Our research priorities

Curtin’s research in the humanities is prioritised into 12 research themes. By concentrating our expertise and facilities in this way, we can accelerate our ability to influence change in these fields. Each theme offers research opportunities for prospective graduate students, and research and development prospects for industry and government.

Research themes

Built Environment

The Built Environment research theme explores humankind’s domination of the natural environment and the constructed spaces in which we live, work and play. Curtin undertakes world-class research in built environment and design, and is ranked top 100 in the world for built environment / architecture in the 2017 QS World Rankings by Subject.

Drawing on expertise in design, construction, management, geography and planning, this interdisciplinary research theme explores and solves issues of sustainability in the built environment and the effects and opportunities of new computational and information technologies on this sector.

Critical, cultural and creative inquiry is used to investigate how these elements will affect future practice in the industry, such as the increasing focus on green technology, the use of building information modelling to improve construction management and innovative planning to accommodate increasing populations.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

Cultural and critical inquiry

  • creative production as research, transforming identities
  • applied cultural and social research, societal needs
  • cultural histories and futures, ageing population
  • critical theories and practices, cultural heritage, meaning of place

New knowledge environments

  • using new tools and environments to analyse data and evidence
  • building digital solutions for productivity and sustainability, BIM
  • emerging new kinds of public space and urban solutions
  • rethinking interdisciplinary research, transforming industry

Sustainability

  • sustainable development, climate change impact on the built environment
  • sustainable cities, energy-food-water-transport-waste
  • sustainable buildings and construction
  • sustainability and productivity: sustainable livelihoods

Future practices

  • imagining the future of our built environment professions
  • speculating on the future of our changing disciplines
  • renewing our courses: the scholarship of teaching & learning
  • the reflective practitioner model, social entrepreneurship

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research idea relating to the built environment.

Creative Arts and Writing

The Creative Arts and Writing research theme combines critical thinking with creative expression. Our world-class research in this theme is both theoretical and project-based, with our researchers often creating works of literature or performance as ways to explore complex cultural issues.

Historically, the arts are considered one of defining elements of humanity. In today’s technology-driven world this distinction is taking on complex new emphasis. Through writing, fine art, film, photography and performance, researchers employ creative, flexible thinking to challenge ingrained structures and produce unorthodox solutions. Critically, this theme bridges research theory and practice in recognition that sometimes the only way to explore, clarify or expose an issue is to attempt to construct, design or enact it.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • gender studies in screenwriting
  • narratives and identities in photography
  • explorative theatre
  • crime fiction
  • Western Australian history
  • transmedia narratives
  • sculptural visualisation.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research idea relating to creative arts and writing.

Design

Designers offer contrasting methods of thinking and communicating to that of traditional scholars, but which provide a powerful methodology for innovation.

The Design research theme investigates this thinking across all fields of design, with particular expertise in architecture, interior architecture, creative advertising, graphic design, digital design, animation and gaming, fashion, furniture and jewellery design. Curtin is ranked in the top 100 in the world and first in Western Australia for art and design in the QS World University Rankings by Subject for 2017.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • cultural impact of social media on advertising branding and design
  • the use of emerging technologies to design immersive and virtual environments
  • mobility and perceptions of place
  • industrial design
  • user centre experience
  • smart materials and digital technologies.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research idea relating to design.

Digital Humanities

The Digital Humanities research theme lies at the intersection of computing and the humanities, with a particular focus on multimodal analytics and virtual heritage.

Multimodal analytics exploits advances in digital technologies to draw new information and meaning from data. This new approach is a crucial element of big data analytics, and offers valuable frameworks for understanding events, situations and issues, such as improving coordinated relief efforts for natural disasters.

Virtual heritage research investigates ways in which people could learn about history and heritage through the use of interactive and immersive digital media, such as games and interactive museum exhibits. Researchers blend cultural and historical studies with applied visualisation skills, such as GIS, 3D computer-aided design and computer animation, mixed reality and virtual reality, human computer interaction theory and practice, and principles of interaction design.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • two lost ships project
  • multimodal education
  • interactive history
  • multimodal literacy
  • virtual reality and related simulation.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research idea relating to digital humanities.

