Professor Gabriella Giannachi

Grand Challenges Academic Lead

Multi-disciplinary learning

Name Professor Gabriella Giannachi
Position Professor in Performance and New Media
College College of Humanities

Promoting multi-disciplinary learning in Grand Challenges

Gabriella Giannachi is Professor in Performance and New Media, and Director of the Centre of Intermedia at the University of Exeter. Her work centres around advanced interdisciplinary research in performance and the arts. She collaborates with academics from a range of disciplines and with a number of cultural and industrial organisations.

Gabriella was an Academic Lead for Grand Challenges in 2014-15. The initial challenge for students with these projects is that “despite the fact that they probably never met before, they’re required to work together and in a very short period of time, resolve what the Lead and the partner organisations perceive to be, a challenge that they would like resolving.” It is “an opportunity for [students] to face a real world situation”. Gabriella explains that “they have to work quickly, producing materials of the highest standard that will benefit many in the future… it’s not about sitting in a classroom far away from the real world, it’s about immersing yourself in the world and making a difference.”

Using technology and an inter-disciplinary approach to tackle global challenges

Gabriella’s Challenge, Digital Futures, involved students engaging with technology and working in the community. “My Challenge is tied to my research. I work with external organisations, such as Tate, the RAMM, and Exeter City Football Club Supporters' Trust, and collaborate with them to create, disseminate and animate archives to reach new audiences, raise cultural awareness and show the public parts of their collections that the museum or organisation would not normally have on display… helping them in the delivery of their mission.”

“In a way, what this [Challenge] is really about is creating a digital future for artworks or artefacts… it’s about helping an organisation to establish the digital future of their collections, and in the process of that, for students to think about how they use technology, especially in social media… to create an online digital presence.” In the near future, "within our everyday lives, we will be affected by mixed reality, where we will have to use digital and physical data at the same time to make sense of the world we are in."

Grand Challenges is a positive experience for students to develop many skills, but it is also an opportunity to work outside of their chosen discipline. Gabriella explains that “for students who are normally so enwrapped in their own discipline, Grand Challenges gives them a sense of what it really means to be out in the real world and apply what they learn through their discipline, other contexts… it’s a necessity for universities to think in this way to really prepare students for working in the real world.”

Grand Challenges and sustainability

In relation to the Education for Sustainable Development strategy, Gabriella's Challenge works to empower students to take action towards preservation. "Digital Futures empowers students, while still working within the educational context, to make ethically informed decisions, assess risks, and work towards specific targets in a tight timescale. They learn to respect the requirements set by project partners, while advancing knowledge and creating exciting public-facing outputs. When creating an archive it is important to remember that the creator of the archive has an enormous responsibility towards all present and future beneficiaries. Working interdisciplinarily and sometimes transdisciplinarily, they learn how to communicate their findings to the widest and furthest community of people, whilst still respecting very local social and often also political dynamics."

Aim 6: Multi-disciplinary learning for global challenges 

To provide all students with the opportunity to explore the relevance of different disciplines to contemporary challenges facing the world

Digital archiving in Grand Challenges

“[Students] face the reality of what creating a digital presence means…”

Using technology to tackle global challenges

“[Technology] can resolve the challenges of this world and we should work interdisciplinarily towards that.”