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17 February 2013

Unpacking UnBox 2013

Carly Frey, Creative and Cultural Economy Advisor, blogs about her experience at India's leading interdisciplinary design festival.

@ UnBox festival

10th February, 2013

Whilst the sky turns a shade of self-satisfied pink, the final evening of UnBox 2013 takes on a mixed mood of exaltation , illumination and contented exhaustion. Tonight, partners, participants, speakers, performers, fellows and festival goers will all leave here slightly altered in one form or another. Whether it’s from a conversation in The Nook over FoodLab’s delicious Cholle (their recipe now securely in hand), a new friendship made whilst messing around at PrintLab, an ‘Ah-Hah’ moment with PAN Studio, pulling an all-nighter with the good folks at Zine Press, or the addition of new terminology to one’s discourse like ‘behavioural architecture’, ‘interactive newsprint’, ‘transient living spaces’ or ‘user-generated cities’ – India suddenly takes on a whole new depth to the visitor.

@ UnBox festival

The Fellowship programme was no exception to the cacophony of cross-sectoral stimulation offered up by the UnBox folks for three solid days and nights. Indeed, having arrived from four to six weeks of intense collaborations with their respective host organizations, the Fellows became the heartbeat of the festival and a wellspring of local knowledge and insight. Engaging with festival goers through interactive installations dotted across the grounds, the Fellows demonstrated unique means of building bridges between the creative industries and arts and humanities research. By the time they pitched their projects on the third day to a panel of distinguished academic and industry stakeholders, it was no surprise at all that each and every Fellowship team received a bright green light to submit further applications for AHRC-led R&D funding pots of up to £25 000.

Despite the impossibility of summing up one’s UnBox experience in a few words, it's useful to echo some of UnBox SpeakerJohn Thackera’s thoughts on how the festivalunearthed - so cleverly - new and wonderful ‘ways of knowing’, rather than answers themselves. In this sense, all of us gained a clearer understanding of what makes India so critical right now in its global position between tradition and modernity, and what makes it so good at capturing the interdisciplinary threads which run between.

Congratulations to all who contributed to such a remarkable experience, and good luck to all of the UnBox Fellows who are now developing and enriching their project proposals. HANDS ON, MINDS ON, HEARTS ON!

What did UnBox 2013 Fellows get up to?


Hosted by Quicksand, this Delhi-based team explored the capacity of new technology to tell age-old stories in an Indian context, cross-linking Kinect-based approaches and playful content with that of museums and other institutions of learning. Their research question will focus on the importance of digital technology in educational and cultural heritage sectors in India, as well as how commercial contexts both locally and globally can shape the game’s narrative and technical potential.


Hosted by the Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI) in Punjab, this team considered how cultural memory and amnesia intersects with the Grand Trunk Road – one of South Asia’s longest transport routes which has linked the eastern and western regions of the Indian subcontinent for over two millennia. UnMap team used multimedia tools to capture memories of a forgotten place, to explore connections between built heritage and cultural memory, and to test immersive installations in local communities using touch and motion sensors.

@ UnBox festival


Hosted by Digital Green, the UnTill team’s motto was “playing to learn”. Based between Delhi and Madhya Pradesh, these Fellows explored the impact of game-based learning on social change by connecting digital natives to the plight of farmers in India. They have now developed and begun testing a software prototype for an online adult game-based learning platform aimed at creating a more experiential and immersive opportunity for urban citizens to gain an understanding of their interconnectedness to farmers and, in effect, India’s future.

@ UnBox festival


Hosted by People Tree in Goa, this team used the Mapusa Market as a microcosm through which to examine how local commercial centres are both a historical and current hub of cultural production and community. Through wearable cameras, UnBuild contrasted between localized encounters with the market, versus what it is ‘supposed to be’ according to outdated maps and other topographic documents. Going forward, this team is hoping to find ways of making the knowledge contained within the market more explicit, especially in the face of its potential future irrelevancy anddemise.


Hosted by PRS LegislativeResearch in Delhi, this team explored the opportunities around media for open governance and civic empowerment. Through tactical, creative media projects, they developed ways of disseminating information on public policy in new innovative ways, creating a more accessible awareness of legislation and the legislative process. Given access to further booster funding, the team plans to work with specific communities to explore imaginative approaches to hermeneutically translating legal docs into visual media involving sound, video and animation.

@ UnBox festival

Check out more blogs from the Fellows here - - and watch this space as we find out which teams were successful in their AHRC funding submissions in the coming months!