Tag Archives: creativity

The Writer as Catalyst and Collaborator 27th April

Writing is self-expression, but it is also much more. Writing can start a conversation, issue a call to action or stand as an act of witness. Writing may be the work of a unique author, but it can also be interactive and collaborative.  Our panel will discuss the potential of writing as a form of action and collaboration.

Panel Members:

Olumide Popoola & Annie Holmes, co-authors of forthcoming book breach,  a short story collection, which tells the story of the refugee crisis through six voices based on interviews with refugees in Calais.

(c) Deborah moses-Sanks
Photo (c) Deborah Moses-Sanks

Nigerian-German Olumide Popoola is a writer and performer. Her other publications include essays, poetry, short stories, the novella this is not about sadness (Unrast Verlag, 2010) and the play text Also by Mail (Edition Assemblage, 2013).

Olumide’s interests include creative/critical investigations into the ‘in-between’ of culture, language and public space. She is an associate lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths College London.

 

Jean-Paul Flintoff, author of How to Change the World

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 12.54.27Jean-Paul Flintoff is the author of five books, published in 16 languages. His latest is a novel, which he crowdfunded with Unbound, and the writing of which involved collaboration with theatrical performers, fellow authors, and many of the individuals who pledged money to the book.

www.flintoff.org  

@jpflintoff

 

Sarah Haynes, Head of Media Production at the Liverpool Screen School, Liverpool John Moores University and creator of collaborative fiction The Button Jar

SarahHaynesFollowing a career in video production Sarah moved into new media and for a number of years was a multimedia developer at the International Centre for Digital Content, Liverpool, in a team working on CD Rom, web and digital games research projects.

Her research explores the opportunities digital technology affords for collaboration in writing fiction and the potential for new reading experiences.

Sarah is currently working on The Memory Store, an online narrative set in Liverpool in 2115. Readers are invited to contribute their own writing, influencing the story and expanding the narrative universe.

http://www.buttonjar.co.uk/

 

Maya Chowdhry, poet and interactive artist
MayaChowdhry-reading-med-cropped

A poet and Transmedia artist, Maya’s writing is infused and influenced through her work for radio, film and theatre. Her collaboration Tales from the Towpath at Manchester Literature Festival was shortlisted for the 2014 New Media Writing Prize, and her recent digital poetic work Ripple was shortlisted for the 2015 Dot Award. She is currently working for Lets Go as a Digital Artist, making interactive theatre and completing Fossil, a chap book of her poetry.

http://interactiveartist.org/

@MayaChowdhry

www.linkedin.com/in/maya-chowdhry

https://www.facebook.com/maya.chowdhry

 

Join us to discuss the following questions and more:

What is the role of a writer and writing in society? Has this changed?

Do new technologies offer new ways of writing?

How might we think differently about the relationship between writers and readers?

Is it possible to have too much writing in the world?

 

Date and Time: 27/4/16. 6pm Welcome Drinks, 6.30pm Panel Discussion

Venue: Stephen Lawrence Gallery, 10 Stockwell Street, London SE10 9BD

Attendance is free, but you need to register at Eventbrite

The Future of Television with Gub Neal 16th March

gub nealGub Neal is a producer with a wealth of experience in television, known for ground-breaking, award winning and hugely popular shows, such as Cracker, Band of Gold, Prime Suspect, Queer as Folk and current series The Fall, starring Gillian Anderson.

He will be sharing his in-depth knowledge of the creative process and the business of television drama past, present and future.

Gub has worked in a commissioning role within television (Head of Drama, Channel 4 & Controller of Drama at Granada) and also as an independent producer, co-founding the production company Artists Studio in 2009. His career has spanned many developments in production and distribution in the sector: from the opening up of independent production in UK TV in the 90s, through the rise of satellite, cable and pay TV and into today’s digital landscape, catering for global audiences. He will be drawing on his knowledge and experience of television past and present and considering current trends, to lay out his vision of what the future holds.

This talk is organized through the Creative Conversations initiative at the Department of Creative Professions and Digital Arts at the University of Greenwich and features as part of the Film and TV Production UG programmes. Interested academics and members of the Creative Conversations network are also welcome to attend.

Time & Date: 16th March 2016, 5.15PM. A drinks reception will follow the talk.

