Digital R&D in the Arts Condensed: Funding, Future-gazing & Innovation

The great and good from the worlds of art, culture and digital gathered in Manchester on Wednesday to ponder the perils of digital agenda-setting and bask in the milky glow of this Government’s last remaining cultural cash-cow. NESTA, Arts Council England and AHRC have an incredible £7,000,000 to invest in the sector. Now is the time to be brave, break the mould and unleash the next wave of digital derring-do.

More info on the fund here:

Speaker rundown

With heavyweights from Tate, British Museum, V&AGoogle’s Cultural Institute, Culture24 and Lighthouse, along with indies like Somethin’ Else, Thought Den and Splash & Ripple, there was a considerable spread of opinions throughout the day. Just as some speakers ascended Everestian heights of hyperbolic speculation, others dug deep into the day-to-day nitty-gritty of Doing Innovative Things. I really enjoyed the day, the discussion-based format and that every attendee was committed to moving the sector forwards.

Big questions of the day

First things first. Whether ‘digital’ is a way of life or a departmental afterthought annexed in time for the app goldrush, the Digital R&D forum explored digital in all its pock-marked glory.

Opportunities – “What will ‘culture’ mean when Google are the biggest cultural repository on earth?”

Social Media – “We can stop the willy pictures getting through, but how do you moderate artistic contributions?”

New Business Models – “Can arts & cultural organisations reasonably be expected to develop the skills and find the time to think as entrepreneurs?”

Engagement – “Can I have an app? NO. So what are the right questions to ask your creative team?”

Learning – “How can learning institutions benefit further as popular technology and heritage industries collide?”

Win with your Archive – “How can we beat the royalty and copyright police?”

The Future – “How will we survive the STEAMED kids of tomorrow as they rip, mix and crit our cultural crown jewels? ”

Fact of the day

51% of Americans think the weather affects cloud computing

Big answers of the Day

As ever, there are no simple answers. When budgets are tight royalty payments, forum moderation, business development and digital innovation pay the price. But one thing was certain – digital cannot be considered a separate or bonus activity to the traditional machinations of the cultural sector. Complete integration required!

The D word was described variously as non-existent, the elephant in the room, the future, the fear and merely another colour on the palette as organisations paint themselves into our lives. Digital is as much part of the fabric of modern cultural experience as bricks and mortar.

The issue is not how digital activity is changing, but that the very essence of our cultural output is being changed. Digital isn’t just changing how we talk about the content of our institutions; it is *becoming* the content of our institutions, and should not be treated as a separate entity.

Twitter Poster

Download the hi-res version here, or scan the beauty below. All Twitter Posters from the Thought Den series can be found on our Pinterest page.


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