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Scratch Online: translating live interaction and human behaviour to online

This week I catch up with David Jubb, artistic director of the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), to find out more about the Scratch Online project and how it was all coming along…

(Note – the project’s digital partner is now Native HQ)

Can you explain what the Scratch Online project is and how it works?

Battersea Arts Centre’s mission is to invent the future of theatre. Most of the theatre made in the building is created through collaboration and experimentation. 12 years ago we began our Scratch programme, which gives artists an opportunity to share their ideas at an early stage of their development. As a process it also gives audiences the opportunity to roll their sleeves up, feedback on artists’ ideas, and follow the creative journey of an idea from inception to fruition. We have made 1,000s of shows using this process and over the last 12 years, “Scratch Nights” have spread far and wide, from the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Sydney Opera House.

About a year ago we started talking about how the process of scratching ideas might work as an online platform. Especially because one of the main challenges for theatre makers who make collaborative work is to find other collaborators: so we thought that the social nature of the internet might help one creative soul find another who could then go on to Scratch together.

How has the project been progressing?

The project process has been true to Scratch. Slow to start. Plenty of mistakes. Masses of learning from those mistakes. And some of the best decisions coming later in the process. I reckon we are about three quarters of the way through the project in terms of time – but we are about to make half of the most valuable discoveries in this last crucial quarter. That is often the nature of research and development. The result will be a Scratch of a Scratch that we are going to open up to users at the beginning of September.

What have the main successes / eye-openers been?

By creating a web-version of Scratch, we have essentially been exploring creative process. So the project has sometimes felt like an exploration of relationships, psychology and philosophy. This is partly because we are trying to create something on the internet that in the real world is all about the unspoken rules and the behaviours of a room full of people. So in creating an online version, you end up talking a lot about human nature, so our some of main discoveries have been how to adapt Scratch for an online environment.

Equally, what have the main challenges been, and how have you overcome them?

One has been translating the qualities of live interaction and human behaviour to an online equivalent. The other is the timeline, which has been tight in order to generate and deliver real innovation. We are entering the final phase of the project where we will face up to both of these challenges – I’m excited about the result.

Scratch is a human-centred creative process. It is what we are making online and it also how we have been making it. And there are such great people involved in the project that I trust that we will use our creativity to come up with something fresh and fun. Come to the launch on 31 August at Battersea Arts Centre, we’ll be Scratching it – and you can give us your feedback to develop the idea.

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