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Welcome to IRIS

The International Research Centre for Interactive Storytelling (IRIS) promotes and supports creative research into the use and application of storytelling in media and technology. It has been formed to explore new, alternative and emerging methods of storytelling in an interdisciplinary and multi-perspectival context. 

The research centre brings together an interdisciplinary network of researchers, practitioners, industry partners and students in order to ​foster creative conversations around ground-breaking research in contemporary media forms. Furthermore, it aims to promote dialogue between creative practice and theoretical knowledge as related forms of research work and provides the conditions for fully developing a wide range of possible projects. 

The centre offers research seminars, workshops and conferences. It also welcomes PhD candidates in its members’ areas of research, including film studies, documentary studies, audience analysis, visual ethnography, digital education, visual communication and journalism.

Some of our current core enquires are:

  • the impact of “the Digital” in real world contexts.
  • new forms in immersive and interactive narrative media
  • design, creation and distribution of story events (in transmedia and social media)


IRIS Days 2021: Research Practices - Monday 28 June and Tuesday 29 June 

This 2-day research event will bring together practitioners, researchers and experts from different disciplines (including media, film, journalism, humanities, education and photography) working on the broader concept of ‘storytelling’ as a way to “reshape the spectrum of narrative expression” (Jane Murray).

The event will include key-note talks, workshops and a closing round-table.

The general aim of this event is to identify a number of key issues in research and practice-led research that can be tackled successfully through a multidisciplinary approach.

A major component of this event will be a collaborative research-by-practice interactive project created by you, the participants, to be used for future research projects.

Please register your free place on Eventbrite

Event Programme

Day 1

9.30-10:00 Opening Address

10:00-11:00 Keynote Speaker Maggie Brown &  Dr Carolyn Jackson-Brown Two Publications about Channel 4: A Discussion on Research Methods and Findings

11:00-12:00 Documentary Film - How Will Brexit Affect the UK Screen Sector? Screening followed by Q&A with Director Szymon Stawicki

12:00-13:00 Lunch

13:00-14:00 Reflections at the end of the Pandemic: A Practice Based Research Project" (Collaborative Project Activity)

14:00-15:00 Alexandra D'onofrio Visual Anthropology: Collaborative Research Methods

15:00-16:00 Postgrad Panel

16:00-16:30 Break

16:30-17:30 Scott Nicholson & Liz Cable Unlocking the Potential of Puzzle-based Learning : Designing Escape Rooms and Games for the Classroom

Join the Teams meeting for Day 1

Day 2

9.30-10:00 Welcome

10:00-11:00 Reflections at the end of the Pandemic: A Practice Based Research Project (Collaborative Project Activity)

11:00-12:00 Dr Allister Gall & Dan Paolantonio: Imperfect Cinema

12:00-13:00 Lunch

13:00-14:00 Kenechi Unachukwu: Hard Times in a Mad City - A Photo Essay

14:00-15:00 Jon Henry: Stranger Fruit - A Photo Essay

15:00-15:30 Break

15:30-17:00 Roundtable discussion

17:00-17:30 Closing Address

Join the Teams meeting for Day 2

Speaker profiles

Maggie Brown & Dr Carolyn Jackson-Brown 

Journalist & media historian Maggie Brown and LTU academic researcher Dr Carolyn Jackson-Brown compare notes on the research practices that they employed for their respective recent publications about Channel 4. Both have investigated the executive decision making and media production choices of this unique publisher broadcaster and much of their work is based around elite interviews and internal corporate documents. Maggie’s book is published this month by Bloomsbury as a sequel to her ‘A Licence to be Different - The Story of Channel 4, a history of the channelCarolyn’s in-depth production-study, focusing on disability representation on screen & within the workforce, has been published by Routledge to coincide with the Tokyo Paralympic Games. You can read more about the book here.

In this session the journalist and the academic researcher will talk about their respective methods and findings. Maggie Brown is one of the UK's leading media writers. Her career includes contributing to The Guardian and Observer, helping to launch The Independent as its first media editor and writing A Licence to be Different: The Story of Channel 4, published in 2007, the history of its first 25 years. She lives in London and Wales, UK. 

Jon Henry 

Jon Henry is a visual artist working with photography and text, from Queens NY (resides in Brooklyn). His work reflects on family, sociopolitical issues, grief, trauma and healing within the African American community. His work has been published both nationally and internationally and exhibited in numerous galleries including Aperture Foundation, Smack Mellon, and BRIC among others. Known foremost for the cultural activism in his work, his projects include studies of athletes from different sports and their representations. 

