BEYOND Art will serve IMPAKT as a tool for our programming, curation and communication in 2020 and beyond. But more importantly we see the great potential in this project in the further development in the platform and collaboration with partners in the cultural sector and others. From the beginning of this process we believed that IMPAKT’s work with and distinct focus on new media and cutting-edge technology, places us in a unique position to address and ultimately provide solutions to these issues. We not only exhibit this groundbreaking art, technologies and thinking but are deeply critical and reflective on the impact they have on our society and on us as individuals.
Fundamentally, as a sector we are heading towards digitisation: the digitisation of promotion, the digitisation of engagement and information and the digitisation of archiving. We think all of our deliverables testify to a helpful approach to research and a solid understanding of how to go about a project like this in the digital era, in a way that stays true to our curatorial goals, creates meaningful dialogue with audiences in a way they desire, and how to do so in a way that the complex issues we explore deserve.
This is by no means the first art platform of its kind, but we believe we are working on a project that has some crucial features that distinguish it from the others on the market today and make widely applicable to the cultural sector. Below we will outline what we think are the main outcomes, successes and lessons that we have learned as an organisation throughout this process. We will also explore what we see as the future of this project.
We managed to prepare everything in time for the festival, a prototype for BEYOND ART with all of the content, research and audio visual material embedded for Speculative Interfaces and also to convert our Future of the Past project into the app. We readied QR codes for interaction with all work in our exhibition, released the platform online through BEYOND ART and in the Apple and Google Store and produced promotional material to spread the word about BEYOND ART at the festival. We think this iterative design thinking process made this possible and allowed us to constantly reflect on our work and challenge our assumptions. This is something we would like to take with us and emphasise even more in our work as we proceed with this project in the future.
Repeatable Methodology for Research: We believe that the design thinking methodology for research and practice outlined above and we have imbued in our project, combined with the model of thinking through art events with the BEFORE, DURING and AFTER principle can prove very fruitful for future projects in the cultural field.
Propositions for a Future Platform: We have developed a solid foundation and a clear way forward to produce a flexible and modular platform. We have created the BEYOND ART platform so that we can continuously adapt, update and develop innovative digital solutions to existing and emerging issues in the arts field.
Propositions for a Networked platform: We have produced ideas, plans and are in the process of implementing links digitally between the cultural, technological and educational sectors through a mutually beneficial network.
The Prototype of the BEYOND ART platform: We created a prototype of BEYOND ART and audio, visual and textual content that deepens critical and meaningful engagement between artists, practitioners, art institutions and our audiences. It can be used as an app on smartphones, or in a web format on a computer. Using BEYOND ART our audiences can immediately access guided tours, discussions between experts, in-depth video interviews and other inspiring media and content.
Results Widely Applicable to Cultural Sector
We believe that all of the deliverables are widely applicable to the cultural sector. Fundamentally, as a sector we are heading towards digitisation; the digitisation of promotion, engagement, information and archiving. We think our deliverables testify to an effective approach for a project like this in the digital era, that stays true to our curatorial goals, creates meaningful dialogue with audiences in a way they desire, and in a way that the complex issues we explore deserve. This is by no means the first art platform or app of its kind, but we believe we are working on a project that has some crucial features that distinguish it from the others on the market today and make it widely applicable to the cultural sector.
1. We fundamentally think the idea of allowing all of our audiences to use the BEYOND ART platform to access a series of networked art institutions gives us the unique ability to create a platform that goes beyond a one-time gimmick that our audiences download and delete after an art event. Instead, we have created a framework that together we can connect our users and institutions, turning any art experience with the platform into an expansive, engaging and interactive one that our audiences can consistently use regardless of the event or institution.
2. This is a platform designed by and for the arts sector, and the audiences we know, connect and communicate with everyday, rather than an easy-fix by the outside world. The easily customisable template we have created allows us to keep the content and curation specialised to our own institutions but take full advantage of the aforementioned network.
3. BEYOND ART provides the possibility to collaborate with partners other than cultural institutions, like: educators, artists, technologists, designers, and archivists. We are passionate about collaborating with these partners. It allows us to work together on concepts and ideas that we are often already doing simultaneously but remain oblivious to. Together we can enrich the layers of information available to all of our audiences. Universities and educational institutions are early passionate collaborators on the project and see the distinct potential in this platform.
BEYOND ART will serve IMPAKT as a tool for our programming, curation and communication in 2020 and into the future. However, more importantly we see the great potential of this project in the further development of the platform and collaboration with partners in the cultural sector and others. We see ourselves at IMPAKT as a centre of knowledge, information providers and facilitators for this project. We have created a flexible toolbox ultimately applicable to all art institutions.