Education

Research in education is crucial to improving education standards, including curriculum development and reform, and increasing the quality of teaching, particularly when tailoring education to meet the unique needs of learners.

Curtin has a strong history of education research, and is ranked in the top 100 in the world for education in the 2017 QS World Rankings by Subject.

The Education research theme explores a range of specialist education topics such as learning environments, sustainability in education, leadership, applied linguistics, second-language acquisition, early and higher education, Indigenous education, art and visual learning, and educational psychology.

STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) are also a critical area of research interest in Australia and globally. Curtin has significant research expertise in this area, with our STEM Education Group enjoying a national and international reputation for excellence.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • Teaching methods for intellectual disability
  • learning through drawing
  • promotion of STEM subjects
  • robotics in education
  • actual versus perceived literacy skills
  • immersive virtual learning environments
  • education and gender
  • World Englishes and translanguaging
  • Indigenous knowledge systems
  • motivation, engagement and resilience in teaching.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research topic relating to education.

Heritage and History

The Heritage and History research theme investigates the evolution, construction and representation of ‘heritage’ as a cultural category.

Heritage and history play important roles in understanding and valuing identity and place. Incorporating both the tangible and intangible dimensions of human activity over time and space, this theme encompasses world-class research in areas such as the conservation, retention and management of heritage objects, languages and spaces; commemoration and memorialisation, particular in the context of the Australian experience of war and peace; Western Australian and Indigenous histories; and the complexities of common or shared heritage across borders.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • museum studies
  • civil liberties
  • labour and industrial heritage
  • conservation
  • Western Australian history
  • commemoration and memorialisation.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research topic relating to heritage and history.

Information, Knowledge and Project Management

Human knowledge and information data are increasing exponentially, forefronting challenges in storage, preservation, management and access. In addition, increasing technology complexity and shorter time-to-delivery expectations have highlighted a need for effective and agile project management strategies.

The Information, Knowledge and Project Management research theme investigates these challenges, as well as questions of security, design, quality and control.

Information and knowledge management has a long history, but the introduction of computing last century has stepped up the need for innovative research in this area.

Similarly, project management’s prominence is increasing with the recognition that innovation relies on the effective management of projects: that is, meeting outcomes successfully, quickly and with the consumption of fewer resources.

This theme brings together common themes of technological advances, strategic thinking and management, and agile organisational methods to advance knowledge in this area.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • technology in project management
  • risk management
  • collection management
  • Australian library studies
  • bibliometrics
  • information seeking and electronic management systems
  • geoscience information management.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research topic relating to information, knowledge and project management.

International Relations and Security Studies

The International Relations and Security Studies research theme explores the key characteristics of the international system, the nation state, balance of power and domestic influences on foreign policy.

Maritime security, strategic and defence policy, military modernisation and contemporary terrorism are just some of the research topics investigated within this theme. Curtin has particular expertise in Russian and Eurasian studies in international relations and security, as well as closer to home in the Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • Russian naval power in the Pacific
  • Russian defence modernisation in the Far East
  • Russia’s strategic and defence policy in the Asia-Pacific
  • maritime terrorism
  • the ‘Blue Economy’
  • human and environmental security in the Indian Ocean Region.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research topic relating to international relations and national security.

Language, Communication and Culture

In a world of accelerated change and an increasing plethora of information and technology, there is an even greater need for critical engagement with social issues and the politics of cultural representation, language and communication.

Curtin researchers contribute world-class research in the Language, Communication and Culture research theme. Of particular interest is research in anthropology and sociology, literary and popular culture studies, Asian languages and screen studies, as well as the intersection between culture and technology and its repercussions.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • posthumanism and technology
  • Indigenous culture and digital technologies
  • countering online violent extremism
  • Chinese culture, gender and media
  • Japanese culture, gender and media
  • language and influence on teaching and learning
  • politics of community
  • cultural studies
  • film studies.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research topic relating to language, communication and culture.

