Highlight of the day was listening to my mate Jon Spooner talk about the UNeditions project, a publishing platform for ‘digital playscripts’. Jon was particularly interesting when he described the use of a ‘community lab’ of 20 people to co-design the product. This could so easily have become a case of ‘too many chefs’, but the UNeditions team seems to have found a way to co-ordinate the input of everyone in a constructive way.
It’s also worth noting that every person who helped with this lab approach is also a registered partner with legal rights to any royalties made by the platform. And it’s salutary to note that trying to get an Apple-approved app was abandoned in favour of a web/HTML 5 product.
In other words, this feels like a genuinely open, collaboratively developed product with a principled approach to revenue share. It’ll be interesting to see how it copes in the generally closed copyright-obsessed commercial market of digital publishing.
The Nottingham Castle augmented reality project was another that felt quite close to where I’m living professionally at the moment (I’m doing some work for the Science Museum).
There really are a LOT of serious challenges when trying to bring this kind of application into a museum/gallery environment. Not least is the issue of what kind of kit you want to bring into an exhibition space (a lot of curators HATE the idea of visitors wandering around with tablets and phones rather than directly taking in the object and information on display). There's also the tricky question of what kind of interactivity visitors actually want or expect from these systems.
I’m beginning to think that most people don't want much interactivity at all, initially - and yet once they get engaged with an application they become extremely ambitious and demanding about what they expect it to deliver. In other words, people start off not wanting much at all, and then within minutes want the world - that's a tough user experience arc to design into any kind of system.
"The challenge we want to overcome is how we adequately collect value (money and data) in a crowd or non-linear context whilst the gifter feels in control of that value."
For example, on the web people like me always have to think about how much stuff to give away for free before trying to extract some ‘value’ from the audience.
Going back to that idea of audience expectation, too, there’s also the tricky question of what people think things are worth before they’ve actually experienced the thing, what they get to be worth during the experience , or what you might thinks they're worth several days later.
Generally I don't think things are worth that much before I go and see them. In most cases I have to shell out based on a friend’s recommendation, a review, or some kind of sampler in the form of a trailer, a song or an interview online.
If something’s good I then think I’ve got a good deal (example - "£15 to spend an hour or so listening to a great musician – bargain").
If I don't enjoy myself, I feel ripped off (example - "£20 to watch a crap film and eat crap food for two hours or so in my local Odeon – no thanks")
What *doesn’t* happen often is for people to offer to pay a bit more after enjoying something because they had a great time. If I spend £35 to go see a great piece of theatre in London and have a great time, I’m extremely unlikely to send in an extra fiver or tenner the next day, even if I think it would seem fair – I just congratulate myself on having got myself a bargain.
This is a problem. We don't want our punters to pay in full up front anymore – especially for online entertainment - but we do want people to shell out more as part of the experience (or in game) - or voluntarily offer us money, data, food, their own digital content, their pets, *please, anything* further down the track.
Do I think a significant number of people could be persuaded to participate in this new model for making a living out of digital content? I’m not sure. But then, that’s a big part of why I’m glad to be participating in a Nesta R & D project. It seems like the best opportunity in the UK at the moment to explore these issues.
"The digital opera is performed live to an audience in a theatre, and within the minds of remote audience members who are “listening in” to the real-time Internet stream of the performance. These remote audients are situated in, say, a hotel lobby, an airport departure lounge, or a coffee shop, experiencing the digital opera through headphones, whilst watching others journey. As such, their digital opera will be cast by the people that they are watching, and their set will be their surrounding environment.”
This very much floats my boat. I’ve been striving for a while now to think of ways people can experience a performance or an event from wherever they happen to be in the world, so they they can get access to the uncanny experience of feeling like they're in two places at once, in a way that real world surroundings become the ‘set’, and the sounds coming through your headphones are soundtracking and choreographing your perception of the world around you.
I distinctly remember cycling down a fjord in Iceland listening to The Fall on my newly acquired Walkman in the late 1980s, and getting for the first time that feeling that lots of us now know of ‘being in a movie’. With 'Sentimental Journey' there’s the added frisson that the music is live, and you’re aware that you’re connected to other people around the world, all of you feeling ‘you’re in a movie' together.
I think this is, in part, the feeling that Tim Hopkins was trying to get at with his Music Walk project of last summer that I helped out with.
Tim is an artist who is very much concerned with the future of opera and the influence of digital technology on the world of opera. In general, it’s interesting to note how many experiments are being tried in the field of opera. I guess its history as the ultimate fusion of music, theatre and dance makes it entirely ripe as a field of multimedia and/or mixed media play.
With the coming of the web and now located mobile, though, we don't really need a big opera house in order to deliver something operatic, do we?
Or do we?