It’s been a while since I caught up with Skinder Hundal, the man behind the Culture Cloud project – back in August we spoke about some of the keys to making a project like this a success, but now the project’s finished, I wanted to find out what was next for Culture Cloud and the technology behind it…
Skinder, how will you incorporate digital technology at NAE now, given what you’ve learned from Culture Cloud?
“We feel much more confident about using the digital and social media platform. Culture Cloud proved that if we can design a digital system with simplicity and functionality as the main aim then it would work. We have learnt a lot about pre-planning and the amount of people and dedication it takes to pull off such a project, and that we probably needed twice the resources to really make it work.
“For this round at NAE we were very resourceful and it was the relationship of the CEO and NAE team with key partners that activated goodwill levering wider resources of time and knowledge.”
What will Culture Cloud look like in 2014?
“Technology travels too fast for us to know this so it is difficult to predict, however we would be keen to mainstream Culture Cloud as a model and refine key processes and technologies to ensure success. We felt that the democratization of how art is selected for gallery exhibitions using digital platforms was a success on the whole. The total process created a hype and a strong reality in that NAE had record number of visitors at the opening launch and good visitors throughout the exhibition.
“It also attracted a good selection of works from across the UK, unearthing and exposing new talent not seen or heard. The national curators in the partnership were impressed by this.
“Going forward NAE will strengthen its partnership and collaborators, scale up possibly through prominent media partners, widen the range of art forms if possible (beyond 2d) look internationally in terms of artists, audiences and partners, certainly improve audience engagement and voting, rethink the selling and commercial side of the project and improve the digital interfaces and interaction between artist, audience and curator.”
In the first post of 2013 I decided to pick up where we left off last time; catching up with all the different Digital R&D Fund projects (just recently we spoke to Scratchr and Punchdrunk) to see what’s happened and what’s next now most of the projects have completed their research & development stages. This week I caught up with Paul Cutts, chief executive of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group, to find out more about what’s happening with the Dickens London Trails app…
“Our ambition was to make the technology available to other small-scale arts and cultural organisations, enabling them to break into the digital market at low cost,” said Paul when I asked him what was going to happen with the app technology now the project had completed its R&D phase.
The group are now in discussions with a trust in the north of England, who is interested in using the app tech to develop its own series of trails around a world-famous heritage site.
“It would not be appropriate for me to name the organisation at this stage, as we’re in discussions currently and it may not come to fruition,” added Paul. “But I will be going to Newcastle to lead a workshop for them looking at what they need to consider, how to avoid some of the pitfalls we stumbled into and how to ensure the tool they create gives audiences what they want.”
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.”
John Wilson discusses how arts organisations are opening up their archives, collections and data with studio guests Bill Thompson, Head of Partnership Development, BBC Archives; Drew Hemment, Founder and CEO of Future Everything; and Dr Paul Gerhardt, Director of Archives for Creativity.
Including: what arts organisations need to consider when digitising their archives as we hear from bespoke archive Siobhan Davis Replay alongside the Google Art Project; the V&A and the Public Catalogue Foundation on how involving the public in tagging your digital archive can create new ways of experiencing a collection; how organisations can use their data innovatively and creatively, opening it up to the public and even developers; and the British Museum on working alongside other cultural institutions to revolutionise the way we search collections data through the web.
Download/subscribe to the podcast series on Arts Council England iTunes channel http://bit.ly/RnDpodseries
Earlier this week I asked the LSO Pulse project and Punchdrunk to offer what they think other arts organisations can take from the projects they were part of. For Punchdrunk, it was about rethinking how audiences and companies digitally connect with eachother, and for the LSO project, the lessons were purely mobile.
For the Happenstance project it was instead about how organisations think about their digital offering and makeup, and how they go about embracing technology.
“Rather than trying to use technology to fix a specific problem or answer a particular need, the aim was to see how technology (and specifically, technologists) could transform the arts,” said Katy Beale when I caught up with her. “In a way, our aims were similar to those of the Government Digital Service: how could the arts become digital by default, rather than digital as an afterthought?”
Katy admitted that Happenstance has helped make the arts organisations involved more visible to the digital community, “both in the immediate vicinity and through national showcases such as Future Everything or TedX. Digital innovation is inherently social, and the residents instinctively drew on their existing networks and constructed some new ones, which the arts organisations will benefit from longer term. We can also see that Happenstance has application outside of the arts world, into the wider public sector and commercial organisations. And while the legacy will be different for each of our initial participants, the learning from the project has the potential to make a radical, longer-term change in the way that arts and cultural sector embraces technology.”
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 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.