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Culture Cloud: what next?

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment

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.”

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Culture Cloud: communication, teamwork and ‘threeing’ the key to success

August 14, 2012 2 comments

In the last update from the Culture Cloud project, and in my last catch up with Skinder Hundal – one of those heading up the project – we talked about the digital difficulties of putting art online. In this next round of updates, and in our second catch up, we spoke about the importance of communication and how a strong team will always guarantee success.

 

How important was communication to the Culture Cloud project?

Communication is a critical part of success, be that written, verbal, physical or virtual. Communication can be complex in partnership projects like Culture Cloud, which involves new partnerships and tried and tested ones all in the same mix.  The dynamics and ideologies and working practices of the different sectors often need to be thought through and negotiated – be them commercial, technology firms, universities or national visual arts organisations.

Communicating time scales, and expectations of roles and responsibilities plays a critical role in determining successful outcomes. The methodology and regularity of communication is also key – be that via text, phone, face to face, email or blogs.

What has the key to success been with this project?

Successful projects have great ideas, vision and dynamic multi-functioning teams – there have to be instigators, responders and mediators. I borrow the term ‘threeing’ from an artist called Paul Ryan featuring in dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel at the moment in fact. It means a team where someone leads, a group respond and a smaller group mediate the ideas and differences – it really makes a difference. In totality though what makes success is leadership, passion and drive, forward planning, and great ideas delivered pragmatically with skilled and knowledgeable team players. It is always a combination of these components successfully blending in time and space that make the difference.

If you could do the project again, what would you do differently?

We have had approximately 40,000 voting engagements with Culture Cloud online via social media and the Culture Cloud platform on Artfinder. This has been brilliant, but the model needs refining so thinking this through in more detail would be really important.  The model works so that artists and audiences have more control and power in the outcome of whether they get to exhibit in an international space.  Those less networked and more introvert can get left behind though, so ensuring that an audience engagement platform can work so it has even more value as we develop the model for the future is important.

On the whole the project has exceeded expectations and we are delighted about this; we are now at the stage where we are promoting the sales of digital prints selected from the Top 40. This is a relatively new area for us as a public contemporary art gallery based in an inner city area.  To do this well, thinking through a tighter commercial strategy would be really good with a dedicated team who can engage audiences with the work and also instigate new collectors of art and buyers of digital print so that artists, audience and project partners all benefit together.

Matthew Caines is a journalist currently blogging and posting updates from all eight projects involved in the Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture

Find out more about the Culture Cloud project here

Culture Cloud: the digital implications of putting art online

June 13, 2012 1 comment

Culture Cloud is a digital space for artists to upload their artwork to a web portal where both recognised curators and public audiences will vote for the works they like.

The most popular and intriguing will be exhibited in August 2012 at the New Art Exchange (NAE) – an international contemporary visual arts space and creators of Culture Cloud. I caught up with Skinder Hundal, chief executive at NAE about how the project has been coming along.

He was keen to mention that a project as ambitious as this does not come without its challenges – and for a project as technical as this, making the digital platforms work so they are easy to use is crucial for a smooth operation in the back-end and for the online users at the front-end.

For Culture Cloud there are two key digital platforms – one for artists to register and another for audiences to interact with the work. The challenge for the project was to make sure the registration site was easy to use and that it came across as visually appealing and informative about the partners and key stages of the competition.

Skinder admitted that the site may have actually been too easy to use: “The process to upload the art was very straightforward, so perhaps we could have asked more questions to reduce workload for us later, ie dimensions, mediums, titles and dates of the work.

“Also there were requests from artists who registered to see who else and what else was being submitted. We didn’t create this option but did think about it – for example, should we share the whole process of pre-selection too? In the end we decided not to have it.”

Culture Cloud

Artfinder were tasked to create a space on their existing site where users could view the selected works

In terms of voting and the site where users could view the selected 100 works, Artfinder was tasked to create a space on their existing site for this to take place. The key challenge here was to make sure that audiences could navigate from a landing page to the pages where the selected 100 works would be shown, and then move swiftly across them.

“A key challenge was to ensure that the quality of the images and the respective information and descriptions were clear and that audiences felt compelled to ‘Like’ and vote for the works,” added Skinder. “Also, the site should not give certain works any unfair advantage, therefore we implemented a shuffling system and made sure that the voting system was clear and easy to use and able to connect with key social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.”

“The site continues to adapt as we receive feedback and observe how it is working,” said Skinder finally. “In our first week we have had just under 12,000 votes and a top 40 for the physical exhibition at NAE is taking shape!”

Matthew Caines is a journalist currently blogging and posting updates from all eight projects involved in the Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture

Find out more about the Culture Cloud project here

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

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

New Art Exchange – Culture Cloud

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out New Art Exchange’s own blog for indepth details of what been happening on their Digital R&D project. You can find it here: Birth of an idea or I’ve reposted it below.

Birth of the idea Part 1

When Skinder first asked me to help on a digital project, I was excited but unsure how an art centre with such a traditional style of visual arts would be able to achieve this.

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 soon whittled it down to one pretty complex, but strong concept. This was spurred on by suggestions from the wider team at NAE and the idea became more defined. We thought: ‘what can NAE offer to help bring people into the centre?’ The answer we came to was the community. If we could filter this amazingly diverse and talented community into a showcase of some kind, people would see how vibrant the place is, or be drawn to the centre via a route they would not usually have taken.

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.

We soon realised that this was very limited, as we would keep getting similar content and it could go stagnant. We also found a similar art project called square mile (guess great minds think alike). This is when we thought that the square could expand and retract. Then we thought that the shape of the square was too restrictive. What if somebody wanted to join and lived just outside the edge of the boundary? So we decided to ditch the square idea, so the shape could change and even move across and overlap other locations.

‘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.

With this idea planted in my head, I was sent to The NESTA digital day in Birmingham at Midlands Arts Centre (MAC). It was my first art conference/debate event and my first time in Brum. They had some great examples of projects and ideas and gave us some very vital information. We discussed everything from the online record industry, to social networking. I enjoyed it a lot and stuffed my face with sandwiches and fruit whilst having a look around MAC.
Part 2 Coming soonby Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant