Let’s get Real (part 1)

The ‘Let’s get Real‘ Culture 24 Conference was the outcome of an action research project led by Culture 24.  The conference picked up on some of the headline findings from this research, but it also featured keynotes  from Tom Uglow, Creative Lead, Google and Matt Locke, Story things.

What follows are a few things that stood out for me…

Tom Uglow

Tom suggested that we should aspire to become a ‘dignified but digitally immersed cultural sector’. In order to become digitally immersed Uglow recognised the need to experiment, to try new things and indeed to fail, his top tip for failure was to do it ‘quietly and often’. Picking up on where we should place digital Uglow focused on the need to move beyond digital strategy, to strategy which is embedded with digital. As he put it ‘It’s not about digital strategy- it’s about strategy, it’s the ground beneath our feet’. So how do we do this? Well Uglow suggests that we need to stand up and say we are the culture sector and we have a problem with digital.

Moving on to talk about the way forward, Uglow recognised the need to collaborate. Citing the Google Art Project as a good example. We’ve all heard of this project and thought, yeah that sounds great, but we don’t all have Google behind us. Well neither did the Art Project at the start. The idea for the project came about in Madrid in 2008 when someone approached the Prado and asked if they could use their collection and embed it on a Google map. The project was noticed by Google, who felt it was inspirational. It wasn’t part of Google’s core project and was instead a side project which some of it’s staff worked on. A simple vision can go global.

Having spoke about the problems the culture sector faces and highlighted the importance of vision Uglow concluded by discussing digital capacity building. Pointing out that ‘you don’t have to build a £200,000 website to do something spectacular’, by simple putting the user first in everything that you do you can create real engagement. Uglow also highlighted the need to understand digital capacity, why would you expect 2 million hits on your website, if you don’t expect 2 million visitors to your exhibition?

Uglow also made the link between capacity and funding. Indeed he Challenged arts organisations to work out their staff to visitor cost ratio both in gallery and online.  He highlighted the strange situation where arts organisations have one person responsible for  100,000 online visitors, in contrast to the 100’s of staff that look after in gallery visitors.

His parting advice… Think Big, Start Small.

Matt Locke

Matt focused on how TV had responded to dual screen users (the trend of people watching TV whilst on their smartphone or laptop).  Whilst this might be a new phenomenon increasing attention share has always been important for TV stations, their response to this current trend has been to facilitate synchronous live attention experiences. So whats this? Well Matt used Million Pound Drop as a good example of a synchronous live experience.

The Million Pound Drop has an online game which is only available during the live TV show. Viewers can play along online whilst watching the show. The real art is in merging the experience and this is where Million Pound Drop stands out from the rest. The live format allows the show to incorporate live data. Uniquely live data also shapes question design. One question asked ‘who is currently favorite to win celebrity mum of the year on paddypower.com?’ …so many people cheated they managed to crash the paddypower website. Davin McCall the show’s presenter was able to feed this narrative into the live show.

Online has become part of the show, TV has facilitated this by generating permeable data. The narrative and content is created through a continuous feedback loop.

An interesting trend that Matt talked about was people switching social media off if they couldn’t watch a cult show when it was aired. This ensures their experience isn’t ruined by spoilers before they get to watch it on demand.

Another way of integrating TV and online experiences is by creating games that have a lag effect. For example Channel 4’s 1066 programme had a coinciding game. The programme was searched for online for a short period of time, however to this day the game still receives a significant number of searches and plays. The idea of a post event game is something that would be a an interesting approach for museums to explore.

The full Let’s Get Real report is available here>> 

In my next post on this conference I will look at key take homes from the ‘failing forward session’

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