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Scratchr: taking Scratch online beyond Battersea

November 26, 2012 3 comments


Scratchr

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.”

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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.

BAC Scratch Online: 2nd Update

Hello!

We’ve had a busy time of it since I last blogged; for one thing, we’ve finalised our first ScratchOnline Projects! More details of each of them below;

Shlomo

World Loopstation Champion // Beatboxer // Composer //
Teacher // Southbank Centre Artist in Residence
shlo.co.uk

Shlomo’s idea is to experiment with creating material for a new kids show, which will be made with a group of young people, bringing together the arts forms of beatboxing and streetdance.

His scratch will take the form of a residency during the school holidays. Each day during the residency, Shlomo and the young people will be holding an online webcast to share what they have created that day, with hope to gather feedback and ideas from the internet audience. Among other things, the group will also be recording a daily Audio Diary which will be uploaded to soundcloud and be used to document their thoughts and feelings about the process. At the end of the residency, these will then be edited together into a full podcast to be published at the end of the project.

Shlomo is one of our more digitally literate artists, he already personally has a large online network, and regularly creates online events including a recent live webcast of his collaborative piece at Glastonbury (Shlomo’s Glasto Circus which featured Ed Sheeran and Bellatrix), and an experiment in improvisation called Relay Loop Sessions which was broadcast in collaboration with VideoJuicer online throughout the world. We’re really excited to see what happens with the development of this residency.. Enjoy the video above of Shlomo performing at BAC in 2006.

Hollie McNish

The piece that Hollie will be scratching is called Journeys, and it is a poetry/ spoken word piece based on a poetry album she wrote in 2010 called Push Kick: The Beauty, Brilliance and Bollocks of Having a Baby (which you can listen to on the bandcamp link above), which charts her journey from pregnancy to parenthood.

She’s found that the album had a huge reaction from parents, with many of them getting in touch to tell her some of their pregnancy stories. This led her to want to transform this personal collection into a spoken word showcase, which includes her own pieces threaded with other parents’ experiences through integrated audio, video and visual art. These will all be gathered using the ScratchOnline platform, enabling Hollie to gain feedback from, stream to and interact with people from across the globe, who she otherwise might not have access to- either because they are parents (and so are sometimes unable to attend performances because of childcare commitments), or because they are based overseas.

From a research point of view, she’s interested in exploring how the audience member feels when watching the videos, depending on whether they are watching alone, or in a group or with their partner. She’s also interested in how different stage settings generate different reactions, so how does a video recording made in an informal setting like on a bed compare to if she was sat in an armchair or stood in front of a mic.

Hollie has a great project and a really interesting set of questions she’d like to explore, so we’re excited about working with her on this scratch.

Gemma Brockis and Silvia Mercuriali

‘Still Night’

Still-night, based on Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities is a forty-minute theatre piece that takes as its protagonist the City in which it is being performed. One of the exciting sides to Still-night is that it spills out of the theatre, drawing a line between watching theatrical performance and watching the outside world – which is not only about seeing the streets as a set, but about becoming an audience to the fabric of modern life. As on-line activity becomes more and more a part of this fabric, it seems increasingly appropriate to Gemma and Silvia, that their work should find some way to spill into the virtual world. Since Still-night has the real world around it as its central interest, it feels like the perfect project through which to develop an on-line presence.

Gemma and Silvia said;
We anticipate that this presence will be a significant part of the audiences’ experience of the project as a whole and be, in some senses, a show in itself with its own audience. Their involvement will, we imagine, be an integrated part of the show’s development, not just in its early stages but throughout its life, as well as helping us to shape our creative process.

A key part of the project will be the sourcing of local stories, images, myths and maps, and then feeding these into the fiction of the piece. As part of the Scratch process, they will be creating a blog which will constantly be up-dated with pictures and story, from the city in which they are working. The first of these will be Lisbon, then London, and this will grow as they perform in more cities. They will mix their findings with comments from the online audience who are viewing and interacting with the blog, and all this will work together to create and develop the piece.

Nic Green

‘Motherland / Fatherland’

To help with the Scratch Online research, we’ll also be using one project as a ‘control’, this will be a scratch which continues as normal at BAC, which can be monitored by the researchers. For this we have chosen Nic Green’s piece ‘Motherland/ Fatherland’. Nic will be completing her ethnographic performance series Fatherland, Motherland, which will consider family, place and identity. She will be looking for a chorus of Mothers, of all ages, to help her complete Motherland in March. For more information on the genesis of the piece, please visit this article.

in other news…

So there you have it, our first three ScratchOnline residencies! In Mid January we had our first get together as a group, where all the artists and producers (each Scratch has its own producer) were able to meet one another and talk through their hopes and plans for the project. We were also able to see the first wire frames that had been designed by Nick at VideoJuicer, which were fabulous. From that meeting, a number of tweaks were made as a result of feedback from the artists, and yesterday we were given access to the first iteration of the site.. which is shaping up brilliantly!

I’m going to leave it there for today, but as always- if anyone has any questions, do drop me a line!
Katherine

Katherine@theartscollective.org.uk

@katherine_ann

Categories: BAC ScratchOnline

BAC ScratchOnline Update

Hi all,

Just a quick update from the BAC / Arts Collective / VideoJuicer camp. We’re now 8 weeks into the project, and over that time we’ve moved through a couple of really interesting development points.

During early November all of the partner organisations met to enjoy a Scratch night at BAC- it was a Freshly Scratched evening, which is when BAC open their doors to new artists or companies (most of whom are new to BAC) each of the artists or companies have 10 minutes to share an early scratch of their work or idea, and then the audience is invited to submit feedback, either by writing a note to the artist on a handy post-it, or to pick up a specially designed phone and leave the artist a voice message, or (perhaps the artists’ favourite) find them at the bar and chat to the artist over a pint!

Personally, some interesting thoughts came out of that evening;

-Should we attempt to moderate audience feedback? (Similar to the way a producer absorbs all of the audience feedback, and then delivers it to an artist.)
-How best to recreate the ‘ambience’ of a live BAC event online (what could ever compare to a pint with an artist after a performance?)
-Do audiences need to experience a performance ‘live’ or is pre-recorded okay? (What effect does having an audience in the room have on an artist- a collective gasp or giggle is a powerful thing for someone when they are on stage).

Last week, some of the team attended an Artist Brainstorming event at BAC, which gave us opportunity to discuss these points with some of BAC’s artists at a ScratchOnline roundtable session. We were also able to ask the artists about what they would want from the platform, which sparked some great feedback.

What was most interesting was that artists said that they increasingly use Scratch as part-participatory tool for engaging people in a wider dialogue about their work, they suggested that it is at it’s best when it catalyses a creative dialogue – rather than a question and answer format [“what did you think”-“this is what I thought”] which can end up being binary.

Current conversations within the team have been on how best to go about creating a space for creative dialogue, research, testing hypotheses, sharing ideas, catalysing collaborations.

Nick, from VideoJuicer, is currently making some wireframes of parts of the site for us to look at and discuss tomorrow, and we’re all looking forward to seeing how he’s interpreted and integrated some of the artists suggestions, along with our research so far.

Tomorrow all of the partners and researchers are meeting to discuss the Commissioning Proposals which were submitted by artists wanting to take part with ScratchOnline. There seems to be a wonderful selection of potential projects which could be developed on the platform. We’ve all agreed that getting the right spread of projects is key, so tomorrow is a big day. I’ll drop in soon to let you know how we got on!

If anyone is interested in further details of what came out of the Artists’ Brainstorm meeting, then do drop me a line and I’ll whizz the feedback over to you.

Katherine

Katherine Jewkes
Katherine@theartscollective.org.uk

Categories: BAC ScratchOnline