We believe with further support by funding bodies in the cultural sector we can provide access to a toolbox for our cultural partners; provide the facilities and framework for setup, maintenance and content management; and provide our partners with content consultancy, in-depth research and engaging audio visual content creation at a professional standard.
Answering the Research Question
We believe we have answered the research question for ourselves and have developed a flexible answer for all of our colleagues in the cultural sector. We are now focussed on honing and refining how we can fully communicate this to our partners in the field and all of our collective audiences. We are determined to clearly articulate the added value to all of our stakeholders that is provided by a digital solution that creates and sustains long lasting, deep and personal connections between artworks, artists, art institutions, academia and fundamentally our audiences. Rather than just suggesting that we have answered the research question we set out to address, we believe that given our goals for sharing and disseminating knowledge gained through the process, it is most beneficial for us herein to investigate some of the key lessons we learned throughout the process and are still working on to implement in our platform as we proceed.
Main Lessons Learned
Through this project and the methodology we have employed, we have learned some really important lessons. These lessons were mainly gleaned from our in-depth research (surveys, focus groups, creative brainstorming, public forums and expert meetings) with our diverse audiences and partners in the cultural field and connected sectors. This too has been refined and clarified by our collaboration and evaluation sessions with DEN. At the beginning of the process, after pitching our initial ideas for BEYOND ART, the DEN Open Call jury advised us that we should focus on a smaller amount of features in order to optimise them. However, we were passionate about the project having advanced and diverse technological capacity, so after extended consultation and research with experts in the field we devised a plan to address this issue. For the prototype we developed for the IMPAKT Festival 2019, we decided not to focus on developing features such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Live Voting and Live Q&A, but designed and developed the project with a modular approach so that both we and our partners could later explore all of these features. The main lessons that we learned through this process for us can be broken down into: what we successfully achieved, what we learned that we can improve on, what we learned that is applicable to the entire cultural sector, and what we learned for moving forward with BEYOND ART.
What we successfully achieved: Our audience and partners are especially impressed, engaged with and see the benefit of the following features: audio/video guided tours and artist introductions, information pertaining to an artist’s background, thematic exploration, key questions interview videos, behind the scenes content, expert chat videos and texts, archives of event recordings and hyperlinks to research (academic and more general). They are also excited by the ability to favourite content in the app (media, artists and artwork) for both methods of building personal collections and for sharing. We also learned throughout the process, the importance and the key methods of producing high quality AV content. This both includes the format for this media and the technical requirements. Our users are all impressed and engaged with the high quality standard of media and content we were able to produce.
What we learned that we can improve on: From our in-depth research and open forums we also learned from our audience that there are some aspects of the platform that are crucial for us to improve, some of which we already had plans to develop after our prototype and others that our users enlightened us to. Our users want us to focus on: interactive introductions for using the platform; more links to future events, podcasts, existing online content (e.g. YouTube and social media platforms); implementing more AV content in the platform and less explanatory textual layers; interactive maps; discussion boards; notifications for new content; and the ability to personalise schedule a timetable for event attendance. We have learned a couple of key qualities that we would like to focus on developing in the next stages of the project: collaborating with and involving artists in the platform itself, providing more innovative interaction for our younger audiences, focusing on allowing our audiences to feel connected to an exhibition space and the social aspect of an art event through producing less sensorially intensive content. However, our users are most excited by the prospect of BEYOND ART becoming a networked platform that involves and links multiple cultural institutions.
What we learned that is relevant for the entire cultural sector: We believe that the lessons we learned that are relevant for the cultural sector can be summed up by the following: No Assumptions, Communicate the Journey, Provide Incentives, The Importance of the Offline World and Remember the Initial Spark… the WHY.
No Assumptions: It is easy to make a lot of assumptions while designing a project of this nature that uses digital technology. Those mainly around: who wants it, who can and will use it and who thinks they need it. To address this we have been in constant and open dialogue with our partners in the cultural sector and with our audiences, so that their needs and desires are central in our work.
Communicating The Journey: Importantly to tackle avoiding assumptions in our work, we have learned that we need to take all of our end users on the journey with us. We are now focussed and determined to communicate our concept with clarity and simplicity. This is to ensure that the capacity of the platform is visible and palpable for our users and partners, and so we can clearly explain the qualities that make the platform unique and beneficial. This focus on communication also means for us developing collaborative and co-learning relationships with our partners in the cultural sector, this is the key reason for calling our project BEYOND ART rather than anything specifically IMPAKT branded, to express that this network proposition is a new venture that can be mutually beneficial for all of us.