Venue: University of Greenwich, Stockwell Street Building, 10 Stockwell Street, Greenwich SE10 9BD

 

Why do reader/user communities build?

We used to call them ‘the audience’ but now they don’t behave as we expect audiences to. They’re active, they’re vocal, and they’re engaged. They have multiple options and channels, voices and media.   They want do everything and have a say in everything on  their terms. And many of them don’t want to pay for it by following the traditional publishing business models.

We are all the audience for something. We live in exciting times as an audience, we are being courted and sought after with suitors from all forms of media. We are encouraged to enter and explore created worlds through multiple entry points. Using American TV show Fringe as a case study Mélanie Bourdaa discussed how audiences engage across multiple media  to follow story arcs in ‘Following the Pattern’: The Creation of an Encyclopaedic Universe with Transmedia Storytelling.’ A key, and very influential strategy and theory she suggests  is Henry Jenkins’ Transmedia Storytelling . It allows us to engage with a writer/designer’s vision on multiple levels, as much or as little as we want. The key thing here is that we can choose to become really involved, going beyond the ordinary level of engagement for an audience.

It is not all about the audience, these are equally exciting times for writers and creators. You can imagine your story in people’s social media, in games, in books and on the TV.  A story can have an active following, conversations happening in real time, apps can help access it and live experiences can draw in a completely other group of people or enhance the feeling of belonging that a community has.

Authors can choose how they want to share their book experience with their audience; they can choose to have their characters tweet, such as Goran Racic tweeting as his hero Thomas Loud from his book ‘Loud Evolution.’ Not stopping there he has created a whole district in Minecraft where visitors can explore his world. Little by little the book world that we enjoy enters into our real world, to come with us to the office, the gym or while we wait in a Tesco Metro queue.

But at what point does this audience become a community? A dedicated group of people that are interested enough not just to buy the story in its multiple forms but to spend the  time to influence the plot on many of these digital platforms, following the success that gaming has enjoyed where players can influence or even change the storylines within certain parameters . Let’s face it, those of us that are old enough to remember them loved those old multi-branching adventure books where you could make decisions and those choices took you to different pages of the book.

The main problem that authors, designers and marketers face with all of this participation is money – where does all the money come from to create these great experiences. Audiences want so much for free now. The kickstarter model has proved a great launch pad for creative projects. The backers are the people that actually want the creative product and so are happy to fund it. The audience becomes the backers becomes the community.

I enjoyed Naomi Alderman’s, Rebecca Levene’s and  Adrian Hon’s Zombie Run! in this way, an audio adventure while you get fit. I like the idea,  backed it through kickstarter and then became part of a community of runners, though not the fastest of runners I am a happy runner  enjoying a story and getting a little fitter along the way. Intriguing a potential audience sufficiently that it then becomes a community and is prepared to pay for it is a hard model to follow and necessitates creating work with no guarantee of return. This is only one of business model out there that author/ designers/ filmmakers and publishers are using.

Fallen London with its steampunk aesthetic is equally captivating, a browser-based game in which every choice you make changes the storyline. It is free to play but the business model choice to keep it that way means it is delivered in little chunks. However, the community that Failbetter builds through this sharing will potentially go on to buy Sunless Sea, or The Night Circus or buy pure narrative premium content such as The Gift.

For the upcoming Creative Conversations panel on March 2nd , the next part of our Creative Conversations New Space of Publishing series, we start to tease out this very subject. ‘Building Reader Communities’ will question what distinguishes a community from an audience, and if writers and publishers need to build such communities and what they could gain from doing so.  We also want to unpick what the implications are for the writer-reader and publisher-reader relationship when the business model changes and the community is so much more in control of the creative product.

Our panellists will include: Auriol Bishop & Alex Pheby, co-directors of Greenwich Book Festival; Meike Ziervogel, novelist and founder of Peirene Press; Alexis Kennedy, CEO of in interactive fiction studio Failbetter Games; and a commissioned video featuring Kate Russell, tech reporter and author of ‘Elite: Mostly Harmless’, a sci-fi novel based in the Elite Game World.

It promises to be an interesting evening of discussion and places can be reserved through Eventbrite.

Featured image Winter Kaleidoscope by Dr-Wolf0014 on Deviant Art

What #MakingLondon Made

This blogpost is the final reflection on the event Making London, held on the 18th July 2015 at the University of Greenwich (see #MAKINGLONDON – A First Person Account for full breakdown of the day).

