RMIT researcher Dr Betty Sargeant has been awarded the Melbourne Knowledge Fellowship for her innovative work in digital literacy, arts and technology.
A children’s author, illustrator and researcher, Sargeant specialises in creating digital content that encourages people to be physically active and socially engaged.
“I have always loved writing for and working with kids. It allows the ridiculous aspects of my personality to shine,” she said.
Sargeant was thrilled and honoured to receive the 2015 fellowship, which provides her with funds to travel abroad to expand her knowledge.
“This award provides me with the means and support to continue my research and creative practice,” she said.
“During the fellowship I will travel to the US, China and Singapore to present my research, exhibit my creative work and to learn about technology innovations that may be applied when making digital stories.”
Sargeant will also be artist-in-residence at the City of Melbourne's Library at the Dock in 2016, where she will design and exhibit a digital, interactive storytelling installation for children.
Knowledge City portfolio Chair Councillor Dr Jackie Watts described Sargeant as “a shining example of the tremendous talent thriving in our city".
“Dr Sargeant’s work is starting to shape what the future of libraries will look like and how we can all learn using digital innovations,” she said.
Sargeant recently completed a PhD in the School of Media and Communication, focusing on how to design digital stories that encourage social interaction between adults and children.
Her thesis was ranked in the top three of Australian PhD research in the humanities, arts and social sciences at the 2015 Council for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) Awards.
Sargeant also presented her PhD research to an illustrious audience, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, at the Consensus Innovation Awards in Sydney, where she was shortlisted.
“Studying at RMIT provided me with opportunities to present my work at international academic conferences and exhibitions,” she said.
“Working within the academic arena has made me more deeply consider my creative practice and focus on the potential for my work to have wider social benefits.”
Dr Laurene Vaughan, Deputy Dean of Design, Games and Interaction, said Sargeant’s research was exemplary of the creative possibilities that exist at the nexus between the arts and technology.
“This kind of research is at the heart of much of the recent creative practice research that is taking place at RMIT, especially through initiatives such as the Games Design Research Centre and the academic disciplines in the school,” Vaughan said.
Sargeant’s award-winning children’s storybook app, How Far is Up, has been internationally recognised for the ways in which it encourages adults and children to read digital books together.
She is also a committee member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and an ambassador for Books in Homes.
Story: Emma Morgan