The Ideas Lab takes place on Thursday 23 May, at King’s Anatomy Museum, from 9.30am to 5.30pm, followed by drinks.
This Ideas Lab will bring together leading arts and cultural organisations with academic researchers and creative technologists to debate, discover and experiment.
Technologists will benefit from opportunities such as networking and collaborating with cultural organisations, insight into the needs and opportunities around working with arts and culture, and a view of current academic research.
The Lab will conclude with the opportunity for teams to pitch to a selection panel to win one of three £2,500 bursaries, to turn ideas into a working digital prototype.
The event is free, but places are limited, and you’ll need to apply to take part. You must be a designer, software developer, user experience expert or a content specialist.
To register your interest in attending the event please email firstname.lastname@example.org by 10am on Tue 14 May with:
- a short description of the work you or your organisation do
- why you have an interest in working with cultural organisations
- what you hope to get out of the Ideas Lab
For independent technologists, we have a small number of £400 bursaries available to cover your time – please let us know if you wish to be considered for this.
We hope this event will serve as a creative catalyst for new ideas, will enable new collaborations and will seed approaches to and thinking around Arts and the Digital.
If you like going to gigs and concerts with your friends and talking about the experience afterwards, or if you listen to live music online, then we’d like to hear from you.
We’re making a new website with BBC Radio 3 that will launch in May 2013. We can’t say too much about it now, except that it’s an experiment in social listening. Before we develop it further, we want to find out what people think about the experience and how we can make it better.
To take part, you’ll need Internet access during May 2013. During that time you can use the site as little or often as you want to, but you will also need to be available in early June to take part in a short online survey to let us know what you think.
Since the start of 2013 we have been developing a strategic plan for Culture Hack East, in partnership with CoDE and Creative Front at Anglia Ruskin University, as part of our ongoing development of Culture Hack nationally. We have been working with the arts, creative and technology industries in the East region to explore and define the strategic development of the programme for 2013 and 2014, with support from the Arts CounciLAs well as strategic development, we have produced a Toolkit (available online later in April) to share our methodology and learnings so far from Culture Hack. This free resource includes information on the process and ethos of the Culture Hack programme, as well as resources, such as signposting to funding opportunities, and real lift case studies including Hoipolloi and the London Review of Books. The toolkit includes information on what motivates people to take part and how participating in a Culture Hack event can support legacy projects and long-term organisational change.
Back in February we ran a Culture Hack East Ideas Lab with our regional partners at Anglia Ruskin University. The aim of the lab was to bring together cultural organisations, technologists, designers and developers to experiment with rapid ideas generation. We had over thirty attendees including The Junction, Wysing Arts Centre, ADeC, CRASSH, Hoipolloi, Cambridgeshire County Council, Tribal Labs and Stride Design.Over two days, they created user journeys, developed paper prototypes and pitched ideas. Our panel – made up of Georgia Ward (Arts Council England), Zoe Svendsen (Metis Arts), Rachel Drury (Arts Policy Researcher in Residence, University of Cambridge), and Daniel Jones (Erase) – selected two prototypes to receive development bursaries, taking the ideas beyond paper prototypes to digital prototype stage.
Developed by Specialmoves, Parrabbola, DanceDigital and firstsite, Art Buddies is about creating opportunities for audiences to take risks, facilitating group attendance to artistic exhibitions or performances. They could be novices who have an interest in the art form, or knowledgeable enthusiasts keen to share. The Art Buddies team have tested an early stage prototype with target user groups, and through this they have refined what a successful and engaging experience would look like.University of Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Cambridge Cabinet contains nearly 160 artifacts found in the Cambridge area that originate from the Medieval, Roman and Prehistoric periods. Developed by the museum with Atlas Live, the Wall of Cambridge Archaeology iPad App presents the visitor with a representation of the cabinet, maps of the Cambridge area, and the objects themselves. MAA is keen to develop the prototype to a second phase period, involving user testing in the gallery. Off the back of this initial prototype the group have located additional funding to enable this future development.As soon as the prototypes are available to the public we will share the links with you!
