Digital Incubator

A Practice-Based Research Event

Sonic Blankets and Sensory Training Models: Using Emerging Technologies for Community Benefit.”
June 25-July 2, 2018 Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queens University Belfast


The Digital Incubator participants.

The Digital Incubator sessions brought together researchers from across the ImprovEnabled project. It focused on accessibility and strengths-based approaches to disabilities that brought together researchers and community partners in seeking to address two challenges: (1) Can sound and digital tools be used to replace traditional disability interventions (specifically “sonic blankets” to replace weighted blankets for sensory disabilities) and (2) can sensory training be inverted so those who are often described as “disabled” are seen as trainers in sonic spaces because of their heightened sensory capacity. Incubator participants included the University of Regina team (Rebecca Caines, Michelle Stewart, and a student), the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) Team, and a team from Engage Research Lab, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

SARC is an internationally renowned centre at Queens University Belfast. Researchers and artists travel to Belfast to utilize the unique sonic laboratories. The facilities at SARC include the state-of-the-art Sonic Laboratory, multi-channel studios, Broadcast Studio, Interaction Lab and computer labs. The Sonic Laboratory is a specialist acoustic space designed to provide a unique and exciting listening experience, in fact, the auditory equivalent of an IMAX cinema. Forty-eight loudspeakers, strategically located, can project and move sounds throughout the space, including underneath the audience. No other auditorium for sonic art performance and experimentation currently exists with this revolutionary feature. The provision of this facility gives Northern Ireland a unique and pioneering role in a rapidly developing field. This facility enables research teams to develop and implement cutting-edge initiatives in the creation and delivery of music and audio. The project also allows the researchers and partners to continue to plan for major international grants based on digital tools.

Incubator sessions included detailed exploratory, which aimed to establish if further work was merited, including the development of practical demos, plans, and working models, developed through workshops, sessions, meetings, and partnered activities during the week. Multiple ongoing projects resulted from the incubator week.

Incubator Participants

Rebecca Caines, Faculty of MAP, University of Regina, who co-facilitated the incubator sessions with Michelle Stewart. Caines’ work focuses on community-based creative practices to support communities, with a focus on improvised theatre, sonic arts and creative technologies.

Michelle Stewart, Department of Justice Studies, Faculty of Arts. Stewart is an applied anthropologist whose research focuses on community-engaged projects and partnerships focused on cognitive disabilities, mental health and racialized health inequalities as they present in the criminal justice system.

Canadian community research partners (participated via video): Shana Mohr and Lisa Brownstowne

Christian Jones is the coordinator of the Engage Labs University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

Ben Rolfe has worked with the Engage Research Lab since its inception and has a background in serious games including working with virtual and augmented reality.

Paul Stapleton is a Professor in Music at the Sonic Arts Research Centre, at QUB, and a key partner in the development of the incubator and the ImprovEnabled partnership with SARC. His work explores new musical instrument design, music performance, sound design, and critical improvisation studies.

The Sonic Arts Research Centre Team

Faculty: Paul Stapleton, Simon Waters, Franziska Schroeder, John D’Arcy, Trevor Agus, Miguel Ortiz, Pedro Rebelo, Michael McKnight, Zeynep Bulut

Postdoctoral Research Fellows and research assistants: Koichi Samuels and Matilde Meireles

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Paula McHugh is Arts in Health manager at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. She is a key partner helping to connect Trust workers and service users with this creative arts research project, providing consultation and support for the Northern Ireland partnership, and the incubator activities.

The Drake Music Project Northern Ireland provides access to independent music making for children and adults with complex disabilities

The University of Atypical is a disabled-led arts charity, taking an empowerment based approach towards supporting disabled and deaf people’s involvement in the arts.

Visit:  for the agenda of the talks, workshops, presentations, performances and demonstrations.

The Digital Incubator was funded by the Office of the Vice President (Research), University of Regina; CanFASD; and the British Academy. Drawing from research developed with the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation.