Digital

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Waiting Areas – Thomas Burden for Artfelt at Sheffield Children’s Hospital
Waiting Areas – Thomas Burden for Artfelt at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Photo Andy Brown

This is a developing resource exploring where and how digital meets culture, health and wellbeing.

What do we mean by 'digital'?

The insightful #MuseumHour Digital Special hosted by Hannah Mather earlier this autumn reaffirmed the challenges we all face trying to articulate what 'digital' means. 

Digital encompasses a vast range of technologies, applications and platforms employed for varying functions and purposes; from the use of apps to support day-to-day operations to enhancing the healing environment, or the virtual transportation of people to another time and place. Digital literacy and maturity varies across different segments of culture, health and wellbeing thanks to varying levels of investment, knowledge and workforce capacity. Perhaps the more pertinent question is: why digital? 

The relationship between humanity and technology has always been an area of curiosity and concern for artists, scientists and researchers alike. With the rapid upsurge in technological advancements and the hyper-presence of digital in our lives, it's a muse for content such as The Barbican's Life Rewired Series, and influences the ways we consider interacting with our audiences and each other.

There are exciting opportunities to increase access, develop new audiences and evoke empathy through digital devices, experiences and strategies. Combined with the sector's innate creativity and imagination, there is potential for new systems and vehicles for amplfying social impact and change, whilst (perhaps) reducing our environmental footprint.

However, there is still fear and anxiety around the implementation and impact of digital in both organisations and audiences, on both operational and ethical grounds. One recurring theme is the rapid development of AI technologies and automation: how will this impact on work, and subsequently the long-term health of individuals and communities? The lack of diversity within the workforce developing technologies - particularly AI - and the bias that might result from this, is another.

This resource aims to provide resources, thought-pieces, positive practice and starting points for individuals and organisations who are grappling with strategic, artistic and ethical questions about the place and role of digital in their work.

This page is intended to be an interactive document that changes over time and with your input. Please do contact us with any interesting articles, projects or developments.

Technology and Human Proximity: A guest blog by Invisible Flock

We asked the award-winning interactive arts studio Invisible Flock, who operate at the intersection of art and technology, to share insights into their practice and why digital/ why technology?

 

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A picture of two hands holding - wearing technological 'gloves' created by Invisible Flock's Dementia Peer Support Group in Leeds
Gloves by Invisible Flock, Dementia Peer Support Group, Leeds, images Anya Stewart-Maggs

"This is why we use technology and are constantly drawn back to it, by thinking of it in a malleable way. Like a medium, it allows us to uncover new aesthetics and new ways to approach conversations and real world interactions. The pervasiveness of digital tech across sectors and in all elements of our lives allows us to create work that can exist far beyond any traditional perception of art and rather allow it to participate directly in people’s lives and in the world around us."

Policy, Strategy and Thought Leadership

The DCMS Culture is Digital initiative and report is at the forefront of digital strategy and development within the cultural sector in the UK. Rt Hon. Matt Hancock writes in the introduction to the Culture is Digital report, 2018,

“ This Digital Culture Report focuses on the use of digital technology to drive our cultural sector’s global status and the engagement, diversity and well-being of audiences.

Building on commitments from the report, Arts Council England (ACE) and The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) are working with partners, including The Space, Culture 24 and The Audience Agency, to develop a Digital Code of Practice and Digital Maturity Index. ACE say that this will enable the sector to grow its digital capability, knowledge and ethical practice.

The Code and Index are set to be published late 2019 alongside the results of the ACE and Nesta's Digital Culture Survey, looking at the sector's position on digital practice.

Find out more about the Digital Rights Code from CEO/Creative Director of The Space, Fiona Morris, in Democratising digital arts for everyone

Culture24: Digital Practice for Social Purpose

Culture 24 provide practical and strategic advice for cultural organisations with audiences at the heart.  They are working to support organisations to develop digital literacy, content and strategies, whilst collaborating with partners from across the sector to delve into the ethics and values of digital approaches and engagement.

