Out of the ivory tower

As my placement at Hippotrix comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the roles that research can play within industry. Over the past six months, I have helped create animations, blogged and vlogged about various aspects of app development, interviewed theatre-makers and been interviewed myself, explored the product life-cycle of digital apps from brainstorming to product release, and even taken pictures of eggs for a social media teaser campaign. Yet the core purpose of my placement has been to provide a robust foundation of research for Simone and Jonathan to use when developing digital products.

Ben editing a vlog

The public perception of academics is often that of scholars sitting in their ivory towers, totally disconnected from day-to-day life. My own research into Scottish theatre for very young children has its abstruse moments, but I always aim to ensure that my work has real practical relevance to artists and the general public – this is why I have been so excited to be working with Hippotrix.

Researchers can act as advisers to industry – they have the time and the skills to sift through data, books and academic journals to identify truly important and relevant findings. They can be guides for companies wanting to move into a novel arena or organisations suddenly subject to new legislation. They can provide robust evidence for companies seeking to make claims about the effectiveness of their products. They can act as ambassadors for industry, helping to influence or even create government policy. Perhaps most importantly, researchers can inspire companies to make bigger, better, safer, more useful and more enjoyable products.

Simone, Producer at Hippotrix, said:

“We’ve been delighted to be working with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the University of St Andrews and the ESRC to host Ben. High-quality research is so important when making digital toys for children, and Ben’s provided us with excellent work which will help define our future products.”

The over-arching framework that Hippotrix employ when making their apps reflects the very best practice recommended by theorists and artists alike: digital products should be developmentally appropriate, evidence-based and tested with children. Hippo Seasons certainly fulfils all of these requirements, and White is on the same path.

I recently wrote a paper for a national conference about this topic, synthesising the latest research from developmental psychology, children’s theatre and educational technologies.

To cite this paper: Fletcher-Watson, Ben, 2013. “Apps for Babies: implications for practice and policy” in Clegg, B.T., Scully, J., Bryson, J. ESRC Research Capacity Building Clusters; National Summit Conference 2013, Aston University, pp.58-65.