He was recently named one of the TIME Magazine NEXT100 for 2021.  Included in the Inaugural 2021 Silver List.  He recently was awarded the Arnold Newman Grant for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture, an En Foco Fellow for 2020, one of LensCulture's Emerging Artists for 2019 and has also won the Film Photo Prize for Continuing Film Project sponsored by Kodak.

Kenechi Unachukwu 

Kenechi Unachukwu is a pharmacist and freelance photographer currently based out of central New Jersey, USA. Kenechi was first drawn to photography by images documenting the underground bboy (breakdance) battle scene. He has since branched out to street and documentary-style photography in his local communities. As he develops his style, Kenechi aims to both tell stories that have not been told, as well as ask hard questions that sometimes have no answer. 

As the capital of Wisconsin, Madison is an epicenter for protests in the state. From the 100,000-person 2011 collective bargaining bill demonstrations to the protests in wake of the 2015 shooting of 19-year-old black man Tony Robinson, the city is no stranger to gatherings for social, economic, and racial matters. In a year marked by hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by state shutdown regulations, racial justice issues, and the looming 2020 presidential election, residents saw the number of demonstrations increase significantly. 

In this talk he describes the journey from photographing a single first protest, to going out multiple times a week to capture various events, to eventually realizing that the work could be a cohesive project, and putting the project together. Through this, I also reflect on the meaning behind the events of 2020 and how we can move forward as a nation. 

Liz Cable & Scott Nicholson 

Scott and Liz are the authors of Unlocking the Potential of Puzzle-based Learning : Designing escape rooms and games for the classroom. They’ll be discussing how their escape-game making has changed over a long year of lockdown, what other immersive game-making they are involved in, and inviting the audience to share their own experiences with going digital as well as ask questions. 

Scott Nicholson is a Professor in the Game Design and Development program at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. He has been designing live action games for over 30 years and was the first scholar to explore escape rooms at an international level. He led a team of students to create the escape rooms for the 2017 and 2019 Red Bull Mind Gamers Escape Room WorldChampionships, and was the designer of the award-winning Breakout EDU puzzle box game Ballot Box Bumble. He is a former librarian and library school professor, and his passion is creating face-to face games for learning in museums, libraries, classrooms, and the home. 

Liz Cable is a Senior Lecturer in Social Media, Digital Narratives and Transmedia Production at Leeds Trinity University, UK, and a PhD candidate researching escape games in education. Liz has designed and run several massive multiplayer live-action roleplaying campaigns over 30 years. She has been designing commercial and educational escape games since 2015, and teaches educators to make immersive games for the classroom and beyond. 

Dr Alister Gall & Dan Paolantonio 

Founded by Plymouth-based filmmakers & academics Allister Gall and Dan Paolantonio, Imperfect Cinema began as an open-access DIY film collective in 2010. The interplay between DIY community creative practice and critical filmmaking provides them with a generative intersection from which to situate their (imperfect cinema) praxis. This talk and presentation will show examples from a portfolio of practice which examines, in one way or another, the emancipatory potential of imperfection. This understanding has been developed through film projects, workshops, micro-cinemas, zines, live screen and sound collaborations and participatory practice.

We will end with a discussion on our latest research film BLVD from their ongoing project Home of Movies which began in 2018. Situated in Union Street Plymouth Stonehouse, one of the poorest areas in the Uk, Home of Movies brings to light the areas incredible, and largely forgotten, cinema history. 

Alexandra D'Onofrio 

Alexandra D'Onofrio is a visual anthropologist, documentary film director and community arts facilitator. She first completed her BA in Social Anthropology at SOAS in 2004, and then traveled between Brazil and Italy to train in theatre of the oppressed and then founded Fandema, a multicultural forum theatre group in Milan.

In 2008 she completed her MA in Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester, and graduated with a photographic audio-documentary "Caught in between Darkness and Light", on the experience of flight to the UK through Calais, of a group of Ethiopian and Eritrean friends. In 2017 Alexandra obtained her PhD in Anthropology Media and Performance at the University of Manchester, one of the very first practice-based PhDs in Anthropology, combining theatre, storytelling, photography, documentary filmmaking and animation as research methods.

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