Tiree Tech Wave 6 (TTW-6), Island Roaming and App Testing

Louisa Preston is currently researching a PhD at the Universities of Stirling and St Andrews based on the Nesta Digital R&D Fund.

Tiree Tech Wave 6

By Louisa Preston

In October this year the sixth Tiree Tech Wave took place on Tiree. Organised by Professor Alan Dix and Graham Dean, the Tech Wave was an opportunity for me to visit the island, see what happens at a Tech Wave and test out the latest version of the app An Iodhlann developed in collaboration with Alan Dix called Frasan.

Tiree_beach

I wasn’t really sure about what I would expect to find at this festival/gathering of tech minds. What I did find was an intriguing, strange but curious experience over three days on the island.

My colleague and I arrive to a really windy day, although I was told that was just a breezy day for them. The Rural Centre is a brilliant multi-use building, housing a café/restaurant, the main Internet connection for public use, and an auction mart for livestock. This is where the Tiree Tech Wave was based for its duration. On arrival we met everyone sitting round a large oval table, each person had a laptop on in front of them, there was a Lego technical set on the table, a rusted metal cog that Alan had brought up from the beach (I’m not sure what his plan was for that) and a digital scrolling display – attached to two laptops.

laptops_table

Ideas and possibilities are the main menu of the day at Tiree Tech Wave, and it’s an opportunity for people to gather together, to test out these ideas, discuss and debate them and test them out. I spoke with people about really imaginative mind bending ideas. These included; things you could make with Arduino boards and kits, the very nicely designed Italian made, DIY circuit board elements, which were a completely new and exciting thing to me; 3D printing and associated websites like Thingiverse; and a thing called a nanomuscle, which is a material with shape memory, that constricts like a muscle when electric current is passed through it.

Thinking on this, what is really fascinating for me is that these incredible sounding ideas can eventually become a reality, perhaps more mind boggling are the possible applications of them. As well as this though there is an aim for what happens at the Tech Wave and resulting tech ideas to be linked in to the wider community of Tiree, and for the visitors to meet with residents of the island. For instance, at 9am on Sat morning we were invited to the local regularly scheduled circuits class, where I spent 30 minutes running on the wildly windy beach for a warm up, followed by 30 minutes of circuits in the community hall. It struck me how the outdoor surroundings, and the weather elements must have such an impact on what people do and how they live on Tiree. On a grey misty day it can feel quite bleak- there are no trees or mountains – but there are plenty of beaches, which must be amazing in the summer months.

Driving around Tiree in a very small hire car, to test out the app, really bore this out for me. I had initial difficulties with the app, but when I had got it working, it was fascinating to see the historical images and items that are held in the An Iodhlann archive, in relation to where I was at that moment. I think that is the strength of the app, to create a digital entrance to the archive and its contents, while roaming around the island, connecting the past with the present.

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The much anticipated meeting of the Second Call projects…

DSCF0732On the 21st of March the CReATeS team met the four projects who had been successful in securing funding from the second round of the NESTA R&D Digital Fund.

The first project to present was led by Ben Kampas of the  Scottish Documentary Institute who are working along-with Peter Gerard at Distrify.  This project involves exploring and developing a fundraising widget that is embedded on the website and within the film that will generate capital through the sale of documentaries and enablement of community screenings. The CReATeS expert lead will be Dr Niall Mackenzie of the University of Strathclyde.

The next project was presented by Marion Sinclair of Publishing Scotland who is working alongside Sara Hunt of Saraband Books and Alastair MacCallum of Spot Specific to create a database of Scottish books in a humorous and informal manner in order to support and increase the purchase of Scottish titles.  The database will generate a website and app.  The CReATeS lead will be Prof Claire Squires at the University of Stirling.

The third project is led by Nicola Kenny at The Audience Business which is working alongside The Queen’s Hall. They will be assisted by tech partners Whitespace and Ingresso to develop social ticketing that will enhance The Queen’s Hall’s customer experiences and enable them to attract a larger audience.  The CReATeS lead will be Dr Padmini Murray at the University of Stirling.

The fourth and final project funded by the NESTA R&D Digital fund is the National Theatre of Scotland who, working with tech partners Flip and We are Everyone, aim to improve access to their performance by providing technology to their visually impaired and hard of hearing consumers and enabling the use of smartphones to increase access. By doing so, they hope to open up the consumption of culture to all individuals and reduce the access limitations that currently exist. This project will be jointly led by Dr Gail Greig and Prof Nic Beech of the University of St Andrews

A press release about the Nesta RD Winners – 25 3 13 has been made regarding the winners and the CReATeS team are looking forward to working with each of the projects and evaluating how their project has gone over the next seven months.

