When Skinder first asked me to help on a digital project, I was excited but unsure how an art centre with such a traditional style of visual arts would be able to achieve this.Previous tech projects I have been involved with were mostly self funded community websites, or involved working with small groups of people who met online to create a gaming community. These sites were great. I learnt a lot about what makes a community successful and what can make it divided. All of this work had a fairly loose structure and was very much a spare-time thing.
When presented with the challenge, Skinder and I started brainstorming to come up with ideas. The initial ideas were strong but a few were pretty obscure - particularly the giant robot head on the side of NAE that used image recognition software to scan people and then greet them with their name.
We soon whittled it down to one pretty complex, but strong concept. This was spurred on by suggestions from the wider team at NAE and the idea became more defined. We thought: ‘what can NAE offer to help bring people into the centre?’ The answer we came to was the community. If we could filter this amazingly diverse and talented community into a showcase of some kind, people would see how vibrant the place is, or be drawn to the centre via a route they would not usually have taken.We started off thinking about areas and fixing the location to capture the local community’s content and display it. We initially thought of simply drawing a square of a mile around the area on map and then collecting the data and displaying it at an event.
We soon realised that this was very limited, as we would keep getting similar content and it could go stagnant. We also found a similar art project called square mile (guess great minds think alike). This is when we thought that the square could expand and retract. Then we thought that the shape of the square was too restrictive. What if somebody wanted to join and lived just outside the edge of the boundary? So we decided to ditch the square idea, so the shape could change and even move across and overlap other locations.‘Cloud’ is a very popular word online at the moment. With products such as iCloud by Apple storing people’s content in remote virtual locations. It’s very relevant. This coupled with the idea that clouds move, expand, retract helped cement the idea.
With this idea planted in my head, I was sent to The NESTA digital day in Birmingham at Midlands Arts Centre (MAC). It was my first art conference/debate event and my first time in Brum. They had some great examples of projects and ideas and gave us some very vital information. We discussed everything from the online record industry, to social networking. I enjoyed it a lot and stuffed my face with sandwiches and fruit whilst having a look around MAC.
Part 2 Coming soon
by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant