Jane Audas, a freelance digital producer involved in the Imperial War Museum’s Social Interpretation project (SI) submitted this excellent diary entry updating us on how the project was coming along…
Social Interpretation moves onward. We are just snagging our app and sorting digital assets for more QR code roll out in the next month or so.
In July we will install 4 SI kiosks and 10 QR codes against objects in Imperial War Museum North. We have scaled up the kiosk size and are using touch screens rather than tablets. Tablets have not been so successful for us, maintenance-wise and usability-wise.
We are also going to change the user interface for the kiosks in the North, to ‘visitor voice’. This is so that they become proper comment kiosks, rather than, as they are in London, digital labels and comment kiosks – we think this will clear any confusion as to the purpose of these things.
So, how engaged have people been with the idea of commenting against our museums objects? We have had quite a few interactions – over 2,700 comments since April 5. They include lots of spam and lots of comments saying the museum is great. But there have also been some rather affecting comments.
From the SI kiosk underneath a 1939 baby’s gas mask we got the following:
Strange to think that this was not so long ago! I can remember the war as a teenager, only seems like yesterday. Tomorrow, I celebrate my 82nd birthday!
And underneath a VE day celebration photograph – with the prompt question: Photographs like this have become well-known as part of the story of the Second World War. Do they give a complete picture of how people felt? – we read:
I just could not think about how sad I would be if me, my mum and my friends were in the war
We hope and expect the level and depth of engagement to increase when the SI web pages go live. If you are sat in the comfort of your own home, browsing objects you are interested in, you are much more likely to think, type, collect and share it. Probably more likely than you are to in a busy gallery, typing on to a small tablet screen.
And the QR Codes? Well, they are another story..
New Art Exchange who have blogged recently about their Culture Cloud project are working with the Interactive Cultures research team from the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University. The team includes Professor Tim Wall, Dr Paul Long, Dr Nick Webber, and Dr Simon Barber.
They’ve set up their own blog where they will be reporting on some of the research and evaluation of the Culture Cloud project.
If you’re like us then you’ll be following their progress with some interest
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
Here’s our first monthly update. The Punchdrunk team went out to visit our New York production Sleep No More at Halloween. Needless to say this was much fun, the production hosted 4 nights of Halloween themed parties (dress; red, black, white and of course All Hallows Eve scary). It was brilliant to see the space come to life as a party venue and also excellent to wander around and begin imagining how the R&D project will work across the space.
Following this we took a bus ride to Boston and spent a day planning with our partners at the Media Lab. Our contact Tod Machover arranged an inspiring day, brainstorming the project with his immediate team and also visiting other areas of research that could feed into the project. We had lunch with some prospective technology partners, again imagining what the project could be. Needless to say there is no end of willing and talented collaborators. These meetings left us incredibly exhilarated if not a little brain dead (in a good way), we’re now in the mdist of developing the narrative and journey of the project. From this everything else will follow.
Half of our research team is currently completing a trip to NYC and Media Lab and the other half will complete an initial trip in early January. We’re excited about how these findings might feed into the project.
Returning from MAC (Midlands Art Centre) I distributed the notes I had collected between a team of NAE staff we had chosen to work on the cloud project. We had Andy Lindley our Technical Manager, Skinder Hundal our chief executive, Ravi Abbott (Me) project Assistant and Islam Muhammad EVS Volunteer. We sat around a table and started discussing what we thought the aims of the project would be and what NESTA would want. We found three very important points that would change our direction of thinking thus changing the project outcomes. The first point was that they were not focusing on new methods of creating interactive art and displaying it. This meant that the idea of interactive screens or robotic heads was not viable. The Second important point was that they wanted a testable proposition, this meant that we could not make it over complex and it had to be created with current technology. The final important point was that they wanted control to be in the hands of the audience, this would mean it needed to be interactive but that interactivity must count towards something.
We became more focused on the cloud idea, this seems to be the idea that could be made less complicated. With making it a testable proposition we could achieve it by doing it on a much smaller scale then the initial idea. We could simply have one initial cloud based around the NAE area. We could allow artists to upload and share work. We decided to choose visual arts as an initial platform as arts as a subject matter is so wide spread it would be very complex to organise it and pointless for a trail.
We still did not have a name. We were coming up with different ideas, combinations of cloud and community. After jokingly suggesting Boy George’s ‘Culture Club’ we simple swapped the club for cloud. This seemed to fit and roll off the tongue well.
We still needed to define the idea, we had a good base for an online community but how do we bring this community into the gallery space (this is the whole aim of the project). We came up with lots of ideas such as interactive boards, displaying art works on the tram, projection on the side of the NAE. Eventually Andy Lindley suggested we simply made a box in the gallery space. This box would display the works digitally and people could come and see their work displayed in the gallery space. This box would contain a Pc with a high quality screen or projector. We named this simply ‘media box’
This idea was strong but we felt it would not appeal to people who were not used to or unsure of visiting an art space. We needed something extra to pull them in. Skinder decided to get some advice from art companies and contacts he knew.
Part 3 Coming soon
by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant
Birth of the idea Part 1
Previous tech projects I have been involved with were mostly self funded community websites, or involved working with small groups of people who met online to create a gaming community. These sites were great. I learnt a lot about what makes a community successful and what can make it divided. All of this work had a fairly loose structure and was very much a spare-time thing.
When presented with the challenge, Skinder and I started brainstorming to come up with ideas. The initial ideas were strong but a few were pretty obscure – particularly the giant robot head on the side of NAE that used image recognition software to scan people and then greet them with their name.
We started off thinking about areas and fixing the location to capture the local community’s content and display it. We initially thought of simply drawing a square of a mile around the area on map and then collecting the data and displaying it at an event.
‘Cloud’ is a very popular word online at the moment. With products such as iCloud by Apple storing people’s content in remote virtual locations. It’s very relevant. This coupled with the idea that clouds move, expand, retract helped cement the idea.
The Imperial War Museum has just kicked off its digital R+D project. It’s my job, as their project manager, to put some structure around a big idea that has been sitting, in the main, in the heads of the project partners. To pull the significant deliverables out of the winning proposal and stack them up as milestones in a (hopefully) impressive looking Gantt chart. No one is ever as interested in Gantt charts as project managers are, so I’ll spare you that. But we are going to blog the process over on the IWM website. Sharing the ideas, processes, successes, surprises, pain and (we promise) deliverables that come out of this project.
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