Art of Digital London – Sadler’s Wells – Social Media and the Arts

This is a live blog of the Art of Digital London event at Sadler’s Wells, London.  If you spot any errors or inaccuracies, please leave us a comment.  Either way, please join the conversation!

Andy Gibson of School of Everything introduces the next section with a discussion on playing with ‘social conventions’.

What are the implications on our culture, on power structures as a result of all these technologies.  We have a completely new ecosystem of news.  It’s changed marketing.  Viral marketing, by Skittles, turning their website into a social media account, annoying but works.

Various friends and followers on Twitter almost a consultancy for him.

See this as a time to play and find new ways to interact.

School of Everything, a marketplace for day to day learning.  Moving from a 19th century broadcast model of teaching to a social media approach where everyone can be a teacher.

What is cultural production when it’s not mass production?  When what we are doing is facilitating production.

What are the implications for expert practictioners when they are not stood in front a silent audience?

Where is the power of the audience and where is the relationship.?

Social media makes the invisible network of our culture visible.  What does it mean when I can then engage with it?

At what point does it become rude if I ignore what you are all saying?

Meg Pickard, head of social media at Guardian chairs the next panel.

Panel introduce themselves.

Naomi Alderman, writes novels, worked on We Tell Stories.

Live interactive story telling, allowed writer to interact with the audience.

“A novel that never ends would be a soap opera”.

Ed Baxter, works for Resonance FM, a community radio station, founded 7 years ago.  Its audience did not exist until it did.  It’s like a concert that never ends.

How it functions, ‘everybody has a radio programme inside them and should be encouraged to make it’.  Typically, the guest on a programme ends up running their own.

The principle at the station is to keep it going. When it get’s boring they change it for their own amusement.

A different perspective on community curation.

John McGrath, artistic director, National Theatre Wales, based on a non-building model, creating theatre for the whole of Wales.

Arts venues are often very good places to hide art.  Strategy decided to build a community site before building a website as an arts organisation would know it.

It’s a very active Ning site, with hundreds of contributors, all contributing ideas about how the National Theatre of Wales should work.

Similar work being done online as was done at the Contact Theatre Manchester where lots of different people are encouraged to come up with different ideas.

Rachel Coldicutt, head of new media at the Royal Opera House.

Looking at how audiences change and move and experimenting with how you make a very conventional audience more interactive and less protective.

Richard Slaney, London Philharmonia

Have lots of audience who engage with content.  Looking at how community response relates and influences a live audience.

Q: How do you deal with quality?

A: Ed Baxter says that it is about combining as many different participants.  If you learn something, you tell everybody else how to do it.

Andy Gibson adds, it’s about allowing the audience to decide what is quality.  Just because you aren’t curating content doesn’t mean people aren’t curating it.

Rachel Coldicutt:  if we only put on what people wanted, it would be La Tosca every night.  When you do what everyone wants, it’s often not as interesting.

We’d be less likely to open the programme to the public but the contents of the programme can be opened up.

Q: How are you doing this at National Theatre Wales?

A: John McGrath: it’s about sharing with everyone that it’s a journey.   You can choose to filter or watch what is filtered.

It’s about creating space.

Q: Creative community chaos.  How do you manage all these different interactions with community?

A: John McGrath, listening.  You have to guard against any defensiveness.

Meg adds: It’s about helping the audience come up with the commission.

Rachel Coldicutt adds that there is a line to cross, you have patrons who pay a fixed amount each year and can potentially join the conversation with their specific ‘customer service’ needs.

It’s wrong to think that there is one model, Naomi points out.  The audience is helping you shape it.  In addition, there are some people who just want to be in the position where one person’s unique vision is being presented to them.

They don’t necessarily want to be involved in filtering the process.

Perplexity, another piece of work Naomi was involved in that included lots of audience interaction.  Your audience helps you with events planned with them.

It gets them caring about things more because they were actually involved in the story.

Q: How do you engage/inspire/encourage people who don’t want to be involved?   Is consuming stuff an act of participation?

There is a way of picking up on the people that really want to be involved.   Meg says that you then run into the problem of self-selection of vocal participation.

Ed Baxter adds that consumption isn’t about feeding oneself.    The consumer is a product, consumers do work.  He is bemused by this notion of ‘conversation’.  ‘Performance is not conversation’.

Richard Slaney adds that if you watch a number of 16 year olds in the audience, you’d observe that they are working hard to stay still and listen.

There are ways to include audiences.

Now we have questions from the floor.

Q: Why do people use pseudonyms online?  How does this impact on audience curation?

A: Naomi adds that when you engage with audiences online you have to deal with anonymous commenters.

People like to be anonymous.  Ed adds that it is pop culture.   “Digital is as puerile as 1970s glam rock.”

What we’re doing is establishing an online brand for our conversation, Andy Gibson adds.

Now it feels like we’re tightening up on our online culture, it makes us all accountable.   Obama recognised that there was more accountability in the online space and said the same thing wherever he was speaking, recognising it would be online forever.  McCain on the other hand didn’t realise this and said different things to different people.

Q:  How far do we assume equality of access? How do we improve digital inclusion?

A: John McGrath answers to say an arts organisation has to look at how it engages with people online and on other platforms, as a whole.   Like Ekow Eshun said, it’s not a good idea to have one department in charge of digital or online for example.

Rachel Coldicutt adds that there are limited seats within an arts organisations and the online space increases the number of potential participants.

Richard Slaney adds that arts organisations need to look at improving web accessibility for disabled people.

Q: Is there a quality control mechanism for adding content to School of Everything?

A: Andy Gibson answers that whilst its true that universities have a process of accreditation around courses, it is possible to still get great courses without needing such a system.

Money is a social object.   It’s all about giving people the information to make good choices.  It’s about allowing people to make demand led decisions.

Q: How do you deal with a largely volunteer workforce, will you pay people?

A: Ed from Resonance FM says he has no solution to that problem.  The social glue that we are bound by is people not having an expectation of earning money.

John says that every opportunity, from stuffing envelopes to being a new producer is offered to the entire group.   Pay isn’t always money.

That’s it for the morning sessions.  Back after lunch!

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2 responses to “Art of Digital London – Sadler’s Wells – Social Media and the Arts

  1. Pingback: Art of Digital London – Sadler’s Wells – Comment is Free « The Amb:IT:ion Roadshow Blog

  2. Pingback: ASH-10 » Stuff I’ve been reading

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