Caper is looking for an experienced, tidy-minded administrator to work one day a week. Work will include bookkeeping, organising logistics around projects, updating service agreements and maintaining up-to-date web content. We’re happy to be reasonably flexible if you’d like to break up the time into e.g. two half days to fit other regular commitments. You’ll be based in the Caper studio in Shoreditch and we are happy for some work to be done from home.
Freelance Producers / Project Managers
We would love to hear from you if you are an experienced producer or project manager, with digital experience. You must be unflappable and flexible, and interested in the wide range of projects that Caper produces. Experience of working with arts, cultural and heritage organisations a bonus, but not an essential.
Please apply to email@example.com with your CV. Caper is an equal opportunities employer.
Sophie Sampson has taken on the role of Lead Producer, as well as being our project management hub, she’s running our BBC Proms / Technology Strategy Board prototyping project.
After successfully project managing Happenstance for us in 2012, Beckie Darlington is working for us as an in-house Producer on University of Cambridge Museums’ digital audit and Culture Hack East.
Previously Head of Contemporary Programmes at the V&A Museum, Lauren Parker joins us as a Director (Associate), currently leading on strategic work with University of Cambridge Museums and writing a new two year strategy for Culture Hack East.
We met James Jefferies through the Happenstance project and now, as our Technical Director (Associate), he helps us with developing prototypes and technology scoping for projects and internal infrastructure.
We worked with Natalia Buckley on many Caper projects in 2012, including websites and prototypes for Fuel Theatre & Southbank Centre, BBC Radio 3, BBC Proms, RSC, and Brighton Museum, so we’re very pleased that she’s now part of the team as Creative Technologist (Associate).
Leila Johnston joins the team as our Writer (Associate). Her most recent article for us featured in The Guardian Culture Professionals Network on the rise of hack culture.
Each commission focuses on a different part of the theatrical experience – from the actors and the audience to the plays to the performance schedule – and we worked with three different developers to see how different technologies and approaches would affect the outcomes.
The first of the commissions – Alarum, created with Natalia Buckley – launches today. Alarum monitors sound and light activity around the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, capturing the changes that take place in the theatre as the focus changes from backstage to front of house and back again.
Whether a quiet moment between performances, the hustle and bustle of the wigs and wardrobe department in the run-up to curtain-up, or the hush of the auditorium as the house lights go down, the theatre has a pulse of its own. Specially built sensors placed at key locations around the site measure light, sound and motion, animating the display with every change they detect. What you see here is happening right now in the theatre.
By exploring the changes in sound and light around the site, we can measure the heartbeat of the building. And by displaying those changes live on the internet, we can connect people around the world with Shakespeare, his plays and the main theatre in the town of his birth, every minute of the day.
We have used stage directions from Shakespeare’s plays to indicate the intensity of noise and activity, or, as a sixteenth-century bard might have put it, “alarum”. For a full list of these, see the glossary of terms.
The other two commissions have been developed with Tom Armitage and Matthew Somerville, and will be launching later in November. The project was managed by us for Kat Sommers, and by Sarah Ellis for the RSC.
We helped the RSC celebrate the Olympic Torch relay by creating a one-day Shakespeare-themed Alternative Ping Pong Games, featuring a dozen specially devised games and activities (including Shakespearean bingo – “Hal and Poins. A pair of drawers – 44″ – and Pin the Ball on the Bard) …
… while also developing a series of digital commissions, helping the RSC to explore “Shakespeare’s Digital Heartbeat” for My Shakespeare, part of the World Shakespeare Festival. The commissions will be launching throughout the autumn, but you can see the first hint of what we’re up to in this post from Natalia Buckley, which documents her experience of placing sensors around the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in preparation for the first commission.
