AmbITion North East Roadshow – Tyneside Cinema – Intro and Keynote

This post forms part of a series live blogged from the AmbITion North East Roadshow of 5th March.

Here’s the introduction by AmbITion project facilitator Dave Moutrey and keynote by Bill Thompson BBC and Guardian freelance journalist.

Read about a real AmbITion case study as Jamie Wooldridge from Ludus Dance presents the dance company’s digital journey before and after joining the AmbITion pilot.

The Participation workshop by popular digital maverick Christian Payne is liveblogged as is Caron Lyon’s well-attended Social Media workshop.

After the workshops, the AmbITion Approach was presented by project director, Hannah Rudman and the day ended with a plenary session featuring a question and answer session with the workshop presenters.


Live blogging from the AmbITion North East Roadshow at the Tyneside Cinema.  Comments, queries and corrections welcome!

Seated at the Electra Cinema within the Tyneside Cinema, a historic building that is the UK’s finest surviving newsreel cinema.

Just listened to basic housekeeping by Dave Moutrey of Cornerhouse who is chairing proceedings.  Now hearing about the architectural firm who have provided an interesting RFID visual projection which projects on a screen above the venue’s bar the locations of all attendees who are wearing lanyards with an RFID chip implanted.

Alison Clark-Jenkins, Director, Arts & Development, from the Arts Council now talking about the Arts Council’s Digital Opportunity.

Four (?) key strands to the Arts Council’s plans:

1. Research, learning and policy

2. Building digital capacity – skills and development, network and partnerships, technology and infrastructure, innovation and artistic practice.  “Programme is really about creating innovative art that really engages with people.  85% own mobile phone, 1 in 4 never switch it off.”

3.Public sector broadcasting.

Forthcoming events: Clicks or Mortar?, Tyneside Cinema,  re:boot re:place, Sage, Gateshead.

Here are Alison’s slides:

Next up: Hannah Rudman, director, AmbITion

What to expect from an AmbITion roadshow?

Excite, share, show, inform!

Here are Hannah’s slides:

Bill Thompson, gone from ‘haircut’ for radio to one for TV due to the BBC’s popular tech podcast.

AmbITion organisations including Ludus Dance will be sharing what they’ve learnt from the AmbITion project.

Workshops later in the day plus lots of networking.

Live blog just mentioned from the stage!!  >> Virtual wave <<

Why are we here?

3% world on broadband now, 10% in 18 months, 4bn mobile users in 12 months.

We are going through a period of incredible sociological and technical change.

We now live in a knowledge economy, no longer an industrial economy.  Trend cycles happen faster now than ever before.

Microtrends, 1-3 years, fashion, fads, Macrotrends, 5-15 years, business cycles, mega trends all the way up to gigatrends…

Trends we are facing now:

traditional ‘WI’ versus  ‘Wii’ (Nintendo…)

Growing up at different times = different understandings of where we’re at!

Fab Facebook feed of Gordon Summner! “You do my website … and I’ll do your homework.”

OK to feel like a digital migrant, that this is not my world.

New audience behaviour – emergence of the experience economy.

Fantastic for the arts industry!

Swarmtribes – using network of mobile contacts to work for you.

Alan Brown study on what it means to experience arts alludes to need to change business and artistic practice to accomodate this incredible change.

It’s starting to look critical that the cultural sector keeps up with digital development.  The wider creative industries landscape is also realising the importance of digital.  Digital Britain Report, Technology Strategy Board, all refer to a growing need for digital.

iPlayer, 4iP, all show that it is not just about technology but about embracing the network.

“The proper artistic response to digital is to embrace it”, quote by Ralph Lombeglia, MIT.

It’s a paradigm shift!

Examples of artistic practice changing:

YouTube Symphony Orchestra – crowd sourced orchestra, players touring Boston now

Hide & Seek festival at the Southbank Centre

Poetry Channel on YouTube – previously published as a paper

Brooklyn Museum on Twitter – 20, 000 followers on Twitter

Aldeburgh Music on MySpace

New opportunites – organisational change, Smithsonian institute boss states it’s about change too!

A Swarm of Angels – monetise/fundraise differently = classical music TV, online

Sellaband, Slicethepie, different new music business models.

Hannah says her puns are from!

Next up Bill Thompson from the BBC.

“A digital refugee who would not like to be sent back to ‘analogue jail’”.

Here are Bill’s slides:

Used to work for an IT firm that basically consulted with businesses on using ‘green screen’ technology, old style computers!

Combined computing power in the room can dwarft that of a country.  He wasn’t joking… visited Hungary a while back and was shown the country’s 64k internet connection.

Being connected like air for most.

It is not stopping, the speed at which innovation happens, surprises even him.

Talked about Microsoft’s touchscreen mapping device which shows where the fingers are on the back.  Wish I knew what it was….

Plastic Logic’s flexible electronic reader.  Flexible electronic paper.

iPhone, iPod Touch a result of 5 year research.  Similarly, electronic paper technology may not be in the shops at Christmas but they are coming.  We have proven it is possible.

Research that shows that it is possible to store one bit per atom.  Store entire visual field of a person, storing every second of a person’s life on 60kg!

Contact lens  that gives you an overlay on your visual field, image of a ‘contact lens’ with a circuit board etched into it…

Forget 3D cinema, this is augmented reality.