Incentives: We have learned that another key way of communicating the qualities of a project like this is to succinctly outline the incentives for both partners and audiences. For BEYOND ART these incentives centre around: building networked cultural communities, establishing a simple to set-up and customise template for our partners, seducing our users with high quality content and ease of use, providing extra layers of information and developing a capacious modular approach. In the future we will look to develop some features and methods to further incentivise our audiences to use our platform, including: developing several user types for the platform to further personalise and customise use, connections to academic institutions (with links to curriculums, courses and academic discourse), developing links to social media platforms, building in the capacity for ticketing and booking, and finally all those features made possible by our modular approach (VR, AR and user created content etc.).
The Importance of the Offline World: Technology alone is not usually the answer to the issues we are trying to address. We have learned the importance of using the infrastructures and systems we already have in place in the tangible world in tandem with technology to respond to these issues. This includes: putting in place good access points for discussing your idea, holding open discussions and forums, hosting help desks and opening all channels of contact to accept feedback and explore these issues with your audience as deep as they are willing to let you. We have also learned very clearly that there is a tension between the digital – and the social, collective and experiential qualities of an audience’s engagement with art. For example, people sometimes prefer audio via our platform, so that they can visually focus on the art exhibition or event they are attending. In an exhibition the exhibited works are the most important and the interaction with the platform should not keep visitors from engaging with the works or interacting with their fellow visitors. This too has ramifications for the length of the content (video, audio or text) people want to be offered, which depends on the type of audience and the setting. We are developing responses to deal with this through appropriate content but also thinking of ways to encourage dialogue in the offline world through the platform.
Remember the initial spark… THE WHY: All of the aforementioned lessons really coalesce with this final point. And ultimately address the most infuriating but inspiring question: why should anybody care? and, why did we care to begin with? We are learning how to articulate the why, simply, and how to express the why for each individual user. Crystalising this WHY helps you: avoid Assumptions, remember the reason for the Journey all together, convey the Incentives, and communicate and respond to people’s desires and needs in the real Offline World.
What we learned moving for moving forward with BEYOND ART
Overall, we believe BEYOND ART is mostly suited for organisations that have a strong focus on content, is already developing high quality media and has an audience that is interested in engaging with additional content. This for us is who we believe we should target first as potential partners. This includes working with partners such as: Utrecht Centraal Museum, FOAM or the van Abbe Museum. However, IMPAKT can also serve as an organisation that can help a cultural institution new to this type of work to produce high quality AV content, prepare and facilitate interviews and develop research and deeper links to an organisation’s curatorial work. Furthermore, BEYOND ART’s modular approach allows these organisations to choose from a variety of features, so it can also be used as a template for an app that is focussing on communicating basic information (What can I see, Where and When). We in fact learned from input we received and our own observations that different audiences are interested in different kinds of interaction depending on: the audiences ages, the atmosphere and setting of the art event and the content of the programming. We will take these lessons with us as we proceed with developing the platform in the future.
Generic Insights and Knowledge
- Relevance for the sector
We believe that the design thinking and looped methodology we employed within this project can be immensely beneficial for the cultural sector at large when approaching digital projects. This for us means having a thorough research process that foregrounds co-creation with a cultural institution’s audience, partners and experts. This allows you as an organisation to retain your goals and research question, but be adaptable to others ideas, inputs, needs and ultimately to produce a network of audiences, institutions and partners that is mutually beneficial. In terms of opportunities for further development and cooperation, this means we are now effectively placed to further develop our platform with the collaboration of cultural institutions, the education sector, technologists, artists, designers, archivists. Keeping this network in mind as we developed our platform can be equally helpful for other institutions developing similar projects. It allows you to step back from your project and consider the requirements and desires of the entire sector and reveals the assumptions, gaps in knowledge and potentials which would otherwise remain obscure if you only focussed on your institution.
- Digital innovation method
In addition to the lessons we learned relevant to the entire cultural sector, mentioned in Part 1 of this document, we believe that the digital working method required for a project of this nature is different from our regular processes as cultural institutions. This in turn requires us all to be aware of some specific approaches when developing and enacting our methodologies for digital projects. These approaches include: Project Management (ensuring we have simple, efficient and shared management digital tools to keep track of our progress, upcoming timelines and any foreseen bottlenecks), Agility (not sticking rigidly or stubbornly to a plan, with a digital project, instead we must be ready to rethink, reevaluate and reorient our approach), Ambition (it is easy with a digital project to be overambitious, as everything appears easy and achievable in the digital space, but every extra ambition costs time and money, and is not necessarily the only solution to the issues we are addressing), Cross-Functional Expertise (conducting dialogue with a range of experts that are not only in the digital sphere is crucial, this keeps our projects grounded in the needs of our users and partners), Communication (take our audience and partners with us through our projects by being honest, clear and open to criticism) and Logging (it easy with a digital project to forgo keeping notes, records and audio visual documentation, as there is not always something tangible to capture, but this is crucial for all of our communication internally and externally).
