City University has established a multimedia research group which will investigate the technology's potential in fields as varied as hospitals and the music business, writes Tony Durham.
Its director is Roger Wallis, a former BBC correspondent and author of two books on the music industry.
The group will examine advances in multimedia from the user's perspective. "Until now technological determinism has been a dominant driving force," Dr Wallis said. "Less attention has been paid to the user's interests, abilities and limitations."
He hopes to identify genuine opportunities in business and the public sector. For example it may be possible for telecommunications companies to enter the music business, distributing music on digital networks in competition with the record companies.
Dr Wallis has won initial support from two industrial partners, Ericsson Business Networks and the Swedish telecommunications operator Telia.
BT is funding similar projects in other universities, but Dr Wallis is pleased to have found an alternative source of support. "BT's presence in the academic world, when it comes to anything involving telecommunications, is so overpowering that we felt someone else ought to be involved," he said.
Lund University in Sweden has agreed to cooperate with City University in pan-European multimedia projects. The universities have formed a consortium with hospitals in several European countries, with the aim of studying how technology functions in different cultural situations. The consortium has applied for funding from the European Union's fourth framework programme.