fredag 30 augusti 2019

Homo Colossus at Tekniska Museet (application)


In the end of April (four months ago) I wrote a blog post about a medium-sized (1.9 MSEK) research/communication application we handed in. We have submitted yet another application, a "Small Visionary Project" (SVP) proposal that was submitted in response to a call from the new KTH center Navet, "A hub to navigate to unexplored regions between art, technology and design":

"The vision of NAVET is that Sweden should have a leading position in the intersectional area Art, Technology and Design, with a practical and critical approach that stimulates research, innovation, creativity, and the development of a sustainable society."

Navet started up earlier this year with my colleague Roberto Bresin as its first director. One of Navet's first activities was to issue a call for Small Visionary Projects in order to spread (limited amounts of) money and hopefully get some quick results for Navet to show. Even better, the Small Visionary Projects call is supposed to be issued not just once but twice per year! The Navet SVP call stated that:

"Small Visionary Projects (SVPs) are aimed at strengthening the existing networks between the NAVET partner institutions by making possible for researchers to collaborate on joint projects to foster research collaboration and bring added values in areas covered by the institutions, for example by developing and testing new methods and ideas"

The call for Small Visionary Projects was supposed to have been announced in the beginning of May but it did in the end not appear until the beginning of June. This delay meant that the evaluation of the applications had to be postponed. Instead of both submitting and getting notifications before the summer, the new deadline for submitting proposals was changed to August 31 and the date for notifications was changed to September 30.

Mario Romero and me submitted a 0.3 MSEK Navet Small Visionary Project proposal called "Homo Colossus at Tekniska Museet" together with our "regular" partners (Åsa and Per) as well as two persons from Tekniska Museet. The applicants were thus:
- Mario Romero, Associate Professor, KTH
- Daniel Pargman, Associate Professor, KTH
- Åsa Andersson Broms, Senior Lecturer, KKH
- Per Hasselberg, Director of Operations, Konstfrämjandet
- Fanny Söderström Aupeix, Project Leader & Producer, Tekniska Museet
- Åsa Marnell, Head of Exhibitions, Tekniska Museet

The call had some limitation and those that were most important for us were:
- An maximum amount of money you can apply for is 0.3 MSEK (which we did).
- Applications have to involve KTH and a non-KTH partner. There might have been a preference for the three full Navet partners; Royal College of Music (KHM), Stockholm University of the Arts (SKH) and Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design. Our partners were instead The Royal Institute of Arts (Kungl. Konsthögskolan) and the Technical museum in Stockholm and this might have disadvantaged our application since the call states that "The applicants should, at the moment of the submission, specify which of the NAVET partner institutions [...] will be involved in the proposed project".
- Confusingly, the brunt of the money you apply for can only be used to pay for the time/salary of KTH personnel, so while it is necessary to apply together with a non-KTH partner, that partner has to bear their own costs (e.g. someone's time/salary). I assume this is a requirement from KTH, but it's still a bit strange and makes for awkward conversations with your project partner(s).
- The application is just 1 page long! Director Roberto Bresin has said that ”he has better things to do with his time” than to read long applications.
- The projects are both small and lithe/quick. They are to run and be finished in just 6 months.

My colleague Mario Romero was the main applicant and our application specified that we would use a sliver of money to pay for Mario's and my time (2% each) and another sliver of money will pay for some technical equipment (high-end smartphones). Most of the money we applied for is to be used to pay the salary of a research engineer (a skilful student) for 50% of his/her time during a period of 5 months. As part of the "Aim of this project" we specified that:

"The main aim of the project is divided into three phases. First, we aim to collect and analyze direct non-participant observation data at Tekniska Museet of a working prototype of the AR application that our students developed last autumn. Second, with the analysis of this usage data, we aim to improve the design of the AR application and its integration into the museum environment. Our goal is to design and develop the next version of the application together with our collaborators who are artists and museum curators. Third, we aim to deploy an improved and contextualized version of the application at Tekniska Museet, collect and analyze observation data and write a report that will both inform Navet and may serve as both material to be part of a future scientific publication and data to serve as evidence and seed to the next round of applying for funding from various research grant agencies.

The research questions of the deployment of the application will include: 
- What is the public perception of energy consumption before and after the exhibit? 
- How do people explore and acquire an understanding of energy consumption and how does this new understanding help them reflect upon and impact their lifestyles? 
- How do people perceive and understand energy consumption patterns across time and place? 
- How do people understand the relationships between energy consumption and carbon emissions, environmental impact, and sustainable lifestyles? 
- In particular, we will test the affordances of AR in a museum environment towards addressing the issues listed here."

Our "Justification of budget and involved personnel" outlines how we will use the money we applied for:

"Mario Romero and Daniel Pargman will supervise the technical and scientific qualities of the research while one or more research engineers (equivalent to 5 months at 50%) will develop and test the software and gather experimental data for reporting the results of the installation. Finally, to develop and test the software, we need to acquire at least two high-end smartphones."

Comment: This blog post was written at a later point in time and has been back-dated. 

Addendum: We were supposed to know if our application was approved by October 1 but only on October 25 did we get an official notice. In the end, 6 out of 15 applications were funded and ours was not one of them. There has, to the best of my knowledge, been zero information published about what applications/projects have been approved. The three reviewers gave our application a paltry 2.7 out of 5 on each of the three criteria, "Aim of this project", "Strategic importance and impact" and "Future plan". It could also be that our applications was disadvantaged or severely disadvantaged because one of the reviewers wrote that "A collaboration between KTH, KKH and Tekniska Museet (does this qualify under the conditions of Navet’s SVP – are there enough Navet partner institutions involved?) [...] Unlike other application [...] there are questions regarding the number of Navet collaborative partners involved". That was definitely a let-down. It would have been good to know in advance if our application was disqualified and we would obviously not have spent time writing it  but I'm still unsure if that's the case or not. I'm also unsure whether we will bother to apply for a Small Visionary Project again (the next call is supposed to be announced in February 2020 but there is (again) zero information on the Navet homepage so it's a bit unclear. 

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