Their most recent Let's Get Real collaborative action research projects are exploring the relationship between digital practice/strategy and social purpose.

The Health Foundation: Making new technologies work for everyone

In response to the increase of anxiety about the impact of AI, automation and data-driven technologies on health and healthcare, the Health Foundation published a newsletter exploring these themes and presenting possible future-proofing in the post-digital era.

 

#NewFilters: to manage the impact of social media on young people’s mental health and wellbeing

#NewFilters is a report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Inquiry: “Managing the Impact of Social Media on Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing”.

This is the first national inquiry specifically examining the impact of social media on the mental health and wellbeing of young people, which ran from April 2018 to January 2019.

Resources and Sector Support

Here are links to key organisations with a digital focus, providing resources, articles and training opportunities for the arts and cultural sector.

The Space

The Space support the UK arts and cultural sector to make great art and reach new audiences using digital media, content and platforms. We provide commissioning support for arts and cultural organisations, and the artists they work with, plus training events and online resources. 

Digital Culture Network

In Spring 2019, in response to recommendations in the Culture is Digital report, Arts Council England launched a brand new Digital Culture Network to support the development of individual skills and the digital maturity of organisations across the arts and cultural sector in England.

 

AMA Digital Lab

The AMA, is national sector support organisation, with 25 years experience of supporting the arts and cultural sector to connect and reach with more and more diverse audiences. Their Digital Lab transforms digital practice through intensive mentoring, workshops, and peer support – all taking place online. Fellows are matched with an international specialist who mentors their work-based experiments, supporting an agile approach to their digital work.

CAST: Driving Social Change with Digital Technology

CAST offer services and workshops such as the “Design Hop’ workshops designed to demystify digital technology and support charities in thinking about how they could develop user-led digital services.

Tech for Better: Founders and Coders (London Based)

Founders and Coders provide a people peer-led learning based approach to coding workshops and bootcamps. Their Tech for Better programme gives social impact startups and nonprofits access to free opportunities to learn how to design, build and test new digital services.

Doteveryone: the responsible technology think tank

Doteveryone wants responsible technology to be the new normal so that it’s standard practice for business, baked into policymaking and expected by society.

They explore how technology is changing society.  They show what responsible technology can look like. And they catalyse communities to shape technology to serve people better.

Museum Next: Digital

Founded in 2009 in England, MuseumNext brings together a passionate community of museum leaders, makers and innovators to ask ‘what’s next for museums?’

They have an extensive resources of articles and blogs considering the intersection of Digital in museum practice and also hold Digital Summits across the world, bringing together leaders in the field.

Digital R&D Fund for the Art Archive

The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts supported ideas that use digital technology to build new business models and enhance audience reach for organisations with arts projects. Although the fund is now closed, The National Archive Service provide access to the website and resources.

The Museums Computer Group (MCG)

The Museums Computer Group (MCG) is a non-profit association of individuals, volunteers, who share a common interest in encouraging, improving and influencing best practice in the use of technology and digital platforms within the museum and heritage sector.

They organise yearly Museums+Tech conference and other events across the UK providing opportunities for knowledge-sharing and discussions about the use of technology within the sector.

Running a digital educational event in a museum or gallery

A step-by-step guide for museum educators and programmers to setting up and running digital events in museums and galleries by the V&A Museum.

Digital Strategy for Museums

Download a copy of the cog app Digital Strategy for Museums, includes guidance for developing your own strategy and other resources, publicised via Museum-ID.

Increasing Access and Online Interventions

The Slow GIF Movement seeks to make online space more inclusive with gently looping GIFs.

Award-winning artist Rhiannon Armstrong, supported by The Space and Unlimited, brings hers and others’ lived experience of neurodiversity to an understanding of how GIF culture is currently increasing the hostility of online space. The Slow GIF Movement seeks to rectify that with the creation of calming, gently looping GIFs and an invitation to others to take up the cause. 

