymouth, Falmouth and Bristol. So much happened in these three months that it would be daft to try to write it down as it exists in my notebooks as it would not :

  • make much sense
  • be too much for one piece of writing

In this summary, I am going to mention the things that, on re-reading my notebooks, I have drawn boxes around as key staging points in the journey. There are links to further writing about them where there is space for more detail.


DSWCTN Part 2: Putting Research into Practice


Covid – sad that the community has not been able to meet up and share more in person.

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