THE MANIFOLD LAB
Founded in 2016, the Manifold Lab is housed within the Educational and Social Research Institute (ESRI) at Manchester Metropolitan University's Birley campus. The Lab provides an open space for transdisciplinary collaboration and innovation in response to rapidly changing social and material conditions of contemporary life. We pursue novel theoretical and methodological approaches to the social sciences, drawing on fields such as speculative philosophy, affective computing, science and technology studies, sensory ethnography, immersive arts and media, adaptive architecture, sensor technologies, and critical life studies. Our combined focus on the biosocialities of learning and behaviour is underpinned by a rigorous commitment to bio-ethics that is responsive to social, technological, and environmental change.
The Manifold Lab draws together a diverse group of researchers, artists, scientists, educators, and practitioners from a wide array of disciplinary fields. The Lab is co-directed by Prof. Maggie MacLure and Prof. Elizabeth de Freitas, who along with a core team of interdisciplinary researchers specialising in critical and creative approaches to the study of learning and behaviour. Together they contribute a range of experience and expertise to the Lab's core vision and operations, including specialisations in language and literacy; science, technology and mathematics education; process philosophy; critical posthumanist and new materialist theory; ecological aesthetics; contemporary art practice and research-creation. Affiliated members of the Lab include leading educational researchers, scientists, and artists located both within the UK and internationally, as well as a core group of PhD students currently pursing innovative research directions within the Lab's key research areas.
The Lab also holds a regular series of biosocial research seminars, reading groups, exhibitions, and collaboratories that address the emerging intersections between the life sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. Our emphasis on transdisciplinary and collaborative approaches is driven by the changing nature of life in the 21st century, and the need to develop new understandings of learning and behaviour that are responsive to these changing conditions.
The projects and publications produced by members of the Manifold Lab are organised into four key research areas:
Sense and Sensation: Our Lab uses multi-sensory technologies and methods to study learning and behaviour in authentic settings and situations, or "living labs". We are interested in developing new ways to understand the affective, sensory, and perceptual dimensions of learning as an embodied and relational process. We are currently investigating the use of wearable biosensors, body cameras, and environmental sensors in conjunction with sensory approaches to ethnography, design-based research, and socially-engaged arts practice.
Ecologies: Our Lab undertakes research that is both attuned and responsive to the rapidly changing environmental conditions of contemporary life on Earth. This research area includes projects that address the biosocial implications of climate change and related environmental crises for studies of childhood, youth, community, and education. Our work in this area combines participatory, arts-based, philosophical, geographical, and anthropological approaches to study ecologies of learning – the assemblages of affects, milieus, contexts, bodies, places, interactions and materialities out of which learning emerges.
Digital Life: Our Lab is invested in projects that address the ubiquitous nature of 21st Century media networks, and the new ways of living and learning that such networks make possible. With a focus on the biocultural and social policy implications of digital media technologies, this research area includes projects and publications that address contemporary learning environments, computational cultures, and calculated publics.
Dis/abilities: Our Lab researches the ways that dis/abilities are negotiated, engaged, and produced in both formal and informal learning environments. With a focus on the implications of neurodiversity and embodied dis/ability for learning, our projects and publications in this area aim to foster inclusion and belonging through difference. Rather than reading ability and disability ‘against’ each other, we are interested in a more expansive notion of abilities, qualities, and capacities, and the ways in which these are expressed and received.
The Manifold Lab also regularly curates public exhibitions through collaborations with youth arts collectives, community arts organisations, galleries, and museums. Exhibitions provide public spaces for engaging with our latest research through immersive installations and creative experiments with sensory technologies. Many of our exhibitions are co-produced with children and young people, who work collaboratively with us to develop new artistic techniques for creative research and public engagement. More information about our exhibition can be found in our Featured Works, including Inheriting the Anthropocene and Remixing Thick Time.
We are always seeking to develop productive conversations and collaborations with like-minded researchers, artists, and practitioners, so please contact us with any questions about getting involved with the Lab's activities and initiatives: .