Other work, direct neural interfaces.  Nerve cells like silicon!  You can develop systems where nerves merge with silicon and you can control things directly.

Feels it is a one way process.  Doesn’t think we will be able to upload thoughts onto memory, however we may well be able to control cars, laptops by thinking.

Rich, nerdy, ’stupid’ friends, will be able to try it out first!  BBC website shows this happening already – Bionic eye gives blind man sight.

Examples: Cambidge Film Festival (of which he is trustee), Secret Heart film, Pilot Theatre on Second Life.

Other organisations pushing the boundaries: Tyneside Cinema, Cornerhouse, Manchester.

It’s about finding out what you can do within your remit as an organisation using digital.

Lovely pic of Tom Watson, cabinet officer for information, on a Segway!  His Power of Information TaskForce now liberates online mapping applications for Ordinance Map information.

Digital Britian report a start, though he (Thompson) would argue for universal access at 2Mb for all (a fiftieth of the average speeds in South Korea).

Still discussing Digital Britain Report – ITV’s job cuts announcement yesterday showing that cultural practice that is dependent on broadcasters is on shaky ground.

“‘Maybe we should aim for being paid for content on YouTube”.

Bill shares his Facebook profile.  “I’ve known about Christian (@documentally) for a while but I’m meeting him for the first time today”.

Know him from his online interactions, know about his gran.

Now onto Newcastle’s Bigg Market.   It’s a place responsible for the moral decline of the country at this difficult time, because of text messages.

He is joking…

Making the point that when he used to go out in his youth, the only way his friends could communicate the next pub they would be going to would be by telling the landlord.

Text messages make Just In Time Drinking possible.  Show that the effects of technology can be very unpredictable.  We have to wait to see what happens.

When it comes to the cultural sector in particular, it is difficult to see the difference between the impact of the technology and the impact it has on our lives.   Sometimes, that change happens whether or not we take the laptop or computer.

Press freedom is harder to repress even as the technology makes surveillance easier.

The environment within artistic development happens is so different from what it was 50 years ago is working in a different world and therefore must operate in a different way.

AmbITion was an intervention in an ongoing conversation between the arts world and technology.  Was a way to counter institutional resistance to change of this form.  Similar to how businesses resist changes brought on by technology.

It is always a risk to change something.

ITV’s problems are not because of the recession, they are because TV is over.  Worth considering ‘euthanasia’ for ITV.

Was involved in AmbITion from early days because he is a board on the New Writing Partnership, a literary development agency for the South East.  Spent money to rebrand the organisation, rethink comms strategy.  Now a completely different organisation.


In any revolution there are three stages – Replacement, Refining, Recreation.

Replacement – typewriters to computers a good example.  Works very well.

Refinement – take computers and rethink their use.  Link computers with orders and computers with accounts to make a booking system.  Radical thing  is to realise this technology is now here and will not go away, let’s look at our systems and accomodate this.

There was a time when it was inconceivable to think of placing factories apart from offices, until phones were invented.

Recreation – take advantage of the digital opportunity, there will be things that you will not be able to do without it.

With AmbITion, the New Writing Partnership set out to do things that were made possible solely by the internet.  He is banking on its success.

These changes need to be sustainable.   How do you design organisations and structures that will satisfy people’s needs and reach people in a way that will allow them to last 20 years.

Take a model that applies to a different industry.

Whilst making Digital Planet programme on the BBC, interviewing Kevin Spacey and others, he is finding that whilst the problems of clean water and alleviating poverty are still important, connectivity is having a direct impact.

Examples of ICT for development;

Frontline SMS used to help get help to HIV-affected areas, satellite imagery being used to detect where water is near Sudanese refugee camps.  One Laptop per Child programme.

Perhaps we need an ICT for Culture programme.  Understanding that connectivity can help organisations to reach audiences in new and innovative ways but you don’t have to replace the purpose to do so.

This allows us to prepare for the unexpected, for the new new technology.

Twitter’s emergence comparable to the emergence of text messaging as a platform for communication.

Small organisations can withstand the pressures that such new technologies bring.  They can take advantage of the opportunities.

New technology not necessarily ‘new’.  Web 2.0 returning to the original vision of the web created by Sir Tim Berners Lee 20 years ago this month.

Bill’s final words:

Those who haven’t embraced the change are about to be squeezed onto an atom and put through a black hole.  Bumpy is not the word that will be used to describe their ride.

Now onto the Q&A:

Q: Is the music industry in the same bad shape as the TV industry?

A: Some bands will still want the ‘development’ services offered by record labels whereas the linear TV model has no future. Bill says his daughter will never buy a TV, she doesn’t need one.

Q: Will this explosion in technology ‘kill the planet?’

A: Intelligent use of sensors in technology will help reduce toxic piles of consumer electronic waste, e.g. air conditioners that switch themselves off when the last person leaves the room.  Dave Moutrey adds that museum’s struggle with archiving this technology anyway.  There is an opportunity for better archiving processes.

Q: How to connect audiences with the digital work created as a result of the change?

A: There are opportunities to go beyond digital only connections and interactions (Twitter etc) to connect audiences in new ways.  For instance one can check where sources of produce, items being displayed at musuems are from.

And that’s it!

Room empties for a much needed break.  I’ve seen the digital future for the arts and it is … entirely plausible.

Next up: Jamie Wooldridge, Head of ICT and Marketing at Ludus Dance now presenting the digital journey the organisation has made.


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