Dr Inge Panneels

Research Fellow in Creative Informatics, Edinburgh Napier University

Tell us about your background and journey to your current role

I am a Research Fellow in the Creative Informatics team, based at Edinburgh Napier University (ENU), in partnership with University of Edinburgh (UoE), Codebase and Creative Edinburgh. Our team of five researchers and a stellar delivery team look at how the data can help grow the creative economy.

I am just about to complete a PhD in visual culture (funded by the AHRC at Northumbria University) which looked at the mapping methodologies employed by artists in Scotland in charting (climate) change in the Anthropocene. Most of the case studies I looked at, interrogated scientific data and collected and made new data about different ecologies in Scotland.

Originally trained at Edinburgh College of Art, I have also been a visual artist with an active practice for two decades, and I taught at the Artist Designer Maker course at the University of Sunderland course for over twelve years.

It is this experience and knowledge of the creative sector that brought me to the Creative Informatics project.


Tell us about a typical day at work

There is really no such thing as a typical day in this job!

I am based in the School of Computing, at Merchiston at ENU but also spend quite a bit of time at Bayes, at UoE. As a team we work with several organisations and creative people on this, so this can be anywhere in Edinburgh; from the National Galleries of Scotland at Belford Road, to Codebase at Castle Terrace, to Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop in Newhaven or Lava Town off Leith Walk… I do a lot of walking!

I am currently working on both my own research, which looks at how data could be used, and what tools, if any, might be needed to help creative business to be aware of, track and improve their carbon footprint and work towards a circular economy model.

Secondly, as a team of researchers, we work with various cultural organisations and help them to articulate data challenges and put them in touch with possible creative businesses or tech companies that might help them to solve those, through the Creative Informatics Challenge programme.

Finally, I am part of the team that helps deliver a monthly programme of talks, events and workshops, called Studios and Labs, that showcases exciting, or innovative ways in which creative practitioners have used data in their work; from dance, architecture, film, music and crafts to anything in between. This will also form part of further research. 


What is your vision for data innovation and the Data-Driven Innovation programme at the university?

The planned Edinburgh Futures Institute seems to have a very good handle on it! Creating a culture and physical space for collaborative thinking, making and sharing, I think.


What are you particularly passionate about in your work?

I am passionate about the creative industries and their role within society, and the economy, which is the focus of the Creative Informatics project. I care about the role of the arts and humanities in general to hold up the mirror and reflect back to society, which I think is critical in a data-driven economy.


Do you work with any interesting data sets, technologies, tools or analysis techniques you’d like to talk about?

I am working with some colleagues from other disciplines (Engineering, Geosciences) on datasets which quantify the embodied energy of materials. This is relevant to getting creative practices, such as architects, product designers, sculptors, crafts practitioners etc. to think about not only the journey of the materials used, but also of their future use and impact: a circular economy.


What do you think are the biggest challenges for women and girls in data fields?

The field is male-dominated but there appears at least to be some sensitivity and awareness around that, as this very project attests.


What would you recommend to women and girls who’d like to do what you’re doing?

My career path is neither linear not logical but I followed my passions and immersed myself in different fields.


Do you have a hero or heroine you’d be willing to share?

My absolute data artist heroine is Lise Autogena



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