Media, Cultural Industries and Creative Economy

The world is shifting from a product- and manufacturing-based economy to one that is driven by knowledge, culture and creativity. Research in the Media, Cultural Industries and Creative Economy theme investigates new methodologies and applications for fostering growth in this area, as well as exploring cultural tensions arising from this shift.

Within this theme, researchers are investigating the disruptive impact of technology on journalism and screen arts, as well as the evolution of new media (such as social media and interactive media) and its arising opportunities and complexities. In addition, open knowledge and cultural science have opened up as new research avenues, bringing into focus research on DIY, user-generated content, inter-connected microproductivity and its effects on local and national economies, and tensions between the physical and the virtual.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • Digital China Lab
  • digital culture and new media
  • new models of publishing
  • disability and media
  • media censorship in Australia
  • media law
  • visualisation technologies
  • interactive content product, services and art
  • emotional computation and consumer experience.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research topic relating to media, cultural industries and creative economy.

Social Justice

The Social Justice research theme explores complex issues surrounding refugees, Indigenous people, gender and LGBTI rights, rights to culture and knowledge, rights of people with disability, and other human rights and social justice concerns.

Tensions between the individual, cultural and government systems lie at the heart of the complexities in delivering social justice. Research in this area seeks to shed light on the issues experienced by minority groups to influence new narratives, policy and understanding.

At its core, research in social justice seeks to create an inclusive and desired world that celebrates diverse identities, worldviews and practices.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • posthumanism and technology
  • Indigenous culture and digital technologies
  • countering online violent extremism
  • Chinese culture, gender and media
  • Japanese culture, gender and media
  • language and influence on teaching and learning
  • politics of community
  • cultural studies
  • film studies.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research topic relating to social justice.

Sustainable Development

Sustainability is now one of the key drivers of innovation. The Sustainable Development research theme explores complex issues around development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.

In 2015, the United Nations released a set of Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. These goals provide a global framework for approaching research in sustainable development, and there are many examples of research that supports these goals with the aim of improving the resilience of human populations and the environment. Particular examples include research into sustainable livelihoods and human settlements, including food systems, climate change resilience in sport and recreation, and sustainability policy.

Current research projects

There are many research projects under way within this theme. Some examples include:

  • food systems
  • natural resources
  • urban livelihoods
  • rural livelihoods
  • sustainable policy
  • participatory democracy
  • transportation and infrastructure
  • innovation systems
  • resilience and climate change
  • healthy places
  • effects of climate change on sport and recreation.

Though only a selection of projects has been listed here, Curtin is interested to discuss any research topic relating to sustainable development.

Curtin’s researchers work in architecture, design, urban and regional planning, geography, construction management and public policy. In the Faculty of Humanities, you can be part of research projects that will have a real impact, such as developing sustainable built environments – the planning, design, and construction of cities, transport systems, energy systems, and built infrastructure – and sustainable human environments.

Ideas and innovation affect change. Internationally, billions of people and millions of enterprises are contributing to the growth of knowledge, and, in support, the faculty is actively engaged in researching new theories and applications for knowledge innovation across its diverse areas of expertise. Research spans areas such as learning environments, interactive media, cultural science, animation and games design, and art and visual learning.

Research is vital to solving the global problems that deny human rights, perpetuate poverty and maintain inequalities of gender, sexuality, political affiliation, race, ethnicity and belief. Social justice research at Curtin is focused on sustainable development, refugees and asylum seekers, Indigenous studies, disability studies and LGBTI studies. This research can be studied through multiple frameworks: cultural studies, education, human geography, architecture, design and planning, history, media, creative writing and creative arts, social and policy studies, and human rights.

Video series: Research in Action