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NESTA Collaborative Workshop 21.03.13

We were greeted by the inspiring surroundings of The Hub on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh on a rare day of sunshine (obviously out for the meeting of the 2nd call projects), with participants’ prompt arrival  motivated by the breakfast rolls provided at the beginning of the meeting – very clever NESTA.

Despite having three consortium members missing in action, the CReATeS team looked forward to meeting the four projects successful in securing funding from the 2nd round of the NESTA R&D Digital Fund.

The day began with a quick introduction from Gillian Easson, who presented what the Nesta’s role and brief details of the other projects they are involved in – One day Digital; Rooted; Enterprise Tool Kit and Make_it_local.

The agenda then took us onto the most exciting part of the day – finding out and hearing from the next round of funded projects! Until now, we knew very little about the projects apart from their bid applications and were looking forward to putting a face to each project.

Then it was our turn to tell the projects about CReATeS and how we are involved in the project.  Claire and Doris explained how we ‘got the job’ and what we will be looking to research in regards to the projects. We hope this provided the projects will an idea of what to expect from us and our level of engagement with them.  Tracey Gregory of Tom Fleming’s Creative Consultancy followed our presentation and presented their input and involvement in the project.

After lunch, the expert leads got together with their respective projects to develop a blueprint of the activities that need to occur throughout the course of the project. This exercise aimed to sharpen the organisation of the project and provide recognition of the activities whose completion may ultimately affect the success of the project.

The first call projects joined us after our 121 time and told the second call projects about their learnings from the project and how their projects have developed over the course of the funding, imparting valuable knowledge, processes and recognition of activities to the second call project teams.

A full day of learning, meeting and collaborating was nicely round off with some fine wine, tasty canapes and a lot of networking.

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Launch of Frasan – Tiree mobile archive app

Frasan LaunchTwo members of our research team, Prof Claire Squires and Dr Padmini Ray Murray, travelled to Tiree this weekend for the launch of Frasan. Frasan (seeds or shower in Gaelic) is the mobile archive app funded by the first call of the Digital R&D fund, and delivered by An Iodhlann (Tiree’s historical centre) in partnership with Prof Alan Dix (University of Birmingham) and Mark Vale (Tiree Broadband).

The app, built in HTML5, is accessible via any smart phone, tablet or computer, on or offline (Tiree has a patchy 3G signal). Archival objects from An Iodhlann (photos, illustrations, documents and objects including a home-made potato gun!) are geolocated to main locations on the island, so tourists and islanders can explore the archival collections, and the history of Tiree, outside of the archives, and even on the beach. It also works as an island satnav, with GPS tracking on the map. Additionally, it links through to Tiree Place Names website, which records the richness of Gaelic names in the landscape.

The launch was held at the same time as the Tiree Tech Wave, at which academics and technology specialists from Tiree and around the UK gathered to hack solutions to various challenges, including that of conveying information digitally about island activities. Everyone enjoyed celebrating the launch of the app – and trialling it – befitting the aspiration of Dr John Holliday that Tiree should be a ‘pathfinder digital community’.

The app can be accessed directly from your mobile here or via the An Iodhlann site.

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A failure – or just not a cat?

by Doris Ruth Eikhof

11954407231266496009liftarn_Cat_silhouette_svg_hiWriting about the Happenstance project funded by the Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture in England , Chris Bilton suggests that arts and cultural organisation might want to learn to fail . Yes, I thought, how true – but then started to wonder how we ended up getting worried about success and failure in cultural production the first place. Pouring from the play area into the locker room, an exited bunch of kindergarten kids once proudly presented the waiting parents with pictures of cats. Only my brother came empty-handed. “Where’s your cat?”, my mum enquired. “Ach no, mine didn’t turn out a cat”, my brother dismissively shrugged his shoulders, unperturbedly put on his coat and shoes and walked out to continue play at home.

Not an issue, not a failure, just not a cat. 

Producing arts and culture is often linked to play. Painters play with colours and forms, theatre actors avoid the word “work” and use “play” instead  , “playful” is a staple of arts and culture critics. In play, failure and success don’t really matter. What matters is the process, the enjoyment of the moment, and then the next idea, the next play. So how and when do we move from artistic playfulness to a situation where not producing a cat is a failure?