The desire to run a design-led community engagement event like #MakingLondon was ignited by our Creative Professions & Digital Arts department settling into our new home in Stockwell Street, Greenwich. As we became habituated to our new setting and began enjoying the high tech equipment and creative environment, I couldn’t help but reflect on the vintage market place that, on weekends, used to take over this small piece of industrial land with its haphazard collection of furniture, books, clothes and traders. By reflecting on this I began to question what this shiny new RIBA nominated building does to the community here in Greenwich; does it offer new opportunities, collaborations and cultural activities, or is this just what we would like to see reflected in our possession of this space? Are we giving something to the community or displacing it through continued building and development? Through the series of Creative Conversations events we have begun to challenge ourselves, and allow ourselves to be challenged by others, to map out the impact and constellation of networks that have been shifted, altered and re-formed through our occupation of Stockwell Street.

From personal experience we also began to question ‘what does it mean to belong to such an amorphic city as London?’ and ‘whether this alters our sense of belonging and our ability to form connections with those around us?’

mapping

Fig 1: Our original Making London brainstorm considering everything from agile belonging to Pop-ups.

To consider this we have begun by looking outwards to see whether design could have an impact on the way that London is currently being shaped, and to question the relationship forming between building developments, financial markets, local communities and the creative industries. It became a trajectory that sought to give people a voice and space to reflect on and construct new perspectives on their own personal London-based issues. By bringing together a collection of diverse people from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines; from game developers to political activists, from ages 20 to 65, our aim was to use design methods and workshops that would allow them to creatively rethink their relationship to London. These activities, writing and thoughts were spatialised within an oversized map of London. Attendees were invited to inscribe their most powerful memories of living in London, what they value about London in its current incarnation and the growing issues of living in a city that has become filtered through it being a financial hub.

MapLRg

The map data could be divided into four main themes; these are London in Flux, London Debates, Londoners on the Go and London Pride (further analysis of these can be found in the Making London report).

For the full information:

Read the report on our Making London Workshop

Watch footage of Making London, including interviews with participants (5 Minutes)

The hyper-connected audience

It feels as though Henry Jenkins observations on the potential for participatory, collaborative and convergent media has never been truer. The entertainment properties I find interesting have a life beyond any narrowly defined medium, in fact reaching out into the other media to develop a story gives the work nuance and richness and, of course, further emotional investment from me.

‘In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, and every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms’

Anyone wishing to create or publish anything now has an eye to other media as an outlet. Naturally, as Jenkins suggests, this has led to not just telling stories through a transmedia experience, but to marketing these brands as worlds to be explored. The Blair Witch Project did this, famously, extremely effectively.

The mainstream media industries were always aware that new audiences could be developed by reaching out to them in a comic book for example after a film success.  The decision to develop and fund entirely new  content in order to grow an audience and keep them engaged is relatively recent marketing decision; showing that consumer behaviour analysis and an attempt to understand the deeper motivations behind consumer decision making is being taken more seriously. Jenkins terms this ‘affective economics’.

Ubisoft , no small industry player, released Watch_Dogs, an open world action game, in 2013. The protaganist that we were to identify with was Aiden Pearce, a vigilante who spent his time hacking into the city’s Central Operating System (CTOS). To market this game BETC Paris created Watch Dogs WeareData experiential website revealing a 3D interactive map in which we could explore the cities of London, Paris and Berlin the website through the visualisation of publicly available data, reading people’s live tweets, watching the metro go from station to station, looking through instagram posts. A person could lose themselves for hours in this ground-breaking piece of content that was arguably more interesting than the game it was marketing. And you could join in, adding your own data to this live stream.

More recently Faber & Faber published Capital, by John Lanchester, a story of post-crash London. To market this book Storythings created Pepys Road which  tells the story of the ten years leading up to the world described by Lanchester. Over the course of ten days, they send emails asking questions about your attitudes to various public policies and send you ten new mini-stories written by John Lanchester. These stories reveal a period of public sector cuts and economic upheaval in which we become a part. James Bridle‘s data illustrations position your data within the rest of the accessible live data. Storythings have created ways to tell mini-stories about the decisions both you and the rest of their audience make.

