About the Digital World Research Centre

The Digital World Research Centre (DWRC) aims to understand and transform communication through digital media. We conduct art and design research for digital media experiences in both professional and everyday domains. We also strive to generate, commercialize and apply the findings of our research in different cultural contexts around the world.


DWRC was established in 1998 as a multi-disciplinary research centre in the School of Human Sciences at the University of Surrey. It now resides within the School of Arts in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Early work concentrated on understanding the social impact of new technologies such as mobile phones, e-books and the internet. Current work is focused on understanding new forms of digital media production and consumption, and developing ways of supporting them with novel media genres, formats, devices and services. We work with individuals, families and communities on the use of self-made media, and arts practitioners on the generation of professional media.

The centre runs a combination of PhD and post-doctoral research projects. These are funded by a variety of government and industrial sponsors. Government funding has come from UK research councils such as the EPSRC, AHRC and ESRC, and from the EU. Industrial funding has been provided by companies such as Vodafone, Microsoft, Kodak, British Telecom, Orange, Hewlett Packard and Fujitsu. We also have partnerships with smaller creative industry and third sector organizations, and aim to commercialize selected outputs of our research projects. From September 2014, staff of the Centre will also be involved in teaching on a new Digital Media Arts BA degree, and preparing students to work across different professional art forms involving digital media.


To integrate these perspectives we use a combination of art and design research. Two types of design research are used to systematically explore the design and use of new media technology and content. We also use practice-based art research in a kind of ‘Wild Zone’ within the research programme, unconstrained by user needs or design briefs. This leads to three methodological strands of research as follows:

  • Research for design: Social science studies of new media practice
  • Research through design: Design explorations of new media technologies
  • Research through art: Artistic explorations of media content

By combining the results of these different studies within the same thematic area we are able to understand the dynamics of new media experiences in greater depth. We are also able to innovate at both platform and content levels to improve, extend or transform them.

Current research themes

The work of the centre is organized around what we call reference domains. These are domains of everyday life or professional practice involving a sociotechnical system of media use (Frohlich & Sarvas 2011). Furthermore, we target domains of societal relevance in order to maximize the impact of our research. We are currently exploring eight thematic areas as shown below.





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