Posts Tagged ‘art’

REMIX Condensed: culture, technology and entrepreneurship

Friday, December 6th, 2013

On Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th the Remix Summit took place in London. Culture, technology and entrepreneurship formed the primary agenda, with a supporting cast of issues, from the male-dominated tech industry to the tyranny of the screen. That’s not to forget the traditional chorus-calls for disruption, better funding and more collaboration.

Culture Label are behind the event, a team well placed to bring together enterprising minds, straddling culture and commerce as they do.

Thought Den couldn’t attend (too busy predicting the future in this blog post also emphasising the importance of entrepreneurship in the arts) but we’ve spent quite some time filtering the many thousands of tweets that were generated.

Behold another mighty Twitter Poster, our 12th in the series. A beautiful and concise summary of what got people talking at The  2013 Remix Summit, London.

Download a hi-res version here.

See more Twitter Posters here.

Illustration by Lisa Evans.


The 5-Point Museum Manifesto

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

After nigh-on six years working amidst the blurring of art, culture and technology, I want to put forward five key changes the sector needs to make.

And why? Because I want the rising generation of twiddle-finger, gadget-mad, attention-stretched young’uns to enjoy art and culture as much as I have recently. Because they’re being bombarded from every angle by organisations with more money and fewer morals. Because I’m frustrated by how slowly organisations in this sector move. And  because everyone loves a five point plan.

Entrepreneurs not Enterprise

Most institutions have an enterprise department and they’re usually run by ‘the suits’. (For the record, if I had a good suit, I’d probably wear one more often) But ‘the suits’ are out of touch with what it means to be enterprising in this day and age. Museums are not naturally entrepreneurial but have an increasing need to be. Not only for financial sustainability but to stay afloat in the battle for eye-balls.

Entrepreneurs move quickly, take risks and have the freedom to ruffle feathers. They’re proactive not reactive. With reputations at stake their activities don’t necessarily all need to unfold in the public eye but nor should their every action have to be justified.

TIP – advertise for a ‘Director of Entrepreneurial Affairs’ (or something snappier) 50% salary, 50% commission. Give them a budget (small), a deadline (18 months) and some targets (cash in the bank, bums on seats)

Producers not Curators

This point’s been made before. By no means are curators redundant (someone has to know the content inside out, upside down.) What’s important is that the potential for engagement with arts and culture becomes more sophisticated by the day. A trip around a museum is a rollercoaster of interaction; no longer just dissemination, but multi-way conversation. Only a few people truly understand how to create a dialogue in this space, how to produce an experience. Find them, hire them, borrow them to train your staff.

TIP – Hire graduates outside of the standard ‘Art History’ talent pool. Hire people that understand interaction design and technology. Train curators in user experience design.

Inwards not Outwards

Let’s talk long game for a second. Forget the Cloud, ditch the mobile, bin the Google Glasses (they didn’t suit you anyway) If you remove all the art from a gallery and every exhibit from the museum, you’re left with nothing but a building. An empty stadium. A bare stage…Put everything back and the performance can begin.

In the scramble to capitalise on the enormity of a connected planet, organisations risk overlooking what they have above most other sectors – content of genuine, startling, life-affirming substance that has all the more impact when experienced live, surrounded by other human beings.

A brief example – The British Museum invited Bastille to sing their song ‘Pompeii’ live at the Pompeii exhibition. The YouTube video was fantastic, in no small part down to the natural acoustics of the building. People wished they were there. Buildings bring people together. Buildings are the beating heart of an organisation’s empire.

TIP – Bring people together. Commission events, large & small. Invite artists in to reinterpret the exhibits. Make the most of your building, your community, the power of live.

Infrastructure not Apps

There’s more to life than apps. A whole new level, in fact, if institutions can provide reliable, fast, free internet in their buildings. If this isn’t already a priority it absolutely should be. Enough said on that matter.

TIP – Install wireless routers throughout the building. Hide the network from the public while you iron out the creases. Ditch all logon requirements. Free access. Prototype a location-aware experience. Iterate. Relax and eat donuts.

