Digital R&D Fund for the Arts Workshop

Innovation Centre, Exeter University, 24 April 2013

I attended this on behalf of a colleague who was thinking of applying. It was one of a number of similar events around the country for this fund, which aims to bring together researchers, arts professionals and technical support. There were about 50 people there from around the South West, with the technical side rather under-represented.

The day mixed presentations with exercises in small groups. We broke the ice by thinking of the stereotypical ideas we entertained about those in the other two groups from our own. Later we examined one another’s proposed projects. Firstly we analysed them using ‘stories’. The ‘story’ story, the ‘people’ story, the ‘platform’ story, the ‘impact’ story and the ‘money’ story. I wasn’t really sure that all these headings really lent themselves to being made into ‘stories’ – platforms, for example, are fundamentally non-narrative things – so it didn’t differ much from just considering the bare headings, but it was a useful exercise.

Later our own proposal got pulled apart in a session on ‘user-centred design’ – looking at it through the senses of a prospective user of a certain demographic type. How do they first hear about it? What do they see when they get there? How does it make them feel? What do you want them to say about it? What do they think about afterwards? This exercise got us outside a mindset developers are particularly prone to – because we see the project from the inside, it takes an effort to put ourselves in the position of someone who knows nothing about it.

I talked to quite a few interesting people – someone trying to revive Weymouth’s museum, someone from the American Museum in Bath wanting to attract younger visitors, a representative of a theatre company on Dartmoor. Most people, particularly those who aren’t used to bidding for collaborative projects, seemed to find the day worthwhile.

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