Audiovisual City and The Revels Office recently teamed up to run a workshop that would explore the role that digital arts projects should play in the future of both cultural and business organisations that rely on public interaction, transforming how they approach experiential place-making in a time of social distance.Together with a multi-disciplinary group of experts, they wanted to investigate what untapped value digital arts might offer, especially at a time when everyone is anxiously re-modeling their core operations to survive months of low visitor traffic, reduced dwell time and an uneasy experience of daily life.
Here they share with you a summary of their findings, designed to inspire you at a critical time, to offer valuable ideas to consider in your re-modeling plans, and to decipher the role that digital can play for organisations based on live and tangible experiences.
A long-term, hybrid solution
There is still much to be realised about the potential of digital arts and the application of digital tools to engage audiences. For some, digital is simply a vehicle to achieve what otherwise would be delivered live. For others, it’s a gimmick used to create a momentary buzz. For many, it is an ambition – something to aim for in the future but not a priority in the here and now.
However, it is the here and now where digital can start to unlock its wider value and purpose. The reality we face is that we will not be able to interact with public experiences in large groups for quite some time. There are countless examples of very high quality, highly engaging digital experiences that could be adapted to engage people via a hybrid of live and digital platforms over the coming year. Digital enables programmers to share their content and tell their stories in an agile and adaptive way: remotely, individually, for a dispersed audience, in person, online, at multiple locations, and at different times. Importantly, these experiences provide safety and reassurance for visitors, residents, and workers, without closing off spaces from the outside world entirely.
Case Study: Enjambre Cellular
Digital art vs digital design
To make informed choices about the use of digital, it is important to understand the distinction of digital art as an art form in its own right, and digital design as a tool for engagement. Put simply – do you need to move your live content online for commercial, audience or safety reasons, or do you want to create a new interpretation of your content that will explore your brand stories in an entirely new way? Neither choice is right or wrong, but it will impact the outcomes you achieve, as well as the process you go through.
While digital design is fantastic for bringing to life historic content and is arguably simpler for translating to an online platform, where digital art stands out is in the sensorial, emotive experience that it can create, lasting longer in people’s memories and creating a sense of community and harmony even if you encounter the art alone.
Digital art is the perfect solution for place-making in the near future, connecting those experiencing a place online and those there in person, allowing for smaller, safer groups to pass through an installation or pop-up without losing the commercial, social and artistic benefits of scale.
Case Study: Pinata Tweet
It’s time to set the price
The price we have paid for the vast amounts of thrilling, comforting, and informative digital content that has been dispersed throughout the global lock-down, is the expectation that digital means free. Digital comes with development costs, artist costs, and new software and/or infrastructure requirements, amongst other operational demands.
Digital content is by no means free to create, and so why is it presented as free to consume?
There are two ways of looking at this.
Option 1 is to embrace the non-financial value that going digital presents: reaching new and much larger audiences, collecting insightful data, offering social benefits, and adopting new methods in storytelling and human connection. In this way there is still very high value: there are no barriers to audiences engaging with you, and you can use data and reach to collaborate with new brand partners and to upsell products and services.
Option 2 is to revaluate and recommunicate the value of the digital experience, and set up platforms that give organisations the option to charge. Given the high value outlined by option 1, it seems reasonable that – just like the expectation to pay for an outdoor cinema or a live gig – you will have to pay to participate in digital cultural experiences. This demonstrates the opportunity presented by digital arts; by creating a new experience on a digital platform, organisations can create something of value to their audiences (and new ones), one which better warrants a participation charge.
Ultimately this is an argument of supply and demand, but what we endorse is a collective reassessment of how and when to charge for digital experiences, thereby protecting organisations and artists from giving away valuable content for free, especially when this might be a viable source of new revenue.
Case Study: Full Dome Festival
Demystifying the digital process (and budget)
Digital arts experiences are impactful and memorable no matter what their size, from single pop-up displays through to city-wide festivals. While they can be huge and expensive, often a digital intervention is as cost-effective as a live experience due to the flexibility of the format, recouping investment costs over a far longer lifespan.
For those who want to consider digital as part of their future plans, digital arts producer Steph Clarke shares some considerations:
- Once a digital installation, artwork or exhibition is installed, it can often run 24/7 with minimal staffing and low running costs. Not only can this make valuable budget savings, but it also accommodates far higher audience numbers over time, and can easily be adapted to allow for social distancing measures.
- Digital works can easily have their content re-purposed to suit different objectives. Content can be refreshed regularly to suit seasonality, adapted for VIP or stakeholder events, and used for advertising purposes if required.
- It is relatively easy to scale digital work for the size of the venue or audience, meaning this approach can be considered for a variety of projects, places, and budgets.
- Digital can be used to extend and enhance audience engagement before and after the event/exhibition itself, through engagement online and via apps, creating more touch-points with your intended audience and opportunities to capture insights and data.
- Given the huge range of digital formats available – apps, projection, light shows, VR, AR – there will always be a format suitable for your budget, timescale, and objectives.
Case Study: 400 Conejos
Audiovisual City is a digital magazine that promotes and supports audiovisual artists and events worldwide. You can read about all of the artists and installations in this article online at www.audiovisualcity.org.
The Revels Office is a cultural consultancy who specialise in advising organisations on commercial and audience development opportunities and uniting partners behind the unique, high-quality content that only the cultural sector can produce. Together with a network of consultants (The Catalyst Network) the team at The Revels Office manages a range of projects at the intersection between arts and commerce. www.therevelsoffice.co.uk.
This article was written by Kate Rolfe from The Revels Office and Marco Savo from Audiovisual City with contributions from Hayley Cantor (Audiovisual City Creative Director, Multidisciplinary Graphic Designer and VJ), Sean Carroll (Business Improvement Project Manager), Nicola Casperson (Brand Marketing, Events and Place-Making Consultant), Steph Clarke (Digital Arts Producer), Marta Minguell Colomé (New Media Artist, VJ and Photographer), Amy O’Brien (Events Producer), and Mónica Rikic (New Media Artist).