Click here to find out more

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Snow Storm Steam Boat in Harbour
Joseph Mallord William Turner

Look at Paintings: a free-to-use website that combines Mindful meditation with Art Appreciation

'Look at Paintings', a free website which innovatively partners techniques of Mindful meditation with Art Appreciation, with the aim of producing immediate benefits to the viewer, has now gone live.

The creator of the resource, Wendy Teall's key aims are to support mental and physical wellbeing by giving people the means to enhance their own inner abilities to relax and cope better with the strains of life.

Creative Alternatives: Online Social Prescribing Pilot

Creative Alternatives‘ online pilot programme was modelled on the existing arts-on-prescription service in St.Helens, offering weekly creative and mindfulness-based activities.The online programme was built and delivered through a collaborative learning environment (CLE) which Alef Trust also utilises in the delivery of its online postgraduate programmes. The participants had access to an entire website accessible by sign-in, which featured written content, as well as videos and weblinks, pointing to additional resources.

 

Elemental: Social Prescribing

Elemental is a tech for good company led by former community development workers. They help organisations all around the world to enhance the impact of their social prescribing programmes via our award-winning portfolio of digital social prescribing products and consultancy services. 

As the leading digital social prescribing software provider in the UK, Elemental are bridging the gap between health, housing and the community with a range of digital solutions designed to support the strategy and practice of self care and independence.  

Transforming Realities: Art, Design and Augmented Reality in healthcare settings

Haematology and Oncology Unit – Leah Bartholomew for Artfelt at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Photo Jules Lister
Haematology and Oncology Unit – Leah Bartholomew for Artfelt at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Photo Jules Lister

Artfelt and Megaverse collaborated on an innovative project which uses technology to distract young patients from pain, stress and anxiety whilst undergoing treatment at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. The Treatment Rooms in their recently opened wing have been transformed into interactive arctic and woodland worlds, using augmented reality and 3D sound, combined with visual wall graphics to create an immersive environment.

Stories, Advocacy and Voice

Digital is changing the way we tell, share and experience stories. It is also deconstructing and re-imagining the power, influence and positioning of the participant/audience in the story-making process. Here are a few examples of how digital technology is enabling organisations and individuals to raise their voices, create new narratives, break down traditional service/user dynamics, building new forms of interactions.

#70Stories: Shanali Perera

"Using an app on my mobile to create digital art, helped to transform my illness experience into a more meaningful way of living, moving from clinician to patient. I have used colour as a method to document my observations and portray different energies surrounding ‘the essence of being a patient’, giving Visibility & Voice to my journey with Vasculitis."

Here is a poster Shanali created for the EACH Forum on Healthcare Communication.

Day in a Life: Pete Eliot of Instrumental Health

"Through the making of Instrumental Health, I interviewed so many inspiring people. It really was a massively important experience for me personally as I learnt more about myself and the mental health issues I’ve struggled with in silence for so many years. I also learnt so much about the mental health community and the work being done through all of the different topics I engaged with."

Teen Digital Takeover: Kids in Museums

Since 2014, Kids in Museums have held an annual Teen Twitter Takeover Day in August #TakeoverDay . This is a digital extension of the Takeover Day which aims to empower young people and give them different platforms to engage with museums, heritage and cultural organisations across the UK.

Stories from the Store- Science Museum

And example of digital storytelling applied to Museums practice, The Science Museum Group have developed the 'Stories from the Store', a new film series that takes audiences behind the scenes with curators to explore the archives and uncover untold stories.

Evoking Empathy: VR and Gaming

Virtual Reality (VR) is often termed as "the empathy machine". Researchers, neuroscientists, artists and social activists are testing, exploring and excited about the role of virtual reality in deepening empathy between people and people and planet to create a safer, happier and more sustainable world.

A charity called Checkpoint, has been created by gamers and mental professionals for the gaming community. It provides resources for mental health, games specifically designed for wellbeing and works to promote safe gaming activity and online communities.  

