Drawing upon previous fieldwork in Cape Town, we produced a lo-fi, easily-reproducable, field-guide/manual in the form of a ‘zine entitled ‘how to make a music video’. The ‘zine is available both as a hard-copy, distributed via Hype Magazine (a Cape Town-based underground hip-hop magazine) and is also available as a free pdf online.
The guide features illustrations by Guy Schofield, which are based on the ‘cinehacks’ we field-tested in Cape Town in February 2014.
Each hack is contextualised and illustrated further with stills from the music videos we co-produced in Cape Town.
Since the phrase ‘Digital Public Space’ was coined (Ageh, 2012), the notion of a ‘digital public space’ has been explored and problematized through a variety of research projects through the Creative Exchange (CX) Knowledge Exchange (KE) framework. While the original definition of the term continues to influence discourses across CX, its explicit link to BBC digital archives has been supplemented with a variety of insights from on-the-ground researchers. A series of mini-workshops, led by Bowers and Stewart, at the CX PhD symposium in Newcastle in July 2014 revealed diverse impressions of ‘digital public space’ across CX and the need for an improved working definition.
The question of how to synthesise insights from across CX is one of its central reflexive questions and, indeed, first-hand accounts of ‘digital public space’ from the variety of creative practitioners and academic researchers in CX have yet to be documented.
Video documentaries offer a rich platform for epistemological and semantic exploration within research by using narrative forms to structure complex multimedia data. In this paper, we present Digital Question Space, a video documentary inspired by Question Bridge (Johnson & Thomas, 2012) which used a chain of responses and questions to “facilitate a dialogue between a critical mass of black men from diverse and contending backgrounds”. Starting with a subjective definition of ‘digital public space’, we invited 18 Creative Exchange researchers (PhD students and senior academics) to respond to the previous definition and “improve upon it”, “expound upon (an aspect of) it”, or “ignore and redefine it”.
The result is a 15-minute documentary that presents a series of subjective facets of the ‘Digital Public Space’ through the voices of those who have been working in it and with it in the Creative Exchange Hub for the last 9-24 months.
We developed this idea into a prototype method for civic engagement that uses interactive video documentary to capture discourses within focused settings (eg workshops or focus groups) and translocate them to public spaces (via interactive vox-pops) and online spaces (via an interactive web- based tool). Our method aims to facilitate encounters and the exchange of perspectives between communities across these spaces. We describe how the method was developed through five stages, beginning with a workshop and culminating in a prototype design tool and offer preliminary insights into its potential benefits. We argue that a key strength of this method lies in its potential to support situated encounters and build connections between researchers, designers, institutions and members of the public, with potential benefits in the areas of user-centered research and design. Finally, we outline directions for future development, including a model for lightweight civic engagement that uses an “interactive design documentary” as a central component.
A full-text write up of this project was accepted as a work-in-progress at TVX2015, which can be found here:
Red Tales is a participatory interactive documentary about red squirrel conservation in the UK. It is composed entirely of user-generated content from diverse and geographically separated conservation communities across the UK. It features a variety of video, image, sound and text-based content, representing contributions from over 40 individuals. A unique, dynamically-generated introduction sequence (composed from the user-generated content) sets the scene for the documentary and introduces a suite of interactive navigational tools that help audiences explore and create their own interpretations of the content.
Rather than being a ‘standalone’ film, Red Tales integrates with existing ecologies, both online (via social media) and offline (via different co-located communities). Users can ‘curate’ and share collections of existing content, as well as add new content to the “living” documentary. Our aim was to reflect the heterogeneity of the content as well as the ‘unresolved’ nature of the topic. Thus, rather than presenting a linear narrative, audiences are invited to explore and contribute to the documentary through a technical framework and an interaction paradigm that builds equally upon current research in documentary/media studies and social computing, and pioneering interactive documentaries (e.g. Bear71 / 18 Days in Egypt).
Red Tales was produced through participatory workshops and developed in response to an ethnographic study of the red squirrel conservation community that revealed its inherent diversity, shared concerns and hundreds of individuals’ stories. The collaborative, multidisciplinary and participatory approach used in the development of the film demonstrates the potential of a new configuration for academic and third sector engagement, developed by the AHRC Creative Exchange Knowledge Exchange Hub. Furthermore, our ambitious, experimental filmmaking process yielded valuable insights into the practicalities of media production within the ‘digital economy’, particularly in relation to forging new experiences, supporting grassroots communities and production methods for co-creative, non-linear documentary narratives.
The Create4Dementia hack event hosted 50+ hackers with skills in software, design and healthcare to develop innovative technologies for those living with dementia in 24 hours. The team from Open Lab – Team Sonar – consisted of Andy Garbett, Ed Jenkins, Dan Richardson, Tom Nappey and Reuben Kirkham were awarded with the ‘Most Provocative Concept’ by the judges for their prototype location tracking and ambient display.