- Business model
In terms of the future of BEYOND ART and the Business Model we will implement there are several key considerations: further development, financial requirements and a business strategy. For further development we intend on focussing on: modular technology advancements, building a strong network with our partners, establishing a safe and easy mode for archiving content, developing a digital maintenance strategy and promoting our platform. In order to do this we will focus on acquiring national cultural funding and pursuing European Union subsidy programmes. We will also research and pursue financial and collaborative partnerships with cultural institutions and relevant external sectors. IMPAKT will also focus on developing a sustainable business model for the future of the platform, that allows us to continue with the open network approach. We have developed the BEYOND ART platform so that it is entirely open to be added to and furthered by our partners. We have also built the platform on a web based service so that it is modular, that is to say, that as a collective of cultural institutions we can update and add features with technological developments and our own ideas. We want to build BEYOND ART into a networked platform where art institutions and their audiences can connect and share information and content. As soon as a partner is on board with the project, we will give them the freedom to make adjustments and developments to the platform and code for their institutions page and projects. IMPAKT as an institution will initially provide access to a toolbox for our cultural partners for free, and as we grow, we will develop a modest subscription based business plan structured around payment for setup, maintenance and content management. We will supplement this when necessary for our partners, by providing content consultancy, in-depth research and engaging audio visual content creation.
The BEYOND ART platform puts the control literally in the hands of our audience and allows them to engage with our work in a new, meaningful, empowering and inspiring way. With BEYOND ART we have created a template that can be easily customised for any art institution. We are confident that we have a well developed prototype and overall proof of concept that will be eligible and ultimately successful for future funding. We see this project as having three steps:
Step 1: The development of the prototype for IMPAKT Festival and programming in 2019, which we are now at the end of.
Step 2: Our next step, which we are presently working on for 2020, is to further develop the platform so that it is ready and fully beneficial to all of our partners and colleagues in the cultural sector. We will research and develop modular advancements to the platform that allow us to include: connections with social media platforms, immersive VR and AR technologies, collaboration with artists on unique digital projects, digital co-creation and co-curation by our audiences, interactive multimedia narratives, online exhibitions and events, and enlivening archives within the interface itself. To do so we will secure further funding to develop the platform and by exploring and deepening partnerships with art institutions and education institutions in the Netherlands.
Step 3: In 2021 and beyond we aim to first get a steady and solid base of domestic partners on board to create a sustainable and impactful platform for a network of organisations. Ultimately with the goal to take the BEYOND ART platform and its domestic network towards developing an application for a European wide platform through European Union funding.
We are really excited about the next stages of this project. Ultimately, we are passionate and see great value in helping our collective audiences DISCOVER WHAT’S BEYOND THE ART THEY LOVE.
Beyond our next strategy with this platform, at IMPAKT we are still in the process of understanding and measuring the impact of platform on our visitor engagement and how we can improve this especially in the light of COVID-19. Our feedback from surveys on the platform’s ability to change the way an exhibition is navigated and engaged with has been overwhelmingly positive, but we have some exciting ideas in progress.
Modular system, innovative updates
BEYOND Art is a flexible interface that our partners can customise for their needs and audiences, furthermore we have de- veloped the platform in a way that we can continuously update and develop innovative digital solutions to existing and emerging issues in the arts field. As technological capabilities advance we can swiftly adapt to them and implement them in BEYOND. From the prototype, we will begin researching and developing modular advancements to the platform that allow us to include: connections with social media platforms, immersive VR and AR technologies, collaboration with artists on unique digital projects, digital co-creation and co-curation by our audiences, interactive multimedia narratives, online exhibitions and events, and enlivening archives within the interface itself.
Connecting with younger audiences
IMPAKT is committed to reaching and engaging meaningfully with younger audiences. With BEYOND Art we have produced a platform that uses formats/mediums younger audiences are native to and familiar with. The platform enables curators and programmers to directly communicate with innovative digital tools that enhance younger audiences experiences with our institutions.
BEYOND Art allows organizers to include content from artists and speakers that are not able to physically attend an event. It will allow organizers to reduce expenses in their budget and the ecological footprint of their events, through decreasing the number of guests that need to fly in. This will allow us to highlight and engage with content that time and budgetary constraints usually prevent. The BEYOND project is part of IMPAKT’s policy to increase the impact of our work and reflects our dedication to increasing audience engagement but decreasing the ecological footprint of our programming.