Both marketing activities make use of our own digital shadow, created by our hyper-connected lives, to situate us within these created worlds, these branded worlds. This however doesn’t feel intrusive rather it feels intuitive, captivating and above all interesting. For me the most interesting thing about big data is when it contextualizes our small data, our personal data. We relate to stories and brands when they feel like they have a place in our lives. More and more we are asked to imagine ourselves in these branded worlds, it is a forward-thinking marketing approach, but how much easier is it to do so when we see how we are connected to these worlds and others in them? And how interesting it is when our data is seen through a different lens, one in which we are adventurers, or spies or hackers, or inhabitants of Capital. Media convergence and accessible data streams allow us to inhabit these other worlds easily and convincingly.

We are ourselves and not at the same moment. perfect.

#MakingLondon – a first person account

Guest post by Kasia Wojcicka, Making London participant and marketing assistant

On Saturday 18th July the weather in London was particularly beautiful. It seemed to be a sign that what we wanted to discuss on that day was good and important for the city. The ‘Making London’ event at Stockwell Street Building attracted a large group of creative individuals interested in identifying points of urban crisis and looking for solutions to them. This day of talks, workshops and creative thinking, designed to develop a community-friendly environment within the city, was an initiative of Creative Conversations and an interdisciplinary collective, the XDs.

The discussion panel was opened by Fran Boait from Positive Money who delivered a convincing speech about the mechanisms behind money creation. This not-for-profit organisation based in London aims to challenge the current status quo in our city – the highest personal debts in history, unaffordable housing system and high unemployment – which all have roots in the monetary system. It came as a big surprise to most of the ‘Making London’ participants that only 3% of money is physically released by The Bank of England, while the remaining 97% gets created digitally in a form of loans and disappears as soon as we repay them. Positive Money is campaigning to change the national financial system in order to create a fairer and more stable economy for the benefit of and not against the public. Many questions arose during this talk. We wondered how much sovereign money we actually needed. Society is obsessed with money. It is now socially deviant to be a citizen and not a consumer. But maybe money should only be an option? After all, it is merely a measure of value and not the value in itself. By supporting local Positive Money groups in London we could all attempt to have an impact on this issue.

Another example of excellent team work, which creates changes for the better, is The November Project. Their concept, a boat, created to become an arts hub, run by zero carbon tidal powered technology, will not only be community friendly, but also a green-energy solution. It will offer a money-saving alternative while eradicating the use of damaging fossil fuels from Thames River. So far, however, it has met with a lot of scrutiny and negativity from the local authorities. Everyone agreed that we should not let projects like this sink – they benefit us all. The title of Moira Dennison’s powerful speech –‘Thinking Globally, Acting Locally’ – could not be more true in our times.

Following the creative projects theme, Sydney Levinson from Barry’s Lounge gave us a lot of useful, metaphor-packed tips. He point out that every creative practice should be sustainable – run with not only Mary Poppins’ fun and Hannibal Lecter-like passion but also an underlying business model that is sound. It is important to be resilient in order to deal with plans going wrong. Nearly every project is based on collaboration with other people, whether on purpose or accidentally. To be successful, we need to trust each other to ‘catch the brick’ before it falls on us. However, not every piece of advice given by others is useful, so it should be carefully tested against our own business model. Creators of projects need to be like the Babel Fish (in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)– using a separate language when talking to their audience, compared to with funders and different again with collaborators. Sydney himself calls himself a ‘babel fish accountant’. He shared with us a number of great examples of playing by the rules of the environment in his creative practice. A very memorable one was House of St Barnabas at Greek Street in London – on the top floor it runs an academy teaching the homeless to work in the hospitality industry, on the ground floor they find employment in a busy Soho club.

During the speeches a graphic scribe visually summarised the speakers’ main points as well as the participants’ own ideas and concepts which emerged from the discussion. We realised that the way out of our powerlessness might, in fact, be acting local. We asked ourselves – is planning created to avoid mistakes, or maybe it comes out of them? The communities want value – but who is going to create it – the government, the council, or maybe businesses, networks or even just the individuals?

The talks were followed by the Mapping London exercise, during which participants shared their memories, values and issues about living and working in London on a gigantic map of the city. It created a picture marked by unique, personal experiences. Often the perceptions of one place were extremely different from each other – some people were happy to have managed to leave it, while others claimed it to be their haven.

