April 2012: Maps, Hacks and Viennese Pastries

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.

Our bespoke Viennese Scrapbook Tumblr created a vivid world that reflected all aspects of the composer’s life and work, from the canonical to the counter-cultural. The site was featured as a highlight in the Tumblr Staff blog and also in the Tumblr recommended music category.

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 Museuman 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.

Rachel has also written an article for The Guardian Culture Professionals Network, talking about how Happenstance aims to make arts organisations ‘digital by default‘. The project aims to make big changes by doing small things, so it’s fun to watch it unfold.

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, here’s a few things that have caught our eye(s):

The National Maritime Museum have been making some brilliant video trailers.
The Hack Day Manifesto has been published, as have the BBC data guidelines for the  Digital Public Space.

After Rachel’s consultation on the project, we’re holding our breath for the launch of The Space on 1 May.

We’ve also been taking inspiration from Cat Scientists of the 1960s on Tumblr and enjoying John Lanchester in the London Review of Books on risk and the romance of the technologically sublime.
Cat Scientists

We are currently taking on new projects, so do get in touch if you’d like to work with us.

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