It’s been a while since I caught up with Skinder Hundal, the man behind the Culture Cloud project – back in August we spoke about some of the keys to making a project like this a success, but now the project’s finished, I wanted to find out what was next for Culture Cloud and the technology behind it…
Skinder, how will you incorporate digital technology at NAE now, given what you’ve learned from Culture Cloud?
“We feel much more confident about using the digital and social media platform. Culture Cloud proved that if we can design a digital system with simplicity and functionality as the main aim then it would work. We have learnt a lot about pre-planning and the amount of people and dedication it takes to pull off such a project, and that we probably needed twice the resources to really make it work.
“For this round at NAE we were very resourceful and it was the relationship of the CEO and NAE team with key partners that activated goodwill levering wider resources of time and knowledge.”
What will Culture Cloud look like in 2014?
“Technology travels too fast for us to know this so it is difficult to predict, however we would be keen to mainstream Culture Cloud as a model and refine key processes and technologies to ensure success. We felt that the democratization of how art is selected for gallery exhibitions using digital platforms was a success on the whole. The total process created a hype and a strong reality in that NAE had record number of visitors at the opening launch and good visitors throughout the exhibition.
“It also attracted a good selection of works from across the UK, unearthing and exposing new talent not seen or heard. The national curators in the partnership were impressed by this.
“Going forward NAE will strengthen its partnership and collaborators, scale up possibly through prominent media partners, widen the range of art forms if possible (beyond 2d) look internationally in terms of artists, audiences and partners, certainly improve audience engagement and voting, rethink the selling and commercial side of the project and improve the digital interfaces and interaction between artist, audience and curator.”
In the first post of 2013 I decided to pick up where we left off last time; catching up with all the different Digital R&D Fund projects (just recently we spoke to Scratchr and Punchdrunk) to see what’s happened and what’s next now most of the projects have completed their research & development stages. This week I caught up with Paul Cutts, chief executive of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group, to find out more about what’s happening with the Dickens London Trails app…
“Our ambition was to make the technology available to other small-scale arts and cultural organisations, enabling them to break into the digital market at low cost,” said Paul when I asked him what was going to happen with the app technology now the project had completed its R&D phase.
The group are now in discussions with a trust in the north of England, who is interested in using the app tech to develop its own series of trails around a world-famous heritage site.
“It would not be appropriate for me to name the organisation at this stage, as we’re in discussions currently and it may not come to fruition,” added Paul. “But I will be going to Newcastle to lead a workshop for them looking at what they need to consider, how to avoid some of the pitfalls we stumbled into and how to ensure the tool they create gives audiences what they want.”
In yet another update (and video) from the Digital R&D Fund projects, I caught up with David Jubb, artistic director of the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) to see how the Scratchr project has been progressing, and what the future holds for the project.
“Scratchr has now been online for about 3 months,” he started. “Our original planned outcome remains unchanged: to create an online platform to enable creative dialogue between people who are interested in developing new ideas together. But as with any R&D process, there have been plenty of surprises along the way. Perhaps one of the most striking realisations is the way in which Scratchr, over time, could change the way BAC engages with artists and programmes new work in the future.”
Some of the stats from Scratchr make for exciting viewing: the site has 200+ active members; half of these have posted an “Itch” as an idea that they are interested to “Scratch”; the site has also had over 21,600 pageviews and 2,000 unique visitors; 55% of site visitors go to at least 20 pages, and about 62% of these visitors will stay for between 10 and 30 minutes on the site. Impressive stuff.
“We’re pleased with these early signs,” David added. “While the site membership is modest, the depth of engagement with the site is strong. It feels like it is mirroring the engagement with live Scratch back in 2000, with strong levels of interest by a committed community. That process led to Scratch being adopted and adapted by many arts organisations across the world.”
So what about Scratchr being adopted beyond BAC? “In terms of Scratchr, there are still lots of questions that we are still answering, and there is plenty of work to do to make the platform easier to use and more accessible to a general audience,” said David. “Perhaps the most interesting relationship – that we have yet to really scratch the surface with – is the relationship between live Scratch and the Scratchr online space.
“The potential to grow online engagement and a much wider audience feels massive. We think our next step is to find a way to embed a developer inside the organisation so that as ideas evolve we can flexibly test them, ensuring there’s a day-to-day playful relationship between the live and online experience.”
Last week we looked at the LSE Pulse project and what had emerged since its completion. This week we do the same with Punchdrunk. I caught up with Peter Higgin, enrichment director at the immersive theatre company, whose project aimed to connect real-world and digital experiences in a performance space. He told me about the importance of having a digital specialist in a project like this, something they didn’t have the luxury of when it ran.
“Doing it again I think we’d place a digital specialist within the Punchdrunk team,” he admitted. “It would mean we could deliberately break the rules and conventions that we adhere to in the physical space when creating online experiences. We’d also be able to explore the option of creating a bespoke piece outside of Sleep No More.”
There were other lessons as well, particularly with organisation: “We would definitely restructure our scheduling and protect the time set aside for beta testing.”
But what the project did get right was the technical logistics of it all. As Peter told the Guardian back in May 2012, “The physical installation of the project saw us run over 8,000 feet of CAT-5 cable around the site, linking a 100MB internet connection to our control hub within the building with individual runs that broke out to 24 access points. This allowed us to create a network across the building to live stream sound and audio content to both live and online participants.”
The project used a mix of 10 RFID readers and 50 Bluetooth devices, as well as 10 physical portals, “which allowed participants to communicate” said Peter. “These included a poltergeist-like book that online participants could cue to flip a real book off a shelf when their participant was nearby and a typewriter that allowed online participants to type direct messages to their real-world companion.”
Not long ago I asked a few questions of the team behind the LSO Pulse project about how the project had gone and the lessons learned. But for this particular project, it wasn’t the end because a brand new project, Student Pulse, has been born straight from the successes of the Digital R&D Fund project.
Nico Koepke, CEO of KODIME, the tech company involved in the LSO Pulse app programme, talked me through the evolution of the new project. The original Pulse project finished late in the summer, and with the program’s objectives having been achieved (and generally positive feedback from all involved on the pilot’s outcome, Nico tells me) the LSO suggested to other orchestras and venues in the capital to expand the student offer, under a new joined brand, Student Pulse.
“KODIME was appointed to create a new version of the app on iPhone, Android and the mobile web to enable multiple orchestras to list and manage their events,” explained Nico. “And to provide a central support service to both the participating orchestras, venues and the ultimate customers – the students buying tickets – We have launched the new program and app in September, and so far it is working well.
“More than 50 student events have been listed to date by the nine participating organisations, and more than 1,000 students are already registered in the program, buying tickets for events and venues from the Barbican via Southbank Centre to Cadogan Hall.”
John Wilson discusses how arts organisations are opening up their archives, collections and data with studio guests Bill Thompson, Head of Partnership Development, BBC Archives; Drew Hemment, Founder and CEO of Future Everything; and Dr Paul Gerhardt, Director of Archives for Creativity.
Including: what arts organisations need to consider when digitising their archives as we hear from bespoke archive Siobhan Davis Replay alongside the Google Art Project; the V&A and the Public Catalogue Foundation on how involving the public in tagging your digital archive can create new ways of experiencing a collection; how organisations can use their data innovatively and creatively, opening it up to the public and even developers; and the British Museum on working alongside other cultural institutions to revolutionise the way we search collections data through the web.
Download/subscribe to the podcast series on Arts Council England iTunes channel http://bit.ly/RnDpodseries