Where can you find inspiration and support for digital transformation?

21 August 2017, Sophia Woodley

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If you’re working in a publicly funded arts organisation, it’s natural to look to the rest of the publicly funded arts sector for inspiration.

Your contacts and networks are there, as are your closest direct comparators and competitors. Your fellow arts organisations have a similar culture and face similar demands, pressures and funding requirements.

Yet an exclusive focus on the arts sector means missing out on opportunities, because many of the really innovative applications of technology are happening in the wider creative industries, to others in the charitable sector, or beyond. By thinking outside the box about your activities and your goals, you can find comparable projects and relevant innovative approaches where you might not have expected.

Partnerships with tech specialists are also often crucial, particularly for smaller organisations seeking to access technological expertise and benefit from a more market-oriented approach to innovation. But these partnerships do have their pitfalls. Says Frank Boyd, former director for Creative Industries, Digital Economy and Design for the Knowledge Transfer Network, “You have to find people who understand the affordances of digital tools, but who are also able to speak the language of creative practitioners.” 

The Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales recognised this, requiring each of its funded R&D projects to include a role for a technology partner. By working closely together, we at GMV became much more than a technology partner to g39, an artist-led contemporary gallery based in Cardiff. As innovation partners we co-created a new solution for engaging non-ticketed audiences and associated business model – and are collaborating to launch this.

In creating new products or services, it’s not clear at the beginning what the final outcome will be. Therefore it’s unwise – or impossible – to simply dictate a list of requirements to a software company.

What experts and practitioners of digital innovation have told us is that you need to give technologists a position of equality in the creative process. Ghislaine Boddington of body>data>space says “projects can be held back by the artist’s own lack of knowledge about what the technology can do creatively. Few artists allow the technologist(s) to truly be co-creator(s) – yet this is essential, and deep collaboration right from the beginning of the project will enable high level outcomes.”

 In looking for inspiration and support, ask yourself:

  • What are our main activities and goals? What digital innovation outside the arts sector might be relevant to these?
  • Are our potential technology partners able to speak my language?
  • How can we ensure that our technology partners are involved as full co-creators?

This article is part of a series based on our Nesta report, The adoption of digital technology in the arts :

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