Once we mapped our own experiences, J. Paul Neeley invited us to think a little less literally and see the world around us through metaphors. Yossarian, a creative search tool, provides an alternative to traditional internet tools, such as Google or Bing, which limit us greatly by coming up with stereotypical explanations, slogans and telling us what to think. Yossarian invites us to find new meanings and rethink what we already know. Doing a number of searches with results ranging from only slightly lateral to serendipitous and infinite in their possibilities, encouraged us to use metaphor and creative thinking more, while learning about the world around us. After all, knowledge is power but imagination is more important than knowledge.

We then, with the help of Giles Lane of Proboscis, looked at outliers in communications, social behaviour, health, work, leisure, housing and transport-related issues currently visible to us over the horizon. We highlighted them in a graphic form and started looking at what potential impact they could have on us and the city in the future, in which new directions we may go, as everyday commuters, rental tenants, NHS patients or social media users, and discussed the emergent themes, many of which oscillated around isolation, tension, privatisation and searching for alternatives for practically everything, in the context of over-massification, the need for sharing and global, rather than national, thinking. Based on our findings, we created story cubes with six key words describing the themes in connection with critical concepts, such as standards, efficiency, labour, infrastructure, logistics, energy or waste. We then placed the cubes on our map of London in areas most affected by these factors.

In an experience design workshop led by Nicholas O’donnell-Hoare we worked in three teams  with the task of designing a piece of disruptive technology that did either good or bad.  We often make bad decisions in terms of finance, climate change, healthcare or policies without realising the hidden reasons for this. In order to think beyond our usual mindset, Nicholas presented us with method cards which had three categories: motivation, accessibility and habits. We shortly discovered that planning is much easier if we consider what motivates us – the piece of technology could be instantaneous – something that happens straight away, when we get an instant reward for using it, it could also be imminent, if the result is easier to notice, more obvious, or it can tap into immorality. Another category was accessibility – the scarcer a device is, the more or less impactful it can become. If something takes too much of our time – we may give up on it, if it’s too expensive, it might become impossible to buy. On the other hand, it might in fact be seen as a desirable product. To connect these insights to current issues, we could ask – if solar panels were twice more expensive, would they be more popular in climate change tackling? Would people see them as a must-have object of luxury? The last category connects to our habits – routine is one of the key factors in our life – it is common that we want to know what is going to happen on a Sunday morning, but we might also change our actions based on various triggers – boredom or stress could turn us into smokers! We realised that it is much easier and fun to design a piece of technology which will be bad for us, than go through the complicated process of designing one with a good effect. Playing the bad designers helped us release our dark side in a creative way and see how much manipulation we are subject to in everyday life.

During the final mapping workshop we were asked to put the results of all sessions onto the map and draw connection points. Based on mapping these experiences, the participants discussed the points of crisis and potential actions that could be taken to challenge them. We came up with a unique urban tapestry, which represented the memories, needs and hopes of real London inhabitants. It is much easier to realise our problems when we see them right in front of us!

The ‘Making London’ event gathered a group of very creative and open-minded individuals from a variety of backgrounds. We managed to come up with many problems, which could be discussed further and solved in the future. Some of them were very simple and could be sorted within a few days. Future ‘Making London’ events will concentrate on finding points of action and implementing the solutions into the city life. Many participants were impressed by the openness and ability to listen to each other of a group of people who have never met before – a value which should not be taken for granted in a world, where often individuals with a different perspective are not listened or even heard.

Can Design get to the Heart of what Matters for Communities?

To begin to answer this question we first need to take a step back and consider what design actually is? Design is one of those funny words that talks both about process to design and products the design within the same word.

We are surrounded by design but our experience of it is often limited to the way we use, own, buy and even desire products. However it is the way these products are created and the reason why they have come to be that is often the more compelling story. These reasons (or insights) are developed during the design process and can exist even without the product themselves. They impact the way we understand people’s values and needs, allowing us to design for specific groups of people. If we take this insight and use it to develop new systems, experiences or even new relationships to our needs, it can be a powerful tool for social change. When we look at design as a process, an engagement or an interpretation, its potential is also much wider. This is not something new; there are entire sectors of the design industry devoted to this kind of process-based design thinking, design research, or even design making. Fields such as social design, experience design, service design or systems design are all examples of the way that design can be used across a wide range of industries to rethink everything from health care to politics to technology & innovation.