Clearly, external recognition plays an important role. When outcomes come under the scrutiny of peers, markets or funders, whether you have produced something that is recognised as a cat matters. For your reputation, your career, your bank account. “The arts organisations,” Bilton recounts, also using the play-metaphor, “were playing for high stakes.”  However, our research on the projects funded by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts and Culture in Scotland shows that space to play without watching the stakes is what the projects value most about the Fund. So much so that one wonders if the space to play, to innovate, to be creative is otherwise being squeezed out of cultural production. Do we need to better protect space for play in cultural production? Space where we don’t have to worry about whether it’s a failure or just not a cat? If yes, how can we find that playground aside from markets for public recognition or funding? Can an initiative such as the Digital R&D Fund demonstrate the usefulness of playgrounds? Watch this space to see how the debate plays out…

 

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Digital R&D in the Arts Forum

This week, the Victorian Gothic grandeur of Manchester’s Town Hall saw a very 21st century gathering, as Nesta hosted a Digital R&D in the Arts Forum. Two members of the CReATeS team – Doris Eikhof and Claire Squires – attended, along with Gillian Easson from Nesta’s Scotland Office, and Stephen Green from Distrify, which is working with Glasgow Film in the one of the first-call projects funded in Scotland.

Manchester Town Hall Bee

Manchester Town Hall Bee

The English version of the fund (with Arts Council England rather than Creative Scotland as partner funder along with Nesta and the AHRC) has already seen a completed series of pilot projects, and a handsome set of case studies was included in the delegates’ pack, and – with additional content – from the Fund’s website. Some of the projects funded in this round spoke about their work: New Art Exchange’s Skinder Hundal showcased Culture Cloud, which focused on the development of online platforms in order to ‘shapeshift’ the relationships and practices of artists, galleries, audiences, in order to diversify the marketplace for art. This, he argued, created a ‘total system’ of both new transactions (of varying types of value) and interactions.

One question flagged up during the introductory session to the day by the Chief Executive of the AHRC, Rick Rylance, and which remained a gentle refrain throughout the day, was what the place of academics is in the research and development process. This is well established in the sciences, but less immediately evident – and arguably less often undertaken – in the arts & humanities.

The will is clearly there for partnerships between academia, arts & culture organisations, and creative technologists, and they are being facilitated by the Digital R&D fund. ‘We love research,’ said Kam Star, a games developer at Playgen who has worked with over 40 universities, ‘and we love sharing.’

Beyond such warm feelings (welcome in what was possibly the coldest meeting venue CReATeS has yet met), what the destinations that such pathways to co-production of knowledge, development of modes of thinking, and critical analyses of processes and product, might arrive at is as largely uncharted. That said, speakers including Hasan Bakhshi (Nesta’s Director of Policy and Research, Creative Economy), referred to academics’ capacity for interdisciplinary thinking, design, testing propositions, and rigour, and the necessity to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals.

Explorations continue: the English fund has just announced a new series of projects which will investigate, among other themes, the possibilities for real-time audience monitoring, metadata crowdsourcing tools, and platforms for storytelling on mobile devices. And by the end of this month, we’ll find out who the second-call projects in Scotland are

 

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Tips for Applicants to the Second Call of the Digital R&D Fund

One of the aims of CReATeS is to enable knowledge exchange and learning across the Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture in Scotland by facilitating the sharing of information and insight into the funded projects. At the end of last year, we interviewed all six of the Arts and Cultural Organisations involved in the first call to the Digital R&D Scotland programme and asked them for any top tips for arts organisations applying to the second round of funding. We then disseminated these recommendations via the Nesta website in the hope that they would prove helpful to second-call applicants to the Fund. Although each of the projects had their own specific advice, common recommendations emerged.

Prior to submitting a funding application, several of the projects advocated taking the time to devise a strong, simple and well thought-out idea. Although the organisations recognised that this idea may change over the course of the project and that second-call applicants should not limit themselves, they stressed the importance of an initial clear vision. In turn, they suggested that this focus would make the application process much more straightforward. In addition, many of the arts organisations recommended taking advantage of workshops run by Nesta prior to submitting funding applications – the content from the digital advisory day workshop can be viewed online, here. One organisation also emphasised the importance of thinking through the budget carefully, consulting with relevant divisions and departments to ensure that that the funding is sufficient to cover all areas of the proposed project.

While having a simple, focussed initial idea was seen as vital to ensuring funding success, many of the projects also stressed the importance of innovation, creativity and ambition. In order to come up with a truly innovative idea, some organisations recommended exploring what else is out there as well as retaining a sense of how individual projects might fit into the wider cultural sector.

Finally, each of the six arts organisations stressed the importance of establishing a good working relationship with a digital technology partner. Several recommended taking the time to interview digital technology providers to find a suitable partner who is genuinely enthusiastic and passionate about the project and who understands both the individual idea and the ethos of the arts organisation more widely. It was also deemed helpful to find a technology partner with specific experience in carrying out the type of work that the project requires.

The deadline for the second call of the Digital R&D Scotland fund closed on 1 February 2013.