The pilot phase of our NESTA/Arts Council Digital R&D project Happenstance project came to a close in June. We’ll be writing about this in more detail, but if you’re keen to hear more, then do come along to our event at NESTA on 24 September – sign up here. In the meantime, you can see one of the outcomes from the project in this lovely film by Anne Hollowday, which documents James Bridle’s project “This is a Working Shop”.
And of course, our summer started with Culture Hack East - two amazing, collaborative days in Cambridge that saw nearly 80 developers, designers artists and art managers work together to create digital prototypes. This event was the result of an almost year-long programme in the Eastern region – the next steps for which will be announced in at an event in Cambridge on September 28th. Register your place here. We captured most of the activity of the day on Storify, but there will – we promise – be a full report very soon!
This is (more or less) the text of a talk I gave at Pilot Theatre’s digital conference Shift Happens in July. It’s about the potential of using technology as a material, rather than simply as a mirror.
One of the things we do at Caper is run Culture Hack, an international programme that encourages people to make things quickly with cultural data. This means I spend a lot of time thinking about the point at which art, or culture, and technology meet.
In particular, this has led to me think about using technology as a material. Like clay or wood, it’s a material with its own affordances and limitations. It can be made into everyday, ordinary objects or crafted and shaped into beautiful things.
If you speak to a potter or ceramicist, they’ll tell you that each piece of clay has a personality of its own: that it almost knows what it wants to be, and that the hand on the wheel is just helping it to become a better version of itself. And to do this, the potter has to treat the clay with care, respect and confidence.
We tend not to do that with technology. Instead, we often seem to concentrate on bending it to our will. Rather than allowing it the freedom to become itself, we mould it to fit endless lists of needs and requirements.
For example, we’ve heard a lot recently about how video is the saviour of the arts. That filming things and putting them on the Internet will make it all okay – that this is what digital was here to do. Make the TV all over again, but even better.
But sometimes putting a camera in front of things is the path of least resistance – it’s simply allowing a chink for technology to see through, not allowing it a way into the process, just offering it a hole in the wall.
Which is an opportunity for a cautionary tale. In Metamorphoses, Ovid tells the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, two young lovers who lived next-door to one another. When their parents refused to let them marry, they whispered to each other through the wall every night, their faces pressed up against the bricks. And one day, they escaped and attempted to meet – but they encountered a lion. And to cut a long story short, it didn’t end well.
The lesson being, I think, that the more time we spend simply poking video cameras through the chinks in the wall – rather than scaling the wall and trying to get a better look at what’s on the other side – then the more we’ll come to rely on the wall being there. And then, eventually, looking over the wall (let alone, going outside and confronting the lions) will seem too dangerous and we’ll stop even trying. There’s the danger that we’ll become complacent and simply stick to what we know.
And I don’t necessarily think that people in the arts should try to be at the forefront of creating new forms of technology – because there are others who can do that much better – but we can lead in the way that we implement. We can use our imaginations and our foresight and our bravery to make brilliant things with the materials that are already there.
Central to this is an increase in literacy and understanding: if we can become like potters, who can intuit the best uses of a piece of clay, then we will inevitably use technology to make better things. But we need to focus our understanding on the right things.
Now as far as I know, no one who’s ever written a novel (or even, printed a marketing brochure) has thought they would learn to make paper first. They may have agonised over many other things, but they’ve probably left the papermaking to the papermakers. After all, paper isn’t the material that novels are made of: they’re made of that space between one imagination and another. And so with the Internet. A really good digital project isn’t made up of screens. The devices we use are instrumental. A book is a book if I read it on paper, on my iPad, on my phone. It persists apart from the means of delivery.
And while knowing how to write a line of code (or thousands of lines of code) is a brilliant thing, the sort of literacy we need the most of is the sort that makes us ambitious and confident and creative. The sort that turns into works of art.
In the recent Invisible exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, and there was a photograph of a piece by Yves Klein. The caption said, “In May 1957 … Yves Klein presented an empty, white-painted room filled with the artist’s sensibility.”
