Mobile Culture Blog
So to the #mobileculture conference at an extraordinary looking Ravensbourne building standing opposite the O2.
Not a brilliant start to the day – the train shot through Stratford (where I was meant to get off) and ran late. Then I realised my aging Google G1 mobile hadn’t charged properly over night. A dead mobile at a conference focused on mobile technology and augmented reality.– bah humbug!
Straight in then to AR – augmented reality
So what is augmented reality?
Unlike second life (a virtual or alternative reality) – AR extends reality. An early definition paper (quoted by Leif Oppermann) states that AR
o Combines real and virtual
o Interactive in real time
o Registered in 3d
Beyond a technical definition Alan Moore (@alansmlxl) briefly suggested we were in not a technical revolution, but a social revolution. Its not so much about reality, real, virtual,augmented or otherwise but more a ‘blended reality’.
Naturally then leads onto the question what are cultural orgs doing to offer their participants / audiences or assets a blended reality. Hmm
The day started with a presentation from Laura Scott (@laurasaysthis) of google. Looked at googlegoggles (which I really must download for my phone) and googleart project. Google apparently have a culture that allows people to spend 20% of their time imagining the next biog idea – and thats where ideas like googleart and gmail emerged. I can’t think of a single cultural organisation who would have the spare capacity to allow this kind of thing to happen – but maybe we should. Both google art and google goggles are impressive projects – and ones I need to spend more time with. Whilst just the fact your able to stroll around the galleries without the need to leave your living room is impressive in itself there is within each gallery a single picture which is realised in enormous detail (a whacking great 14 billion pixels).
Three words kept recurring in Laura’s presentation –education, community and accessible (themes that were picked up again later on in the day by Lance Dann and Foteini Valeonti as they talked about developing an AR project for the Globe Theatre
Two key themes for the day emerged in questioning. First that AR is more difficult to make work inside than it is outside (don’t buildings always get in the way). Second – and this was a theme picked up by @alansmlxl – was a question about customer relationships. For the participant organisations in googleart the audience relationship was shifting away from the institution and towards ‘the worlds liveliest search engine’ (ie google). Its a huge question….
Interesting point on twitter too – from @teengily – ‘do we really need google to start us collaborating amongst ourselves’.. later @alansmlxl would quote @alanrusbringer – editor of the Guardian who in developing a new media model for the digital age has said ‘mutuality is our business’. Perhaps most telling though was @jmacdonald final thought – the first cultural org to be a navigator – linking to and sharing a broad range of content not just their own – will be onto a killing.
Interestingly no mention of copyright or intellectual copyright….yet
The minister in absentia
And certainly one that wasn’t going to be addressed by @EdVaizey (Minister for Communication, Culture and Creative Industries). Ed had been unfortunately called away to New York (sic) on urgent cultural business no doubt so had to deliver his message via video.
‘I’m passionate about the opportunity technology provides’ he intoned and ‘delight in the way technology and culture are coming together’. ‘In the world of the smart phone – the phone becomes your digital identity – and its critical that our cultural industries respond to that’
He pointed to his role as a digital champion and enthusiast – and forthcoming initiatives like the Arts Council Digital Innovation fund as well as the role of organisations like NESTA and the Technology Strategy Board.
Following in the wake of the deathly silence left by Ed came @alansmlxl a ‘charismatic visionary who studies the disruptive trends in the world of innovation’. Not sure I was any clearer about what this means but I was certainly fascinated by what he had to say.
First up – though – he had a subtle side swipe at the minister …’its all very well championing the wealth of our creative industries but politicians continue to fail to understand how you nuture creativity and the creative industries’
But at the heart of Alans talk (alongside the idea of blended reality) were the 4C’s – of commerce, culture, connectivity and creativity and the idea of cultural organisations becoming a platform.. Lots of big phrases then followed – which sounded great but I’m afraid I failed to completely comprehend. Phrases like ‘design for the intention economy’, ‘embrace the world in a comprehensive way’ ‘enable a collaborative culture’ , ‘embed sociability into projects’ and build in ‘the participation tools’.