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CReATeS meets CREATe

create_primary_logo_160[1]This week saw the launch of CREATe: no, not a singular version of our research consortium, but a new RCUK research centre for copyright and new business models in the creative economy. (There are only so many useful acronymns…)

The Centre includes university partners from Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh, and two of the CReATeS partners, Strathclyde and St Andrews) and England (UEA, Nottingham and Goldsmiths). It is funded by the AHRC, ESRC and EPSRC, and is ‘designed to help the UK cultural and creative industries thrive and become innovation leaders within the global digital economy’.

Our Principal Investigator Claire Squires attended the launch on 31st January and 1 February in Glasgow. More information about the Centre is available from its website.

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NESTA Collaboration Day- National Galleries, Edinburgh

The CReATeS consortium team arrive for the third collaboration day of the Digital R&D Fund and are welcomed by the inspiring surroundings of the National Gallery of Modern Art.

24.01.13

Yellow Brick House and the National Piping Centre updating the group on their online teaching and streaming technology using Adobe Connect

Yellow Brick House and the National Piping Centre updating the group on their online teaching and streaming technology using Adobe Connect

The meeting kicked off with an introduction by Gillian Easson and then led onto a brief project update from each of the projects involved in the first call. The project updates were very beneficial as it enabled everyone to get up to speed on each others’ developments, with the Q&A sessions proving very profitable as lots of questions were asked and cross project interaction occurred.

Tom Fleming of Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy was next to introduce his role in the project, with 1-2-1 sessions with each of the projects. Next on the agenda was lunch, which enabled great dynamics for project members to indulge in project conversations with team mates and better still with their project peers. During the lunch, Tom held his 1-2-1 sessions with each project discussing the developments and alterations the project activity has had upon their organisation, its workings and how they now view it.

Dr Doris Ruth Eikhof and Prof Claire Squires presenting the CReATeS' findings from the interim report.

Dr Doris Ruth Eikhof and Prof Claire Squires presenting the CReATeS’ findings from the interim report.

Then it was CReATeS’ turn to collect some valuable primary data.

Firstly, Claire Squires and Doris Eikhof presented the findings from the interim report and introduced the two workshop sessions.

 

 

 

Discussions by Group 3This involved three break-out groups of about eight participants each – with the projects being divided up in order to increase diversity of discussion-  reflecting on three main points from the interim report: success and evaluation; market research and product testing; and finally innovation. The groups then each fed back their reflections to the meeting as a whole, with a wealth of information being gathered from across the projects.

Disscusions by Group 1 Discussions by Group 2The next group activity involved fantasising about an endless spot of money and being head of such fund. We set the participants the challenge of what digital innovations would they fund if they were the head of this endless fund! Some of the suggestions were more creative than others… Dorian Gray’s synthesiser?!

 

All in all a productive day spent collaborating, discussing and chewing the fat with project leads and technical partners…

Looking forward to the next meeting on 21st March 2013.

 

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CReATeS PhD studentship

The CReATeS Consortium is currently offering a fully-funded PhD studentship based on the NESTA/Creative Scotland/AHRC Digital Research & Development Fund for Arts and Culture in Scotland.

We invite applications for a three year PhD studentship (comprising UK/EU fees and a stipend to cover living expenses and research costs) based at the University of Stirling.

The student will be a part of an interdisciplinary research team (CReATeS: the Consortium for Research in Arts and Technology in Scotland) which via a grant from Nesta/Creative Scotland/AHRC is exploring how arts and cultural organisations engage with the opportunities and challenges of digital technologies . The arts and culture organisations range from local and national museums, heritage centres, art galleries, cinemas and other cultural centres. The PhD student will engage with a range of questions that are emerging from the work of the broader project, and will draw on wider literatures and theory as well as research settings with which the broader research team is involved.

The student would be based primarily in the University of Stirling’s School of Arts and Humanities but would be jointly supervised by staff from across the project team, and would be expected to participate in, and contribute to, the project’s interdisciplinary work across multiple research settings.

We are seeking a student already educated to Masters’ level or who expects to complete a Masters level course in 2013. They might have a background in digital cultures or media, the creative arts and industries, digital humanities or museum studies, education, organisational learning or management. However, as important as any specific disciplinary background is a high level of interest and engagement in the creative industries, digital media and digital cultures and an interest in exploring and developing social/organisational models of learning in emerging and interdisciplinary contexts.

Further Information

Further information on the studentship and on the application procedure is available here (PhDstudentship_furtherparticulars_CReATeS) (pdf). Potential applicants are welcome to contact Professor Claire Squires (claire.squires@stir.ac.uk) with any questions they may have.

Deadline for applications: 12pm, Monday 11 February 2013

Interviews will be held in the week beginning: Monday 18 February 2013

 

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