However understanding what design means is only one half of the question. To drill deeper we should next consider how design can be used, by both designers and non-designers, within a specific community to tackle complex issues that need a range of expertise and experience. The key to this is giving everyone an equal playing field and language to communicate. In order to do this a community-based design process must be both intuitive and reproducible. If it is not intuitive, people will spend so much time trying to work out how to apply it that they will not be able to drill deeply into the issues they originally wanted to tackle. If it is not reproducible then – as soon as the original designer leaves – the network could collapse and no further action would be possible. One approach is to use a design toolkit. These can be useful if a community wants to try a design process for the first time. There are many available on the market but, although they can be useful in getting to solutions fast, they also (through their design) fix the level of response you can give and peoples roles within the process. This is charted in great depth by Lucy Kimbell in her blogpost Mapping Social Design Practice: Beyond the Toolkit.

Another approach to working with communities of designers and non-designers is to use Metadesign. Metadesign is a process that aims to flatten hierarchies and develop methods which allow everyone within the group to actively learn from the knowledge and expertise of one another. Within the article Seeding, Evolutionary Growth, and Reseeding: Enriching Participatory Design with Informed Participation Fischer uses the term underdesigning to describe the focus of metadesign. It aims to limit the control of the designer and allow flexibility and evolution of ideas by creating conducive “environments and not the solutions, allowing… [people] to create the solutions themselves” (Fischer, 2003). This allows for the fusion and fission between individual and communal goals and gives the design process space and flexibility to evolve within any given community in a specific and clearly situated way.

DESI_ROAST_EVA

From a design perspective, this is what we are aiming to do with Making London. By breaking down some of the boundaries between the University of Greenwich and the local community we can use design to help understand our social role as an institution and the challenges we are all facing in an ever-evolving London. The event aims to weave individual needs and values into a collective understanding and to co-create ideas for how the creative industries can continue to innovate in an increasingly corporate and financial capital. This will be challenged within three distinct workshops and framed through a large-scale mapping exercise. We will draw out these design ideas in order to be further developed within subsequent events. The workshops will give everyone the opportunity to engage deeply with what matters to them about living and working in London, mapping out the intersections and points of crisis within their local area. The workshops will use design processes to explore how metaphor can be used as a tool for rethinking problems, help us to imagine the fabric of the city in order to envision uses of data for the near future and try out some fun methods for making complex things simpler and influencing peoples’ decisions towards the social ‘good.’

The first of our #MakingLondon events is this Saturday the 18th June, join us by registering at: https://makinglondon.eventbrite.co.uk

View our MakingLondon Programme here!

Experimental publishing, copyright laws and Mix03

 

I have had a fascination with publishing and its potential most of my life, so much so that I was Head of Art for a small publishing company for nearly four years alongside my teaching commitments. I am very interested in the new space opened up by the advent of digital publishing and all of the new business models that are emerging.

It could be argued that everything nowadays is publishing: the social streams in which we document every part of our lives for a variety of audiences as well as our blogs. We need to be careful about what we write in these digital spaces as we are just as responsible for the comments we make, defamatory statements or intellectual property infringement as the traditional and mainstream press. As Alex Newson with Deryck Houghton and Justin Patten point out, we can’t cite ignorance of these laws as our defense. Even high profile comedian Alan Davies had to pay £15,000 in damages to Lord McAlpine to settle a libel action over a tweet relating to false child sex abuse allegations in 2013. We are all fast becoming published authors, even if we are not very good ones.

It was with this interest and an awareness of the published nature of our modern lives that I went to Mix03. Co organised by one of our key Creative Conversations  The New Space of Publishing speakers, Kate Pullinger, the Mix Digital Conference at Bath Spa was held over 3 days and explored the various worlds of publishing looking at transmedia, ambient literature, reader participation, moving from analogue to digital, pedagogy, interactive forms and digital poetry to mention only a few areas.

Mix03 had speakers that explore and innovate in this fast growing sector. I was able to listen to exciting key note speakers, such as award winning novelist and game creator Naomi Alderman, Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen of Visual Editions and Ju Row Farr from Blast Theory. There were also interesting projects presented such as Colin Thomas’s Making Digital History and Claudio Pires Franco‘s research on new media forms of the book: both experimenting with the more interactive components in the digital publishing space.

