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LSO Pulse and Punchdrunk: what lessons will other arts orgs take from our projects?

October 22, 2012 2 comments

It’s been a short while since my last update (not least because I’ve been on holiday!) and it’s been great to come back to so many views and shares on the blog, so thanks very much!

The last few posts in the series have asked questions of some of the projects (for example, we’ve heard why clarity has been so key for the Happenstance project and how, for the Dero project, success is down to committed project partners) – it’s been interesting to see the different answers and compare and contrast, but there’s a wider question I think needs addressing:

What are the wider implications of these projects? What lessons will other arts orgs take from all the experimenting?

For Punchdrunk, and their digital project, it was about rethinking how audiences and companies need to rethink how they connect digitally, particularly pertinent in this fast-paced world of tech and social media. “The conventional model doesn’t fit and needs to be continually interrogated,” said Pete Higgin, enrichment director at the company. “I think as part of a body of projects in the pilot programme, this one is certainly part of a wave of work that will explore further the crossover between digital and the arts. On a company level, our eyes and ears are opened to new possibilities and we are exploring ways to integrate digital work into our company.”

For the LSO Pulse project, the lessons were in mobile

For Nico Koepke, CEO of KODIME, the tech company involved in the LSO Pulse app programme, the lesson was purely mobile: “Students and other young audiences can be very effectively reached and engaged on the mobile channel, and they appreciate the offer and reward with loyalty. We also feel the project showcased that marketing and selling tickets via mobile including the reasonable complex transaction mechanics does not have to cost a fortune or require a new boxoffice system.”

Jo Johnson, digital marketing manager for the London Symphony Orchestra (the organisation behind the Pulse programme) it was about looking at the bigger picture: “We have taken our prototype app and are in the process of widening its scope to include several other orchestras and venues, making one big student scheme for classical music concerts in London. While collaboration between arts organisations is nothing new, this will be the first time that London’s orchestras have worked together on such a large project, pooling resources – financial and people – to reach more of London’s student population to hopefully get them to classical music in greater numbers. For a group that is traditionally in competition with each other, it feels like something pretty revolutionary.”

… which is exactly what the Digital R&D Fund is all about: creating revolutionary ‘things’ and forming revolutionary ideas to filter down through the ranks so that all arts organisations can get in on the action.

Punchdrunk and podcasts

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment

As part of the next series of posts for this blog, I’ll be asking some questions of the experts behind the Digital R&D Fund to see how their answers compare and what other, perhaps smaller arts organisations can learn from…

Previously we heard from Jo Johnson, digital marketing manager at the London Symphony Orchestra, and Claire Harvey, one of the digital bods behind the Dero project at Sage Gateshead. This week we ask the same question of Pete Higgin, enrichment director at Punchdrunk, and find out about what he thought was the success to his project.

Question 1: What do you think the key to success has been with this particular project?

“The key to success has been good communication between all teams involved. The challenge was always to co-ordinate a project in New York, which was being conceived and built in London, Boston and New York. Undoubtedly the support, resource and opportunity offered by the project team in New York was key to making the project successful too.”

We’ll be asking this question of the other projects in due course, and finding out their answers to some more. In the meantime, have a listen to the latest Arts digital R&D podcast, the third in the series. This one is all about using digital channels and technologies to distribute arts and cultural content and reach the widest possible audience, including new and international ones.

Punchdrunk: the challenges of online, offline, time and space

Pete Higgin is enrichment director at Punchdrunk, the British theatre company and masters in “immersive” presentation theatre. As part of the Arts Council, Nesta and AHRC Digital R&D for Arts and Culture Fund, Punchdrunk has been experimenting in connecting the online and physical performance spaces.

Punchdrunk Sleep no More

Connecting online users…

In particular, Pete and Punchdrunk have been working on connecting a live Sleep No More audience member to an online companion, but when I caught up with him he admitted the project has not been without its challenges, all of which he says have made the project think more carefully about planning and operating – something arts organisations can learn from as well.

“The Atlantic Ocean was a massive challenge in itself, as was working in three different teams in three different cities,” said Pete. “I’m not sure we actually fully overcame this but regular Skype meetings, a pretty constant stream of conversation and making the most of what little face-to-face time we had helped.”

He also added that it can be incredibly challenging integrating a new piece of work into an existing production: “The project attempted to connect two online and offline participants, but this had to happen in a show which demands the audience be silent and turn off all mobile devices, which makes it quite difficult to facilitate.”

But Pete actually saw this, in part, as an advantage because it forced the team into working around something specific and focused: “Interestingly these parameters helped shape the project and gave us debilitating but important boundaries – ultimately, we had to embrace these and find distinct moments for communication.”

Another challenge that Pete mentioned was time: “It was a massive challenge, and we could have done with much more and also a second iteration of the project.” But learning from these kinds of challenges is what will make the next rounds of experimenting and testing so successful.

Some research insights

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

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

Punchdrunk/Media Lab update

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

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.

New Art Exchange – birth of an idea part 2

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment
Quick on heals of the first part, part 2 of the New Art Exchange’s jouney is equally interesting. I reposted it below or you can check it out on their main site.
 

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