(Alans slides are here)
Break out groups
My discussion groups seemed to pick up similar themes – all be it in a slightly disjointed way. Audiences are getting older, not being replaced by younger people (huge sweeping statement but interesting to watch Dream School later that evening where a group of young people manged to upset a traditional theatre audience…extreme example, but even so) – people want to be more interactive (see also The Art of With) and engage, technology as a threat to the artist (real fulfilment replaced by a quick thrill) countered quickly with its not going to destroy art- its going to move it forward. This kind of work the natural development given the trend for work outside of buildings – but how should buildings engage with it.
Disjointed, inconclusive but thought provoking
Dream the impossible
In one of @alansmlxl slides we were asked to dream the impossible …and then make it happen. Which I guess were the purpose behind the presentations of AR activists. Sander Veenhof (@sndrv) was – for me – the one who really fired my imagination. I loved his story of how AR artists had – guerrilla style – taken over MOMA. Placing AR aretfacts over and around the existing art works – even adding a seventh floor. Next up for Sander’s guerrilla art is an AR pavilion at the Venice biennale – see here. During the development of @phoenixsquare we often talked about its online presence being an additional room/floor and in many ways this was a great way of realising it! Would love to see someone put an AR exhibition into the outdoor courtyard – guerrilla or otherwise!!
Having been inspired the break out groups gave an opportunity for some more practical thinking about how we can make the impossible happen. Moving away from AR we were back in the world of the app – challenged by @nesta_uk ‘s @jonkingsbury to THINK MOBILE FIRST. Actually Jon’s arguements for thinking mobile first were very persuasive. People have an intimate relationship with their smart phones, there always with us in a GPS defined space. So thinking mobile offers new ways to engage, new revenue strands and encourages you to have discipline. O and there is the small matter of a major new fund – via NESTA and the Arts Council (strangely absent from proceedings) to encourage free thinking. To be launched in April – leaked a certain @edvaizry earlier in the day
Corentin Crement’s (@orka1000) session on business models for the ap market turned into a slightly confusing discussion – not helped by the fact it was difficult to hear what was being said. Some of Corentin’s comments did stick in my mind though – ‘there is a structural problem with music’, ‘in the digital age cultural industries are in freefall’ & ‘we are living in a digital / mobile world and there is a disconnect between that fact and what are cultural orgs are doing’. I also enjoyed the conversation around the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition App – one of the apps I’d looked at during the Phrased & Confused digital research – and at the time one of the arts apps around. At the heart of Corentin’s session were the key business models for apps. No surprises – but for the record here they are:-
- The Freemium Model (80-95% available free, 5-20% available to buy/subscribe to)
- Subscription (pay a monthly fee)
- Buy at point of sale
- Pay for things within the app
- Paid for by a sponsor
- Paid for by the organisation itself – as an integral part of its work.
Which is an interesting point to move onto Jonathan Macdonald (@jmacdonald) and the slightly scary Liri Anderson (@lirianderson) session on how do I market my app. @jonkingsbury is right to say apps can be an additional revenue strand but … – with the average cost of an app – and the average charge it would take around 50 years for you to break even. But there are other reasons why an app works
- Because its part of your business model
- Because it helps to develop your brand
- Away of engaging / monitising your army of fanatics and niche audience
- Its a core part of a service or product
- Or maybe part of a cross platform initiative
- Because its a public service (I loved the idea of an app which helped to get you where you need to be in the Barbican.
But for the app to work it needs to fulfil the ‘rules of engagement’. It must be:-
- Relevant, have resonance
- Have real value (to both buyer and seller)
- Have ease of interaction
Which led to a series of questions to ask of your app before you start to develop it. Obvious maybe but I found them useful:-
- what does it do
- what value does it create? What value does it have?
- What is the user experience? (keep it simple – and if it cant be kept simple use a user video)
- How are you going to market and sell it
Useful yes? Worth £200 – the jury’s still out on that one. Too often there was too strong a hint of sales pitches. But in amongst that there were some good ideas and good content. Hmm