Don’t Panic, We’re Experts

No, not a shameless plug (though Thought Den do have some expertise…)

The arts and culture sector has a highly regarded, widely copied and thoroughly analysed ability to innovate user engagement. The sector isn’t necessarily the first on the tech bandwagon, but it is far from being the last.

Science Museum’s Web Lab, with Google, was fun, collaborative, envelope-pushing stuff. The institution has a strong heritage of playful interactives for younger audiences. Tate receives thousands of visits a week to their Tate Kids site, packed with forward-thinking ways to engage. The Exploratorium in San Francisco lets you dance inside a tornado! This sector knows how to lower the barrier to entry and get people involved.

Facilitating engagement with play isn’t new but as the gaming industry overtakes cinema and music there remains so much to be learnt from the way games designers optimise on-boarding, tell stories, reward their players and develop communities. There’s no need to panic, but there’s progress to be had.

TIP – Don’t let people feel stupid for not understanding, help them have fun trying. Leave gamification to the corporates but keep playing. You do it so well.

Culture Geek 2013 condensed: Bright ideas at the Barbican

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

MuseumNext’s little sister was back with a bang this year, with speakers from arts and culture organisations in America, Holland, Scotland and England. The focus on marketing and audience engagement saw topics range from advertising strategies for the 166 year old Smithsonian Institute, through to a year-long campaign for the world’s largest arts festival (it can only be the mighty Edinburgh Fringe Festival). And of course no conference would be complete without a little social media fetishisation. The Tower of London’s Oldest Facebook Timeline in the World? was simple, fun and very effective. What more could you ask for you?

We Know Where You Live

Louise Downe and I split opinions with our talk “We Know Where You Live”, a mixture of philosophical exploration and practical guidelines for making contextually aware experiences. While the title of the talk was popular, comments on the content ranged from “really interesting” to “poor”. Unsurprisingly for a topic as far-reaching as this, Louise and I wracked our brains for days to find the best way to discuss what we think is one of the most significant developments in audience engagement not just for the arts and culture sector but content creators at large.

Contextual Awareness

Traditionally organisations can control the context within which visitors experience exhibits. Galleries and museums are physical places, each with their own highly nuanced environments designed to trigger emotional reactions, where stories can be told and discussions had in person. But as audiences discover content on the move many other factors coming into play – where are they? What are they doing? Who else is there? What is going around them? How do they feel?

This is the beginning

The technology for collecting contextual data has only existed for a few years (essentially smartphones and web APIs). We’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to building a proper emotional understanding of what this data means. As this improves organisations will have more relevant, more personal conversations with their audience members.

For Tate, and us at Thought Den, “Magic Tate Ball” was only the start. We didn’t explicitly set out to create a contextually aware experience, but with 120,000 downloads, the result certainly struck a chord. I can’t wait to see what else comes out of the sector now there is such pressure to demonstrate value for money through relevant and meaningful engagement.

Twitter Poster

Our 10th Anniversary Edition! We hope you enjoy it, give us some tweet love with the #culturegeek and #twitposter tags.

Download a hi-res version here. See the others on our Twitter Poster Pinterest Page.


Twitter Poster Culture Geek 2013

In the name of research, business & consultation…

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Last night we spent the evening at Tine Bech‘s + DCRC‘s + PM Studio‘s tracing light event.

The event was designed to carry out a public consultation using play. So, no never-ending online forms, questionnaires with leading questions and ratty ladies in the street. Basically, get a load of people together, tell them to think about what the space around means to them, then go out and draw it in fun light shapes. Which… was really fun!

Here’s some of team PM Studio’s pics from,



Watershed cinema

Watershed cinema

It was also a pretty jammy’ night, a great chance to chat with great Bristol artists, business people & photographers. Never mind heading to the golf course for business, Thought Den do it next to the bar, create some art and do research on new media practices too. Bloody brilliant.

Here’s some more things other groups made, and to find out more, contact Tine Bech