Yves Klein in the Void Room (Raum der Leere), Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, January 1961. via www.eflux.com
And people queued to come into the room and experience the sensibility, the pureness of the idea.
What would happen if we concentrated on filling a different kind of space with a sensibility? If rather than worrying about making apps and Facebook pages and video players, we started to fill the digital space with our sensibility and waited to see what happened?
For instance, think about what theatre is, how it can linger and persist and fill the space that we make available to it. How can we make a theatrical experience that is natively of the Web, that uses and adapts to its materials? One that pings around the networks like electric thoughts.
And it seems that we’re approaching the stage where that becomes possible.
Has anyone here ever used their iPhone as a mirror? You see a lot of teenage girls on the tube doing it. They’ve flipped the camera function round so they can do their make-up, and it looks pretty weird – like they’re gurning at their phones for no reason. But in reality they’re using it to look at themselves. Using it as an actual mirror.
And that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been using technology as mirror in which to see ourselves.
The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan had a name for this phenomenon in children. Apparently a baby can recognise itself in the mirror from as early as 6 months old, but there’s a mismatch because the child’s relative lack of control over its body makes it aware of a division. It becomes aware of a primordial, ideal being in the mirror, and – to allay the threat of this other, perfect being – it subsumes it into its identity. Lacan says that this gives the child a fleeting sense of mastery – as if it has tamed itself – owning and mastering rather than setting up a more playful, and possibly more productive, relationship. And Lacan says that this “situates the ego … in a fictional direction.” In other words, it shows us that we look like one thing, when we in fact look like quite another.
image via http://lumpenprofessoriat.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/mirror-stage.html
So the cultural world is at quite an amazing stage with regard to digital technology. We’re like toddlers, forming our digital ego – working out who we are, what we can be. And we could take the obvious path and continue to recreate ourselves in this image, take the digital materials we have to simply remake theatres and TV stations and art galleries. Or we could take advantage of our growing maturity to be more innovative – explore the materials at our disposal, see what they can do – and create something radically different. We can take some inspiration from Alice and go through the looking glass, rather than stand considering our own reflections.
And if we do that, we can we start to view technology as a material for exploration and innovation – the sort of thing we can build our dreams from – rather than merely an aid to recreate what we see in the mirror.
From Alice Through the Looking Glass. Illustration by John Tenniel.
Culture Hack East is happening in Cambridge over the weekend of 16/17 June. There are spaces for designers, developers, artists, writers and content specialists. If you’re interested in creating prototypes with arts and cultural data, then sign-up here.
As well as the usual hacking activity, during the Saturday there’ll be a paper prototyping track, and a number of inspiring short talks that consider the potential of art, culture and technology. The full agenda will be announced very shortly.
Clare Reddington, Leila Johnston and Tom Uglow speaking at Culture Hack 2011, with Simon Hopkins. Photo: Tim Mitchell
There will be between 6 and 10 short talks. We’re inviting a few people to talk about specific things, but there are also some open slots. If you would like to speak, this is what to do:
Write a proposal, no more than 100 words, giving the title of your talk and explaining how it relates to the potential of art, culture and technology
Tell us about you – include a short biography, including links to any of your work if appropriate.
And don’t worry, you don’t have to have PowerPoint or Keynote slides. If you have something to demonstrate (particularly if it’s some hardware you’ve made, or a performance you’ve created) then let us know. Send in some photos too, if you think it would be useful. The only hard and fast rule is that all talks need to be between 7 and 10 minutes long. And it will help if you come from the Eastern region.
Culture Hack is a free, not-for-profit event, so we can’t offer fees for speakers, but we can cover local travel expenses.
The last month has been one of our busiest. As well as continuing with long-term and strategic projects, three projects have launched and some others have reached exciting stages. As Caper will be a year old at the end of May, our thoughts are also turning to the possibility of a birthday party. If it ever stops raining, we’ll hold it on the roof of our studio in Shoreditch, so watch out for your invitation!
