What happens to nostalgia in the digital age, when shoeboxes of photos and mixtapes are replaced with iTunes and Instagram? Can digital be more than just a bolt-on to a live theatrical experience? What would a visit to a museum be like wearing Google goggles?
‘Arts and the Digital Creative Labs’ produced by Caper and King’s Cultural Institute, as part KCI’s ongoing commitment to facilitating collaboration between academia and the cultural sector, comprised of an Open Space event, an Ideas Lab and a number of digital prototype commissions.
The Open Space brought together King’s academics from across the nine schools with representatives from the cultural sector, including Coney, Crafts Council, Wellcome Collection, London Review of Books, Fuel Theatre, and Natural History Museum. The initial facilitated Open Space event allowed participants to identify challenges that could be turned into provocations, to be explored further the Ideas Lab. Cultural organisations wanted to answer key challenges for their sector around developing and sustaining audiences or innovating the experience for existing audiences. Academics were looking for ways to develop their research in new contexts, to gather information, or to enter into fresh dialogues. Others were trying to unite their passions for the arts and for sciences, which are kept artificially separate through stratified universities and museums.
The subsequent Ideas Lab introduced creative technologists and businesses to the mix, bringing in the skills needed to develop solutions to some of the Open Space challenges. There was just one rule: each team must have at least one academic, one member of the cultural sector and one technologist. The teams spent a morning brainstorming their chosen challenge. Throughout the Lab, these questions were explored, tested by other teams, refined and finally pitched for the chance to win a digital prototyping bursary from King’s Cultural Institute.
The commissioned digital prototypes are wide ranging in their ideas and technology use. One will be a prototype robotic glove that allows users to virtually feel priceless objects that would usually be locked away in galleries, developed by a team including King’s robotics experts. Another will be a web app that gives users personalised cultural recommendations, depending on their social media usage, in the same way that will behavioural marketing works. Coney’s production Early Days of a Better Nation will be brought to life online with an interface which allows users to set the parameters and change the course of events during a live theatre performance. The final prototype will create user-generated digital graffiti within museums, a playful tool to instigate a critical response from the public and subvert expected behaviours in cultural institutions.
The teams now have six weeks to turn their plans into working prototypes for presentation at a sharing event on 3 July. We’ll share the results here in July. To find out more about the Creative Labs workshops and the process the participants engaged in, check out the Storify of the event.
Photo credits: Tim Mitchell