It is the copyright laws, and their relationship with fan fiction and participatory writing projects that I find particularly interesting and while not under the remit of this conference, as it was more experimental and creative, they have an impact on all of us amateur journalists/authors/commentators/artists.  In particular Fan Fiction as described by Ciaran Roberts has interesting and complex issues around copyright. For experimental participatory writing projects such as Sarah Haynes’ The Memory Store mutual respect and recognition is a pre-requisite as the project requires participation in order for it to evolve  ‘Participatory projects are about both process and product.’ and so the copyright laws need to evolve in order to protect and not hinder these new projects and participants. 

The great joy of such conferences is not only to meet like minded people but also to meet people that have a viewpoint at odds with your own, or come at a subject from an entirely different angle. This allows you to reflect and think more deeply about your subject. For me new collaborations and new projects were sparked and new ways to think about existing projects were suggested. I came away feeling wonderfully invigorated, as though my brain had taken a much needed holiday to somewhere new and exciting. It is a conference that I would heartily recommend and I will be booking myself in for next year’s when the option arises.

Creativity and the Digital

Guest post by Gregory Sporton, Professor of Digital Creativity, Department of Creative Professions and Digital Arts, University of Greenwich and author of Digital Creativity

People of my generation have lived through quite an astonishing set of transformations of the idea of creativity.  As a young man embarking on a career in the arts, I was warned by my high school teacher that the best skill I could learn was how to fill in application forms for unemployment benefit.  The purpose of the sort of education I had was to create obedient and passive citizen-workers, and the very idea of the exercise of imagination was deemed an existential threat, about which at least someone felt they should intervene.

It turned out not be entirely true.  Certainly my work as a dancer never made me rich, and it was trivialised no end by those who thought it an eccentric career, but it also extended to me a range of opportunities and challenged my notions about the world in a way that a life in a factory or an office would never have been able to do.  For this alone, I have always thought of the exercise of the imagination as nothing other than a good.  The great art and artists I encountered offer alternative versions of life to the conventions of the societies in which I have lived.  Their work, at its best, asked questions about the accepted ways of a given culture, or reflected it through prisms that brought to light its properties. This is no small thing, and whilst there was not bountiful  material reward, there was a sense of morality (even if the work of art wasn’t always moral in a conventional sense).  But change was on the horizon in the shape of technologies that could help formulate and distribute ideas and image simply and quickly, and thus different notions about the role and function of creativity began to crystallise.

Whilst the education system continued to pump out graduates with the type of skills the industrial revolution required (mostly a capacity to show up on time and not revolt against doing repetitive tasks), the industries they thought they were servicing disappeared.  The principle of industry as the designated destination for the youth of industrialised societies did not die with them.  Instead, there has been a recalibrating of purpose, towards something formulated as the Creative Industries, the implication in its title one of reassurance about matching the productive efforts of those who were sent off to factories or mines.  The achievement of modern education in sticking with the industrial model despite the passing of its relevance is really quite something, reflecting a profound conservatism about the usefulness of such an education. But, as modern, developed economies lighted upon the potential for developing their intellectual and imaginative capacities as the new means for economic growth, the education system and the notion of creativity itself has had to change.  At stake has been jobs and futures, and a marginal practice has come to be seen as a key economic driver.  Having been combined with digital technologies, it is a powerful economic force as well as the cultural one it has always been.

There has come to be an association between notions about creativity and ideas about the application of technology through the creative industries.  The very phrase ‘creative industries’ suggests a significant change from the time when creativity, especially as manifested in the arts, was a domain of free play, thoroughly untrusted, and certainly of nugatory economic value.  Just how a widespread practice of creativity should manifest never seems to me to be entirely clear.  Given the rusted-on ideas that continue to dominate our education system, it is no surprise that the certainties and forms provided by the technology industries should form the aspiration and practice of what it is to be creative.  Thus an idea like ‘creativity’ comes to look a lot more like conformism than one would automatically think.  This manifests in all kinds of ways, from Cascading Style Sheets to Apple’s ‘Swift’ programming language: the means of creating is determined by the platform that is provided.  When encountering software interfaces that are designed for use by creative practitioners, we see the same levels of control, the victory of the usability engineers over the potential to experiment, as evidenced in that most deterministic environment of all: Creative Suite.  In its online iteration, it now learns more and more from its users, and can update itself to get rid of the workarounds or user choices, all in the interests of improved usability.

