Research and Development (R&D) projects can provide arts organisations with a robust framework that brings arts, technology and rigorous research together to test how they might engage with audiences in new ways or test new business models. Because arts funding is limited and resources are stretched, it’s vital to publicly share the results of our experiments with one another. This includes our successes and our mistakes – so that others can learn from them and innovate further.
The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts has supported digital projects across the UK and we’re beginning to publish the findings and insights from these on our website and magazine. But innovation in the arts goes beyond our borders. With the help of the British Council’s Creative Economy team, we’ve scanned the globe for projects that are using digital technologies in new and inspiring ways.
Here are 10 of our favourites:
Lightwave is a piece of wearable technology that gathers real-time data about its wearer, including temperature, movement and audio levels, and feeds this back to performers. Through live visualisations of the data from the crowd, the performers get real insights about the audience’s experience, giving them the opportunity to change tact to ensure an interactive performance.
World Online Orchestra is helping to bring chamber music to everyone’s door. The interactive platform allows users to listen to the 40 members of the Copenhagen Phil perform a piece of music together, or mix and match up to five performers to create their own sound. Users can currently conduct the digital orchestra but will soon be able to upload their own recordings and perform virtually alongside them as well.
Culture Shift is a season of hack days that bring together creative businesses and digital talent to make new products that address existing challenges in the cultural sector in just 48 hours. Culture Shift has so far taken place across Africa, Russia and Brazil. In Kenya, one of the hack days resulted in a fashion label that allows customers to input to the design process and a project that uses QR codes to spread the stories behind street art in Nairobi.
A platform where 150,000 digitised artworks from the Rijksmuseum’s collection are available to the public to view, download and turn into new products such as wallpaper and iPad cases. Users not only get to play designer but also entrepreneur with the studio setting up pop-up physical stores for the products made, as well as a partnership with online marketplace Etsy.
The Rubens House in Antwerp is using iBeacon technology to push contextual information to visitors based on their exact location in the museum. This low-cost, low-power technology is used to notify visitors of the stories behind paintings they are viewing, available X-ray scans of the artwork, interactive trivia questions and more. Unlike “pull” technologies, which require visitors to initiate interaction, such as scanning a QR code, this new model hopes to better integrate the digital and physical experience.iBeacon technology in action at The Rubens House
This Watershed/British Council’s Creative Economy project brings together artists, technologists and creative entrepreneurs from Brazil and the UK and invites them to experiment with the idea of the “playful city”. Installations that have come out of the project range from an interactive commute featuring bus stops that speak back to you, to interactive lighting that marks pick-up points for river taxis on the Capibaribe river.
This state-of-the-art museum in Pecica, a remote village in Romania, relies exclusively on 3D and other digital technologies and lets visitors explore other museums and their content around the world. An advantage is that the museum can host any presentation or exhibition without the need of a very large space, large number of staff or substantial maintenance costs. On a more local scale it also gives visitors the opportunity to explore the local area on a virtual bike tour or by renting one of the museum’s physical ones.
The Acropolis Museum in Athens together with the Cité de l’Espace, a science centre in Toulouse, is experimenting with providing personalised storytelling for visitors based on their exhibitions. Beyond the development phase, visitors will be invited to download an app and complete a profile for themselves, which will develop a story-led route around the museum that uncovers hidden layers of relevant information to them during their visit. For example, according to age, gender or occupation. The tool, which is funded by the European Union, is designed to encourage interaction and engagement.
Australia’s oldest independent professional performing arts organisation, Musica Viva, has developed an interactive whiteboard and several digital learning resources to make school music education more fun. There are also singing exercises to understand the connection between lyrics and notation, as well as drag-and-drop combinations of sounds and instruments, to help students and teachers learn about the elements of music and develop skills in listening, singing, playing, moving and composition.
Beyond Digital is a crowdfunded research and skill-sharing programme that explores how local musicians can utilise global digital technologies, such as how Auto-Tune’s robotic vocal effects can be used in traditional Berber folk music. Through video, digital media workshops and public performances young people have been invited to experiment and introduce alternatives to western concepts of digital literacy.
Emma Quinn is senior programme manager and Athina Balopoulou is a researcher at Nesta
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