The day began with orientation presentations from leading experts in the field of health research around dementia, local care providers and technologists. During these presentations it became apparent we as care providers and developers of technology are quick to use technology on, rather than with, those living with dementia without considering the impacts this may have. Therefore the Affinity concept aims to turn the tables and enforce that carers use an app that records their location and makes that available to the person living with dementia through an ambient display.
The Affinity prototype consists of an ambient display that can be used as a clock face as well as a display that shows the person living with dementia an abstracted overview of where family members are and how close they might be to their current location. They can then send a notification to the carer’s smartphone who will then be prompted to contact their loved one. The second part of the system is the quantification of care in which care providers are being tracked and statistics are used to critically encourage competition between care providers and empower the person living with dementia.
The concept of tracking the those who track others raised questions around the negative implications of what might happen in the future and opened the debate into how we should proceed in the area of tracking those living with dementia.
App Movement is a platform that was developed at Open Lab which enables any individual, community or organisation to propose, design and automatically generate a multi-platform mobile application.
The platform raises research questions around the implications of community commissioning for mobile technologies as well as the use of technology to centralise, vocalise and design for issues within communities to support civic action.
App Movement is a platform that allows anyone with an app idea to start a campaign and gather support from the community. Much like crowdfunding platforms, such as Kick Starter, the campaign must hit a target number of supporters in order to confirm there is a real demand behind the idea. This target also ensures that the app will have a sufficient number of users who are ready to contribute content and promote the app. Once the app has reached it’s target it will enter the design phase whereby supporters can contribute towards the app name, colour scheme and rating options as well as vote on submissions made by other members. This democratic process allows every community member to have an equal say on the final design of the app. Once this phase is complete the idea moves to the final phase where the mobile app is automatically generated using the design features voted for by the community.
Bootlegger is a revolutionary new tool for shooting live event videos using mobile phones. Musicians and fans can connect using Bootlegger to produce high-quality multi-camera concert films. Bootlegger acts as director and producer, coordinating camera operators, suggesting shots and collecting footage. During the gig, the Bootlegger app allocates shots according to where you are in the venue. Fans at the front might be asked to grab closeups while those at the back are given wide shots. For consistency, example compositions are shown as overlays on the screen.
To keep things interesting, Bootlegger suggests different shots and compositions guaranteeing great coverage. Operators are automatically set to ‘go live’ by the app and warned if another phone can’t get a shot, meaning no gaps. After the show Bootlegger uploads videos to the cloud automatically and securely, enabling musicians to keep control of their live content. Any number of phones can be used for a single event. Shows can be private, with an invited team or made public so any audience member with a smartphone can participate.
Bootlegger is part of a project exploring the democratization of music production: musicians are using digital tools to take control of their recording and distribution.
Bootlegger enables music fans and musicians to collaborate seamlessly, providing a forum where everyone’s creative input can be judged on its own terms.
Bootlegger teaches film-making conventions to non-expert users: we are exploring whether the resulting videos are more persuasive, more engaging and more powerful as a promotional tool.
Cinehack is about hacking film. It’s about the stuff you won’t learn at film school…
Cinehack’s aim is to support lo/no-budget filmmakers and provide a place to gain and share insights which might be interesting to newbie movie-makers and cinematic old-hats alike; all the while building a community of ‘cinehackers’ who can share knowledge and ideas. We also provide links to the many other areas of relevant activity elsewhere on the web, through more general sites such as Instructables, LifeHacker and other ‘maker’ communities. Cinehack covers many of the complex, expensive and difficult technical aspects of film-making, from quadcopter aerial shots to building a motion control rig for <£100. Some of these techniques we’ve developed ourselves, some we’ve borrowed from clever people who weren’t afraid to improvise and refused to be constrained by budget, contacts or imagination!
In collaboration with Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, Nesta and Microsoft Research a discovery search interface was developed that aims to improve public access and engagement with digital heritage collections. The exploratory web platform and novel search interface is implemented for Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums’ online collections and aims to encourage people to search and discover museum content online.
The seamless designed website invites users to dive into the collection and enables the experience of serendipity while browsing through artefacts. Adapting the users’ scrolling speed the interface either keeps displaying related items or presents random new topics. Storing items that have been clicked on the website allows users to go back in their browsing experience. Also, a map view presents all items that are stored and their relations to each other. This feature provides the user with the opportunity to find more related content to collection items and to use this as a starting point for a new search.
Using either email or social media, a browsing experience can be shared with the world.
