On Thursday 30 April artists and makers who work in and with communities came together over Jitsi (an open-source video call platform) for another of our fortnightly Project Nights to discuss ‘How to be creative with digital tools.’
From the last Project Night discussion, ‘Staying Connected with Communities’, it was clear that people were craving methods to go beyond digital and shared some lovely analogue examples of collaborating and connecting through things like snail mail and interventions in the landscape. However, it was also acknowledged that many are feeling an increasing pressure to use digital tools at the moment – not only to connect, but also to continue to be creative and share this productivity publicly. This is particularly a challenge when not everyone has equal access to digital tools and/or internet connectivity and many are juggling responsibilities and suffering from ‘screen fatigue’.
With these contradictory pressures in mind we invited artist Lily Green, who works with communities across a mix of digital and physical spaces, to share some inspiration and prompt a discussion.
Lily shared a little bit about No Bindings, a ‘tiny publisher’ that blends print, audio and community and also about her new project Grapevine (co-created with artist Tim Kindberg) which is a new platform and set of tools that enables storytellers to connect digital audio with physical artwork and allows listeners to discover and share audio connected artworks through popular messaging apps.
Lily explained that she is ‘always thinking about using a mix of media and a people-centred approach to how content can be made and shared.’ She shared some tips on facilitating workshops online, highlighting the importance of mixing moments of coming together virtually with time off-screen, and how behavioural games can become tools in themselves, helping us subvert the way the creators of these tools intended them to be used.
We had a go at playing with a great tool for doodling called Whiteboard Fox.
Lily highlighted how audio can be both a great connector, helping us to move away from constant visual screen use, and a great leveller as everyone has a story to tell.
You can watch Lily’s presentation below:
Lily reflected that we can increase connection and avoid the digital feeling a bit anonymous by building audiences around networks that already exist, such as friends and families, placing performances in domestic spaces, connecting via live chats and having live audiences in the same spaces as the performers.
Her top tips for making digital encounters were:
– Intimate (build on personal networks)
– Customisable (like the playful whiteboard)
– Connected to physical (make a tangible memento to take away)
In an inspiring closing remark, Lily shared that she has been thinking a lot about immersive theatre and how to ‘warm people up’ for the digital moment. She asked: how could role-play, fake letters, artefacts, costumes or playlists help to set the mood, and be blended with digital? How can we reduce screen elements and stop trying to connect to thousands of people in one go?
One of the Project Night participants shared that they are an immersive theatre maker and would be happy to connect with Lily – watch this space for audio / digital / immersive theatre mash-ups!
Another participant shared that they have been enjoying making interactive story experiences using a BBC tool called StoryFormer – and someone else chipped in to say that they are the creator of this tool! The magic of Project Night.
Here are links to these BBC tools:
Apply here https://www.bbc.co.uk/makerbox
A new video about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLWp46ZsI5U
StoryKit – the wider project https://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/projects/object-based-media-toolkit
Lucas Sweeney, Digital Innovation Producer at KWMC, then talked us through a few open source tools that are available. He has created a video especially for us to learn more about them:
Overall we reflected that it’s vital to know, not just what creative tools are out there, but what you want to do with them, why you want to use them and how are they’re going to be accessible.
We also learnt from the night that in a short video call with over 20 people it is very difficult to start learning how to use new tools and is a challenging space for in depth discussions! Thank you to everyone who joined us for the experiment and patiently stuck with us through some tech glitches. We will be experimenting with a different structure for the next meet-up and would love to hear any ideas for other themes we could explore.
Please contact Martha for more details on firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, people shared some great links:
An online workshop run by Sophie Hope exploring Socially engaged art in a time of ‘social’ distancing (22 May and 5 June).
A Medium article about designing for immersion
An online festival organised by one of our Project Night regulars.
Image by No Bindings