Archive for January, 2012

Culture Cloud -Part 5 Creation

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

So we decided to create some promotional material and created an advert for our 2012 programme for Rashid Rana. I worded it to keep it open and not give away too much asking people to send initial interest or contact to an email addressee we had set up I also created the websites

I put  the same text and images from the programme onto the site. This means we can use these urls for the project in the future.

Whilst this was going on we started working creating business plans and legal documents in preparation with our next meeting with Artfinder and Skinder started contacting partner galleries and spaces.

by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant

Categories: New Art Exchange

Culture Cloud – Part 4 First Contact

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

The first big meeting was held on 15th November 2011. In attendance from Birmingham City University (BCU) were Dr Paul Long, Dr Nick Webber and Dr Simon Barber.  From NAE we had CEO Skinder Hundal, Ravi Abbott, Islam Muhammad and Laura Rossi. We were also later joined by Will Doward and Priscilla Li (former CEO and NESTA bid partner) via conference call.

Initially we discussed the level of the Researchers input and how they did not want to dictate to us, but draw advice from previous experiences they have been involved with.  They want to work out our sense of what we are thinking, prioritising, what we can learn, how we can use our time effectively.

The research team highlighted that anything we write about and blog, will be under public scrutiny, as this is a publically funded project. In light of this we supplied the researchers with the original ideas, drawings, mind maps and documentation to show how we came up with and developed the idea.

We then talked about people’s intentions and what we could do to drive people to get involved and be active on the site.  Can we use incentives and keep people coming back for multiple reasons?

We arranged a schedule where the researchers would be interviewing us and getting our feedback and getting them involved in projects as soon as possible.

Having set up a Skype call with AF we found technology failed us and we were forced to retreat to the old style of telephone conference call.

Talking to AF we discussed the advantages of the project and what it could bring to each organisation – raising its profile, more traffic and recognition. Getting more into the details of the project, we talked about marketing and placing an advert into our latest programme. Making sure we had a decent amount of artwork on the site when it first opens so people do not instantly lose interest. We then decided to produce a set of milestones alongside the researchers, AF and NAE so that we were all working to the same timescale.

by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant

Categories: New Art Exchange

Culture Cloud -Part 3 Defining the Idea

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Skinder returned from his journey with a more defined idea of the how the project could work. He had added an extra element after discussion with ArtFinder (AF). This was the idea that people could also sell their physical work at the Media Box when it’s being exhibited. This works well with AF who previously provided services for printing and distributing art works. It would also make Culture Cloud appeal more to the artists, as it provides them with an opportunity to make some money. Skinder added that places like IKEA produce prints of art on a mass scale and it’s usually the same pieces with hardly any input from the art world.

The idea seemed to really be focussed at this point. Skinder started to create the application, sending different drafts to the Culture Cloud team.

Then after not hearing about the project for a while, I suddenly found out we were in the finals and Skinder was having a meeting with NESTA!

The next day I received a call with the words ‘Are you sitting down?’ At that point, I knew we’d got it.

Once we won the bid and it was made public knowledge, we decided to explain the project to the rest of the staff who were not involved in the process. They seemed to like the idea and were really happy about raising the profile of NAE.  We looked at the other bids on the NESTA site and saw some interesting, innovative and impressive ideas.

We decided to expand the Culture Cloud team and bring in the wider NAE team.  We added our new Director of Programmes, Melanie Kidd and our Exhibitions and Programmes Co-ordinator, Roshni Belakavadi.  This was really useful, as we had an initial meeting to explain the idea and get some feedback. After this meeting we realised how complex the idea was and that we needed a business plan. We had a lot of legal technicalities to tackle including royalties, rights, distribution and how to deal with prints etc.

Skinder visited the NESTA office to meet the researchers who were going to bid to work with the successful NESTA projects. Skinder described this to me as a ‘speed dating process’, where each group would talk for 10 minutes to another group of researchers explaining their project. After the researchers placed their bids, NESTA and the Arts and Humanities Research Council picked the appropriate candidates. For Culture Cloud they picked Dr Paul Long, Dr Nick Webber and Dr Simon Barber from Birmingham City University.

by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant

Punchdrunk Media lab Project Update 2

January 25, 2012 2 comments

How do I write this update without revealing too much?

Since our last blog we’ve been working hard to develop the narrative of the piece and the spaces within the piece. We have treated the creation of this very much like the creation of a Punchdrunk production. Developing character and a through-line libretto style narrative.  This has begun to frame the nature of the relationship between the online and the real world participant.

We have been trying to develop something that will complement the real world experience and also create something compelling for the online participant and viewers. The key is to develop something that feels exciting for an online participant and draws them into the experience. This has been the real nut to crack, both PD creatives and Media Lab team have very much been leaning towards creating the real world aspects. The real challenge is of course not this at all, but in creating an exciting online experience. Felix our artistic director has just returned from a trip to the production in NYC (Sleep No More and after meeting with Akito, a student from the Media Lab, has seemingly made a break through on this front.  We are learning that face to face communication is key and relish the moments when we can get in the room with Media Lab.

