I’m participating in the Cultural Heritage Communities: Technologies and Challenges Workshop at Communities & Technologies 2015 in Ireland on Sunday. I’ll be touching in my talk there on what we’ve learned about how build support for a speculative project like artcasting. I’m writing about this at the moment as part of a paper about the need in digital education research for more inventive methods that can take account of what I’m calling (with Amy Collier) ‘not-yetness‘. In the paper I argue that
“Artcasting has been steeped in not-yetness from its inception, because it has been so difficult to explain to gallery partners and other collaborators exactly what the vision is. To get to the stage of being able to make artcasting, a large number of people have had to be ‘sold’ on a highly speculative vision of what evaluation could be… Before the project had even begun, a public had sprung up around it – ARTIST ROOMS research group members, associate gallery educators, colleagues in the research offices of the University, and the anonymous reviewers who supported and championed the project. Engaging with such publics and persuading them to help and support the development of a speculative digital education project is a form of engagement and performance which may sometimes be overlooked.” (Ross 2015, in progress)
The ability to make not-yetness engaging is something Chris Speed is bringing to the project in spades. Design Informatics deploys all kinds of tactics (a word Chris introduced into my research vocabulary this week) to connect and collide with communities in various ways. Chris S and Chris B are really skilled at bringing concepts to life in light-touch ways so that they can be shared and worked with (see for example Chris S’ playful ‘paper prototype’ of how to package artcasting, from our first team research day):
For artcasting, these engagement tactics have played out most strikingly for me in the role of the storyboard (you can see this on the ‘what is artcasting?’ page and also in the header of the site itself). The storyboard was brought to life by the talented Kevin Allen, working with me and Chris to illustrate how we thought artcasting could work. It was created for the funding application, to include as visual evidence, but it has done much more work than I’d anticipated – it’s served as a touchstone for the early stages of the project, has been incorporated into the web site, gets shown to almost everyone we talk about the project with, and has become my go-to method of explaining the project’s purpose. I don’t feel entirely comfortable with that, because even though it captures my early thoughts about artcasting perfectly, I worry that it ties us too much to the vision it represents. In a way, I am more comfortable with the more ambiguous vision communicated by the artcasting project logo (made by our excellent designer, Sigrid Schmeisser):
I love our logo – it evokes the room and the picture frame, movement and trajectory. I describe it as a room/picture with the corner snapped off, which is exactly how I see the value of a mobilities perspective for museum and gallery engagement and evaluation.
The artcasting project’s purpose is equally to explore ideas, to create a new digital approach, and to generate discussion about evaluation, and I think the way we handle not-yetness will be an important marker of the project’s success. We want to do something concrete and accessible that nonetheless opens up, rather than closes down, other approaches and ideas.