Developing Digital Arts Projects

Last Friday and Saturday I had a lot of fun hosting the Hello Culture Arts #DevLab at The Old Library in Digbeth. It was put on by Big Cat and Lara Ratnaraja with additional support from Digital Birmingham, Arts Council England, Rebel Uncut and the University of Birmingham.

Macs abound at Arts DevLab

We put a variety of arts and cultural organisations together with developers from a range of backgrounds and encouraged them to think about collaborating on some kind of digital project. We were quite clear that the purpose of the event wasn’t just to get some proof of concept apps to show at the end, but to work on relationships and longer term developments together.

There is a load of stuff up on the Posterous site , including nearly all of the initial presentations and the Show and Tell on Saturday morning.

They consisted of:

Zarino from ScraperWiki and Caroline Beavon showed us a mapping of Sampad‘s mailing list along with the beginnings of a comparison with where people were and the nature of the ward they lived in.


Matthew and Andy from One Result showed us an application for mobile phones that could work with both Punch and Capsule‘s data. It takes places on a map, geo-fences them and then associates some digital content with that area. So, as an example, the application can tell you that you are close to somewhere Black Sabbath once played at, then show you a ticket stub and a video of the film the band got their name from. The app also allows users to upload their own content and add it to the archive.

Carl from BitJam worked with Sara Beadle from Writing West Midlands at creating a loyalty based application to reward people for promoting the Birmingham Book Festival. They devised a matrix of things that people could do and the online places they could do them to start creating a paper prototype of the app. The next stage is to go into the organisation to discuss how this might look from the back end.

Tim Hodson from Talis worked with Danielle from University of Birmingham. She had over 3000 responses to the question: What role has reading played in your life? that had never been used before. Between them they came up with the idea for this fantastic searchable website that also allows you to comment and enter your own answer to the question.

By the end of the DevLab we also had arts organisations interested in working with Dominic Cushnan from Mixed Reality Studio and Mark Steadman, freelance and Substrakt. Because of the nature of these projects it wasn’t realistic to expect them to have something to present on the Saturday.

We have arranged a follow-up event at the University of Birmingham in July when we will be visiting the Digital Heritage and Cultural Learning Hub. The team from the Digital Heritage Demonstrator project were very supportive of the event, with John Sears attending on the Friday and Gino Bellavia giving us a presentation on the Saturday.

It was also great to have support from Dan Licari of Creative England and Peta Murphy-Burke from the Arts Council. Big Cat put on a very well run event as usual, with Nat and Julia from Rebel Uncut doing a fantastic job of recording, live streaming and social media-ing the whole thing. It was also good to work with Lara, who helped me out of the odd “Im-a-bit-new-at-this-hosting-lark” moments.

So, roll-on July and keep an eye out for some interested digital arts projects coming up…

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