By the end of the project in late August 2015, the development will have gone through three iterations of user testing and improvement. The novel web interface and search engine will be developed to:
Transform the object catalogue into a playful museum experience that invites users to easily discover objects from Tyne and Wear Archives and Museum’s vast collections.
Create a new model of search and discovery. The search model for museum collections is traditionally designed for research audiences who know what they are looking for. This project expands the reach for museum collections by designing for non-research audiences and delivering content that provokes serendipitous discovery of cultural content.
Turn a static data collection into a living, evolving digital archive. User-centered systems will be developed to capture audience interaction with collections. The search engine iterates over time as audiences explore, continually refining its understanding of what web content is most likely to provoke a user journey through museum collections.
Cinehack: Cape Town is a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project, which involved the production of music videos with musicians from the Cape Town Hip hop community. PAR involves working closely with communities to “address questions and issues that are significant for those who participate as co-researchers” (Reason and Bradbury, 2008). In this study, we worked with five musicians and groups of musicians, including a pilot study in Amsterdam with Mingus (a.k.a X24th). In Cape Town, we worked with ‘The Archetypes’ (a 3-MC crew from Guguletu), ‘BFK’ (an MC from Firgrove who works closely with producers J-Beatz and Evo), ‘Die Skerpste Lem’ (aka Lee-Urses Alexander, a respected MC from Paarl) and ‘The AA Meetings’ (a collective from Guguletu, led by Khobs Makuba, which also includes members of ‘The Archetypes’).
We designed the study around a cyclical ‘plan > produce > reflect > adapt’ process. Through each consecutive production, beginning with Mingus and finishing with The AA Meetings, we adapted the process, based on our previous experiences, to try to offer as much of the creative process to the artists as possible. The idea behind this was to sow the seed of a sustainable community of video production and learn what support might be valuable to the community and how best this might be delivered.
1) Mingus – ‘Stay’ – We worked closely together with Mingus, collaboratively discussing locations, sequences, shots and compositions for a couple of weeks beforehand. Mingus provided us with a lot of materials which suggested a particular ‘style’ of video; city-based, urban, laid-back, dawn/dusk lighting… as well as some ideas for specific shots. We produced the video together over 3 days at locations chosen and organised by Mingus and edited it afterwards based on A structure designed by Mingus. The final video can be seen here:
2) The Archetypes – ‘Black or White’ – Archetypes were our first collaborators in Cape Town, so we tried to hit the ground running. On the first night in town, we met and discussed influences, but the ideas for the video were a combination of improvised locations and ad-hoc performances over the next few days. the main difference was that there were three different ideas to include. The concept of ‘a trip to the beach’ was conceived (though never committed to any form of document) by the group, but Guy and I took the lead on shot composition and direction. The editing was completed over two days in liaison with Sole & Lolo, but was mastered by Guy. The resulting video can be seen here;
3) BFK – ‘Anyway’ – On this shoot we left a lot of the creative decision-making to BFK, Evo and J-Beatz, everything from planning and locations to cinematography and editing. We took a step back and advised, and acted as technical operators of the cameras (predominantly the Canon EOS 5D mkii that we had also used to shoot both the previous videos), but the majority of the sequences, shots and locations were designed and shot by BFK, Evo and J-Beatz. Over the course of thee meetings in the week leading up to the shoot, we designed and built hardware (including a flexible dolly rig) while the guys sourced props and extras (including B-Boys) needed to realise their vision. The editing was compled by Evo, using a loaned laptop with Adobe Premiere CS6, with a minimal amount of help and guidance from us.
4) Die Skerpste Lem – ‘Steck Op Hede’ – This video was planned and designed by Lee and shot entirely on his iPhone, using a home-made steadicam designed in 3D software by Guy and printed on a commercial 3D printer. The shoot was completed in a single day and edited the following day, with Lee’s input, before being mastered and graded based on Lee’s specification. It was filmed in Lee’s home town of Paarl. Although this was the most technically lightweight shoot, we brought more of our own expertise into the process.
The ReflecTable is a digital learning environment that explores how design games and video-led reflection might be combined to bridge the gap between the theoretical and practical components of design education. The concept seeks to leverage the qualities of exploratory design games and video to inspire design students to critically reflect upon the relationship between their evolving design practices and the theories and techniques they are taught in lectures, by allowing them to capture, review and reflect upon short videos of a design game.
So far, we have conducted nine studies of the ReflecTable with both design students and interaction designers. The findings of these studies suggest that the ReflecTable has the potential to support design students in understanding how the theoretical concepts (vocabulary) and methods (procedures) relate to different design situations and their own evolving design practices. Further studies are ongoing that seek to further validate the concept.
The ReflecTable project is a collaboration with Patrick Olivier, Thomas Hjermitslev (Aarhus University) and Ole Iversen (Aarhus University).