We worked with BBC Radio 3 on The Spirit of Schubert – their 2oo-hour Schubert marathon – to develop and deliver an innovative social-media strategy that would work with both their core listeners and intrigue a new audience.
Franz Schubert came back to life for nine days on Twitter as @FranzIsUnwell where he tweeted his thoughts on sex, music and pastries, before breathing his dramatic last breath as the final bars of Schubert faded from the airwaves. This was a highly successful Twitter intervention, that provoked mention on the BBC R4 Today programme and according to internal BBC figures, this account was the seventh most engaged BBC Twitter account so far in 2012.
We also made a bespoke, automated account @SchubertNow which used internal BBC data to generate a Twitter alert for every piece as it started on BBC Radio 3. Although very simple, this signalled a new kind of engagement with technology for BBC Radio 3, using simple, glanceable outputs to serve the audience in a new way.
We launched Map the Museum, an open-data pilot that we developed with Kevin Bacon at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton and Hove. This first phase asks members of the public to place museum objects on a map of Brighton and Hove, while subsequent iterations will uncover the connections a single object has to a specific place, or – indeed – a large number of places.
This is the start of a much bigger project that we believe is quietly revolutionary. Kevin has blogged about the curatorial challenges of opening uninterpreted data to the public, but Map the Museum is an unusual museum project in several other ways:
it’s been made with the aim of contextualising the catalogue data, to make it more useful and shareable in an open-source context
the entirety of the project will be shareable, including the code base, which will be posted to GitHub
we’ve opened the site in beta, so that we can make subsequent changes based on how people use it
In the long term, the aim is to layer the object data with civic information and other geo-located content, in order to build a multi-dimensional map of Brighton, and in this way we’ll also get to see how art helps people to interpret life and how the rest of life shapes art. We’re interested in rolling this project out to other museums, so do get in touch if you would like to explore its application for your collection.
Photo by Leila Johnston
The six Happenstance residents are now in situ at Site Gallery, Lighthouse and Spike Island. As well as lots of talking, thinking and blogging, there are already some interesting looking physical hacks in progress. The residents’ work will all be presented at a series of Open House events in May (details to be announced shortly @h8ppenstance). We’re also taking the team on the road to Future Everything in Manchester, where we’ll be attempting to turn our coveted 5.30-on-a-Friday spot into one of the most exciting conference experiences you’ve ever had in your life.
This weekend, Katy is representing us at Culture Hack Scotland, produced by Sync. Meanwhile, in England we’re getting ready for Culture Hack East. More than 20 arts organisations have so far signed up for the Culture Hack East Data Day, delivered by Creative Front. It’s a start for organisations who want to open their data, and there are still a few spots available, so if you’re an arts organisation, museum or library based in the East of England, sign up.
We’re excited that Makers’ Guild is to be a partner for this year’s Crafts Council conference, Assemble, in September. We have two more events planned over the coming months at the V&A on maker spaces and food – book now! We will soon be rolling out plans for the next phase of Makers’ Guild, which include making it a membership organisation and creating a regular work and meeting space.
In the past month, we’ve also been speaking at Open Data Cities in Brighton, Discover Open Data in Manchester (where it was good to find out positive influence of Culture Hack on Whitworth Art Gallery and Cornerhouse) and at FutureGov’s We Are Four Festival. We also supported the NASA Space Apps Challenge and ran a mini-workshop on developing a games brief for the Museum ID study day, featuring curious games types from English Heritage, National Army Museum, Bath Heritage Services, National Railway Museum, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and the Royal Armouries.
And finally, hereâ™s a few things that have caught our eye(s):
King’s Cultural Institute and Caper are looking for creative technologists to take part in our Arts and the Digital Ideas Lab, as part of KCI’s Creative Futures programme. The Ideas Lab takes place on Thursday …