Things we’ve been exploring and are interested in:

Portals- How do the online and the real world communicate?

Aesthetic- How do we capture the set and the action, is it live, rendered, filmed or photographed?

Navigation- Related closely to the above, what does it feel and look to explore the online space?

Contact- Is this constant or fragmented. Is their freedom for both particpant’s or are they unified?

Interest- Can we maintain a level of interest for an online player over a long period of time? Do they need extra activity to hold them?

Feedback- how can the actions of both participants impact on one another’s environment or experience?

In other news, our research team completed their first trips to the production. It has been interesting to hear their findings and their interpretation of our work.  Their insights will prove invaluable to the development of the piece, and also give us a unique understanding of audience’s response to our work.

Categories: Uncategorized

Social Interpretation: Bullying Jack

January 20, 2012 1 comment

Public house debate, 1945. An American soldier is amongst the audience listening to the second speaker of the evening, Miss Crooks (not pictured), on the topic of 'America and Britain'. The original caption states that "the few Americans present were unusually tongue-tied, had nothing to say to frank discussion of their qualities".

How do you control what information is online?  In the case of Twitter and Facebook, with difficulty, as Ryan Giggs found out last summer.  But these are huge sites with a lot of organisation behind them, and they will have a fair amount of resources to fight legal claims.

So what about your smaller site?  How do you control content?  What about the issues of defamation, data protection, and, with public authorities, freedom of information?   Or just insults, bullying and heated debates getting out of hand? Read more…

Categories: Concept, Moderation

Social Interpretation: SOPA, not so good

January 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Sharing, at the heart of socialising objects in this project, is under threat from SOPA. Clay Shirky sensibly unpacks the issues in this TED talk. It is scary stuff.

“TimeWarner has called and they want us all back on the couch. Just consuming. Not producing. Not sharing. And we should say no. “

How to say no:

Jane Audas

Categories: Uncategorized

Social Interpretation: Which phone stays? YOU DECIDE!

January 18, 2012 6 comments

We’re starting to really get into the design of phase-1 of Social Interpretation, and this will the first of a few updates on various aspects of design for the in-gallery technology and signage.

As you may have seen (here, here, here, here and, um,  here) we’re in the middle of wresting with how (or if) to best use QR Codes to facilitate physical/digital interaction. We already know from our research that part of this is to really make clear, in a small space, what the code is and how to use it. Part of that is placement, part is effective written prompt – being looked at by Claire Ross, and part is visual prompting. We’re finding out that visitors are likely to respond well to a clear phone graphic, to indicate what to use the code with. But what phone?

Which do you think it most recognisable as a smartphone?

You see, I have an aversion to using the iPhone as an icon. It’s recognisable, and definitely has a cultural recognition this definitely helps as far as being an icon is concerned.

But, I worry that it does three things:

  • Alienate non iPhone users and imply that it’s an iPhone-only function
  • Contribute to the public perception that Smartphone = iPhone. It doesn’t (it’s denying the antecedent)
  • Contribute to the public perception that you need an Apple device to take advantage of basic smartphone functions

It’s possible that none of these matter – or that I’m just worrying about nothing. And we’ll be evaluating our choice anyway to see how people react.

But what do you think?

Tom Grinsted

Social Interpretation: Mouthing off on QR codes

January 16, 2012 1 comment

This is an interesting use of QR codes and print media in combination. There are a lot of ways this could be adapted to make museum objects really social. And have them, almost literally, talk. And in return have visitors join in that conversation. But you’d need a budget rather bigger than #socialinterp’s.

This Reporters Without Borders advert is a bit gimmicky. But still, fair play, as it’s a hard subject to get people engaged with.

Jane Audas

Categories: Concept, Design, QR codes Tags: , ,

DigiDickens – where we’re at

January 13, 2012 Leave a comment


In July 2011, Exhibition Road Cultural Group (ERCG) – on behalf of the London Cultural Quarters (LCQ) forum – successfully applied for NESTA funding to develop a digital platform to support the delivery of cultural trails across London. The platform launches in April with DigiDickens, a celebration of the life, work and ideas of author Charles Dickens whose bicentenary is in London’s Olympic year.

The ambition is to create a digital platform that is flexible enough to respond to different types of content as required by the broader cultural sector – from public sculpture trails to science trails, walking tours to exhibitions. There is also an interest from the project team in: building collaboration across the city’s cultural sector; influencing general audiences’ perceptions of the city’s cultural offer and connectivity; encouraging arts and cultural organisations to share their copyrighted material and intellectual property to enhance the public’s understanding of culture.

To our knowledge, no digital platform has attempted to link together such diverse assets from so many stakeholders and content partners across the city and make it available for free to audiences. This is both the challenge and the opportunity and has been at the heart of our development and (sometimes confused!) thinking since securing funding.

Stage 1 October-December 2011

We have been working closely with our technology and research partners – Seren and MTM – to map the direction of travel. Critical to this has been the development of a stakeholder team comprising representatives of the LCQ as well as some of their individual members and other interested parties such as the City Read project. All have an interest in digital technology and cultural apps to engage with new and existing audiences and a number have invested their own resources in developing ideas for site-specific apps on the Dickens theme.

It has been important for us to emphasise that the DigiDickens tool is complementary to rather than competing with individual ideas and digital offers that may emerge, which was a concern of other colleagues in the London cultural sector who are developing or have launched their own Dickens-related apps. What is critical is that we are able to map the Dickens-related content being showcased in 2012 and capture it in some way via DigiDickens – be it through simple listings (in the case of exhibitions and film screenings for example) or more detailed geo-specific exploratory content around Dickens objects and places of association.

This remains a potential area of conflict between different interest groups and we are working hard to ensure all interested parties are invited to meetings, have access to research findings and meeting minutes etc.

Stage 2 – December 2011

The wealth of potential content and the amount of activity already scheduled for 2012 and the Dickens Bicentenary felt overwhelming initially. However, we have benefited hugely from MTM’s excellent initial report on the general market for digital technology as well as from Seren Partners’ expertise in visual design for urban environments. This has clarified the core project team’s thinking considerably.

For stage 2 of the project, Paul Cutts (chief exec of ERCG and project director) joined MTM and its researchers for two consumer focus groups. The findings from the groups were encouraging, particularly in relation to the enthusiasm for cultural apps, a general sense of this being an under-exploited market and a willingness on the part of users to experiment with (and sometimes pay for) such digital experiences.

Six things resonated strongly:

1)     the central role that engaging and deep content plays in encouraging users to continue with an app (an the cost implications of developing such content)

2)     providing an ‘experience’ users would not be able to have otherwise (the need to think more creatively about shared resources and how to develop coherent curatorial narratives around diverse assets; treasure hunt ideas were very popular and are likely to influence our thinking moving forward)

3)     the enthusiasm for seemingly accidental encounters with interesting cultural facts (which we now look to embed in the app – ‘accelerated serendipity’)

4)      the added-value element of apps (such as discounts to local cultural or commercial offers, free coffees at museum shops etc)

5)     the opportunity for commercial sponsorship for thematic trails (enabling the app to be delivered free at point of use but supporting richer content and development)

6)     the relatively low visibility of specifically cultural apps (an opportunity to work with iTunes to create a dedicated ‘Culture’ category on the iTunes app store – providing brilliantly simple but hugely effective marketing collateral for DigiDickens and others)

In order to move forward on these, Seren – together with ERCG – convened a content meeting at Seren’s offices on 6 December. We invited numerous representatives from stakeholder groups, including the LCQ forum, local government, museums etc. Whilst conversation was limited to two hours – and raised in some ways as many questions as it answered – we did begin to form a consensus on target audiences, how content should be layered, and who should be involved.

Some of the key content hotspots in the city have now been plotted on a Google map, which we’ll be circulating to all participants and more widely. This will go a long way to helping us define the type of user experience we can create and also identify any obvious geographical gaps we need to consider plugging. We are now waiting for Seren’s analytical findings to be shared with us to begin physically collating content and defining user journeys by theme and location.

Stage 3 – January-February 2012

We see Stage 3 as the beginning of the practical realisation of our distilled ideas and content. ERCG is now exploring potential commercial sponsors to help support the delivery of the app. We have appointed a freelance fundraising consultant part time from January to support our corporate fundraising initiatives and are investing  £10k (scrimped and saved from our own budget) for this. Whilst the fundraising will be primarily focused on delivering results for ERCG, there is an expectation that our fundraiser will identify potential corporate sponsors for the DigiDickens tool, as this is a headline project for us this year. We are also exploring with Seren Partners the commercial exploitation of the digital tool and I’ve been given an inroad to two global corporates. If we weree able to sign up either of them, it would be a massive coup for ERCG and potentially enable us to support a whole series of other cultural trails based on thematic content. Which, after all, was the ambition of our NESTA application in the first place…

More soon!

Categories: Uncategorized

Social Interpretation: The QR and/or Code Conundrum

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

QR Codes are the cause of much debate / argument / kitten killing, both in and outside of Social Interpretation. But why do we need them? What are the different options? And if using QR, what can one do to make them as usable as possible?

Which would do you prefer?

Why this debate at all?

To put it simply, because we want to enable people to use objects (or anything physical) as keys into more information. This might be info about an object, a theme, or maybe a discussion or piece of media. To do this, we need some way to bridge the physical/digital divide.

So what’re our options? Read more…


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