Art becomes the means of escaping the technological determinism that might be thrust on us by the corporates, but it may also suggest modes of operation or processes that might improve our relationship with technology rather than simply being dependent upon it.  The tendency of technology to systemise the creative is hardly surprising in an environment like the Internet.  Engineers, as Jaron Lanier has regularly pointed out, prefer interoperability to fidelity, and thus their conventions reflect this value.  But there is a more powerful undercurrent in the technology-driven version of creativity we now have that places an emphasis on improvisation and flexibility within a given system. This is especially true because those ‘given’ systems are latterly thrust upon us without giving us much choice, having been hooked in the first place into proprietary platforms.  Those who engage become users rather than creators, constrained by the protocols of technology if not by the mores of society.  That this is at the expense of narrative and expression, previously powerful tools in the artist’s arsenal, is not something the creative industries are particularly concerned about, but this must surely be where the road ends.  The ersatz creativity offered in the interface is only an extension of the decision trees and critical paths allowed us by the engineers.  What artists can really offer are those alternative versions, the parallel universes and a utilisation of technology for more than economic purposes.

MAKING LONDON

 

We live in challenging times.

In the past seven years we have seen the world change. Every political action seems to be marked by a new word that has become ingrained into our very consciousness and fed into every sector of our lives – recession.

This intangible concept has impacted us socially, culturally and psychologically. We have seen people taking to the street and using their bodies to occupy spaces in protest. We have seen riots and we have seen a decline in the value of social support. We have seen the monetization of our services and a property market spiraling out of control. The city, which once took us in and gave us a home, feels somewhat distant; our sense of belonging skewed by fear of the rent rising or loss of employment.

I say this not because I hate London. I love London and could not imagine living anywhere else. It is a city full of creative inspiration; full of opportunities to re-make yourself on a daily basis without fear of social pressure or judgment. It is a place of discovery. Of education and culture, a place of history but also a place of technology and innovation. It is a place, which flourishes in spite of it all, where markets ebb and flow like the tide of the Thames popping up across the city and creating temporary communities; farmers markets, craft markets, Christmas markets, pound-a-bowl markets and many more.

Markets are vital to human societies, as they allow us to exchange goods and services between us, rather than every individual having to produce and do everything for him or herself. As a result, the marketplace becomes an arbiter of value, ‘discovering and representing the desires of society’. This is why the idea of the free market can be championed as a moral cause, because it represents people’s freedom to obtain what they want in life.

However, this idealized vision of the marketplace is not the reality we are currently living in. Real estate and business in London are currently driven by a worldview, which sees money not as a measure of value, but as, in itself, the ultimate value. It is very easy to make this mistake, since money acts as a proxy for something that is a constant variable – i.e what is important in life and society. However the effects are serious, since it is leading to the marketization of every aspect of society and to a conception of the market, which is very narrow and prohibits the many other kinds of exchange and interaction that might be possible.

Making London is a design-led event, which encourages you to step away from your workplace and see things with fresh eyes. It aims to bring together a community of designers, cultural movers and shakers, local businesses & charities, policy makers, planners et al. Using design methods, this workshop based event will take you through the process of considering the things you value about living in London and the issues you face. These will be collaboratively explored and built upon with the aim of developing some group insights into potential projects for social change and creative interpretation.

It is in essence a social hackathon, exploring, through design and making new approaches to collaborative problem solving.

To attend this event, register at: https://makinglondon.eventbrite.co.uk

See our E-flyer below, click for further information!

MakingLondonE_Flyer(large)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This event is organised in collaboration with The XDs (experience design group). The XDs are an experience design collective with 200+ specialists, an eclectic bunch of creatives, psychologists, data scientists and designers.

Other people & groups who are doing work in this area include:

http://sophiehope.org.uk/projects/

http://www.brave-new-alps.com/

http://precariousworkersbrigade.tumblr.com/

http://positivemoney.org/

http://metabolicity.com/

http://www.neweconomics.org/

http://potlatch.typepad.com/about.html

http://mediaculturalwork.org/members/