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Kirk Woolford

Reader in Digital Media Arts, DMA PhD Programme Director



Kirk Woolford is a researcher/practitioner who works closely with digital and creative industries. Kirk initially studied Computer Science before discovering digital photography experiments in the mid 80s, and interactive media in the 90s. He has spent more than 25 years balancing academia, industry, and cultural institutions.

Kirk has taught in Design, Media Arts, Fine Art, and Choreography programs in Germany, Holland, the US and UK. Kirk's research is practice-based and focuses on creating interactive experiences and performances as a method of exploring ideas, technologies, and cultures. These explorations have been shown internationally at galleries, festivals and performance venues including Shanghai eArts, ARCO Madrid, Art Cologne, P.S.1. (MoMA), Venice Biennale, Ars Electronica, ISEA, and SIGGRAPH. In his explorations, Kirk has collaborated with Imogen Heap, Diller+Scofidio, igloo, Charleroi Danses, Carlos Guedes, Susan Kozel, Frederique Flamand, Fabrizio Plessi, Stelarc, and others.

Research interests

At its core, my research focuses on the role of the creative practitioner within the larger context of the creative industries, as how practitioners can act as equal partners in the development and application of digital technologies. This work focuses not only on the ability of creative practitioners to develop prototypes with limited resources. It also focuses on the manners in which the continual innovation and dissemination of work required to function within arts contexts can provide unexpected insights and unconventional working methods for other disciplines. It also explores how these “creative approaches” are often viewed as disruptive within disciplines heavily reliant on peer review. I have conducted this research through projects such as co-founding the G3Futures consortium developing links between the University of Surrey and local games companies in the Guildford area, CREATOR: New Research Processes and Business Models for the Creative Industries funded through an EPSRC Digital Economies grant, acting as a founding board member of Lancaster's Storey Creative Industries Centre, for which we raised over £4.5M, as well as my own creative practice where I continue to exhibit and perform work, having most recently been commissioned to develop AR and VR works in Abu Dhabi.

A second thread through my research attempts to understand human movement and focuses not only on how, but why people move. Since 2005, much of this work has focused on the relationship between environments and human movement. More recent work focuses on how to keep people moving later in their lives. In order to conduct this research, I have built and/or adapted existing systems for tracking and analysing movement: starting with magnetic capture systems in 1996, and continuing through arrays of ultrasonic, optical, and inertial systems. Since 2010, I have explored this combination of movement and environment through the development of multiple Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality apps and experiences.

Research collaborations

Kirk has most recently worked with Imogen Heap, Windfall Films, BBC2, and BBC cross-platform. He has worked with the Sussex Innovation Centre to further develop research into video games and motion analysis for stroke rehabilitation, physiotherapy and sports training.

Prior to working in UK academia, Kirk set up and directed production companies in New York, London, and Amsterdam -- with partners including the Economist Group, BBC, Channel 4, FilmFour, Illuminations, Babel Media, and THQ. From 1990-91, he worked with Eastman Kodak, Adobe, and Quark to incorporate their new technologies, including the first version of Photoshop, into early desktop publishing studios. Between 1992 and 2005, Kirk held several research positions in Germany and the Netherlands as he moved between academy and industry. He has produced online entertainment, education, publishing, and streaming systems, as well as video games for set-top-boxes, PCs and consoles. He has served as a board member for several foundations and continues to work with industry partners.

Kirk is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College and has served in various capacities on international conferences including ACM SIGGRAPH, SIGCHI, SIGMM, ISEA, and smaller conferences in the US, Germany, Holland, Portugal, and the UK.

Departmental duties

On research leave in Autumn 2017



My publications

Additional publications