Below are a few articles exploring the potential of VR and gaming to immerse people in different worlds and human experiences to grow awareness, shift mindsets and change behaviours.

A Future World

A Future World: Marina Abramoric on using VR and empathy to help save the world, published online by Dazed, brings insights and reflections on using technology to immerse people in a powerful interpersonal experience to bring focus and action against an universal threat, in this case, climate change.

Games for Wellbeing: Empathy for the Blocks in Thomas Was Alone (2012)

The Polyphony, a new platform for conversations across the medical humanities, published this report from guest author Agata Waszkiewicz.

This article also gives reference to Checkpoint, "a charity that provides mental health resources for gamers and the gaming community".

The Virtual Human Interaction Lab

The Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University, were involved in creating the VR Experience 'Becoming Homeless' which was used in a study in 2018 that reinvigorated the conversation about VR's capability to stimulate more empathy than other, more traditional mediums.  The lab also explores other digital mediums, such as AR, when considering the interplay of and impact on human interaction within digital environments.

Funding

Digital approaches and development are key priorities for most of the sector's big funders; both within their own organisations and the work they are looking to fund.

The National Lottery Fund recently announced the first cohort of projects, sharing £3.4million of their Digital Fund, enabling charities to build digital infrastructure and capabilities in response to communities' needs. Read the full article here.

Tom Steinberg, Digital Lead at The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), marks a year on from the publication of the Culture is Digital Report with a blog, How we are planning to boost the heritage sector's digital potential . This documents NLHF's progress so far, sharing how they are "taking a journey to digital confidence" with and alongside the heritage sector.

This shared digital agenda has also instigated partnership funding programmes, bringing together large funding bodies and tech experts to bring about more innovation and social impact, such as CreativeXR (Arts Council, Digital Catapult and Innovate UK) and the Tech for Good Fund (Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Comic Relief).

Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive of Paul Hamlyn Foundation commented:

“The latest round of grants continues to demonstrate the power of tech to find new ways to address disadvantage. We look forward to seeing how these ideas evolve with access to tailored tech support and valued partnerships backing people to pursue their vision for social change.”

Comic Relief’s CEO Liz Warner added: “We’re pleased to be supporting another Tech for Good cohort, responding to a diversity of social issues, and helping them put the needs of the people they serve at the heart of their digital development.”

To read more

Tech for Good

Paul Hamyln Trust and Comic Relief have joined forces to provide the Tech for Good Fund.  A programme set up to support charities who are using technology to deliver new ideas and make their services more effective. Alongside funding the selected projects will also receive expertise and mentorship from leading tech experts and firms.

Funding again in February 2020.

Creative XR

Creative XR gives creative talent the opportunity to experiment with immersive technologies to create new experiences that inspire audiences.

The programme, developed by Digital Catapult and Arts Council England, with support from Innovate UK, offers access to early stage finance, facilities, industry leaders and commissioning bodies, and the opportunity to pitch for further development funding.

Social Tech Trust (formerly Nominet)

Social Tech Trust (formely Nominet) is a charity that challenges themselves and others to think differently about the relationship between tech and society. They provide the investment and support needed for social tech ventures to grow and scale their social impact.

Events and Training

Digital Culture Network and Google Arts and Culture launch partnership training programme

Arts Council interviews Lucy Schwartz from Google Arts and Culture about their new two year partnership and plans to run 12 digital workshop days across the country to boost the digital skills of the sector.

REMIX Summit London- January 2020

REMIX explores the intersection between culture, technology and entrepreneurship. 

REMIX Global Summits bring together pioneers from different industries to explore the future of culture, creative cities and the creative economy. They are a forum where creative leaders from different sectors can exchange insights, ideas and work together towards common goals. 

Leeds Digital Festival 2020

Leeds: The Digital Capital of the North, 20th April to 1st May 2020.

The Leeds Digital Festival #LeedsDigi2020 is an open platform event, which means anyone can take part. In 2019, the festival attracted 25,000 attendees across 240 events with 750 speakers in 96 venues.