Credit: Blast Theory

Come play – The best of digital

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Social media and digital technology has an impact on the way we interact with others. Over the years we’ve moved on from poking people online to bumping our smartphones to exchange little bytes of information. This constant evolution in syntax is being used to develop creative projects that bridge the digital-physical divide and engage audiences in different ways. Artists have also begun to share creative process in real-time, on their own terms. This post highlights a few such examples – from conceptual installations to performance theatre and independent electro-pop acts.

Interaction has gone mobile

The ubiquitous smartphone is becoming an important player in creating new forms of interaction with creative performance. By allowing every participant to personalise his or her experience using game based models, mobile phones enable multiple narratives to exist in real-time time. This has a dramatic impact on the scope and scale of audience participation.

The Game Project by theatre company Root Experience is one such example. This ambitious interactive theatre project asks the audience to participate in an adventure that revolves around instructions sent to their smartphone as well as interactions with others in the physical. It is pretty impressive in its scope, as it uses the entire city as the stage. In addition to actors, key players also include members of the audience.

Using technology to encourage reflection on place and identity

Technology also allows content delivery to be geo-specific, based on one’s GPS co-ordinates. Artists’ group Blast Theory have applied this principle to develop Fixing Point, an audio walk which inspires reflection on identity and place.

Throughout the walk the user has to locate audio files hidden in the woods. Each file is a snippet from an interview with Anne Morgan about her brother Seamus Ruddy, who was killed by the members of the Irish National Liberation Army in Paris. This work was originally developed for an area that has a strong military history.

A search for #FixingPoint on Twitter reveals a range of reflections and insights from audience members who participated in the most recent appearance of this installation. For instance, this powerful tweet by Jonathan May summarizes his experience as a ‘visceral and affecting journey that crept into my bones’.

There are also instances where interaction is used to define new applications for emerging technology. This is the basis for I’d Hide You. Another one of Blast Theory’s projects. The points based challenge is the culmination of research to develop new technology for outside broadcasting. In this game the viewer tracks a team of illuminated runners via video streams in real-time as they make their way across their city. There are some brilliant layers to this. Runners playing against each other whilst virtual players compete. Loyalties changing every other second. The most instalment of this game was featured at the Sheffield Doc Fest.

Sharing process, avoiding white noise

Building engagement isn’t just limited to shiny, new technology. Mainstream social networks can also create authentic dialogue, and help the creative practitioner carve a unique audience from the white noise.

Take the example of London based musician Vincent Frank better known as Frankmusik, who has re-launched his career as an independent artists after parting ways with a major label. His latest album Between is a pretty intense exercise in catharsis across 12 finely crafted electropop tracks. He has been tweeting about this project throughout its development, for well over a year – from the process of capturing loss into song to the anxiety of the upcoming release.

The album was released digitally earlier this month and Vincent is currently on tour in the US. And the palpable sense of freedom and relief, as he continues to record his online adds much to the experience of listening to the album.  He continues to use combination of Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Facebook to document the trip and meetings with his fans.

Beyond dialogue, social networks also offer an opportunity for audiences to become genuine stakeholders by a crowdfunding process. Folktronica artist, James Yuill, successfully crowdfunded his latest album The Rush using PledgeMusic.

Not every crowdfunding attempt is successful, but the exercise of opening up a project to scrutiny and dialogue can be a great learning experience. Root Experience’s first attempt to crowdfund development of The Game Project wasn’t successful, but it has helped them identify a community of specialists to solve various technical and logistical problems. They also launched a second attempt to crowdfund their project.

So where does one begin?

There is a lot of choice out there, both in terms of digital technology and social networks, which can be pretty confusing. At the same there, there are also many, many projects – these are your live case studies. Very often it also a case of figuring out what is it that you are prepared to share that will ultimately help you define what you want to do.

Abhay Adhikari / @gopaldass

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On September 16, 2013
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