What is the Future of Digital for the Arts: Series 2 – 2013’s Strategies

Digital Arts

In the first part to the Future of Digital for the Arts series digital arts professionals from across the theatre industry shared their opinions on what they thought the future of digital could mean for the arts. From the introduction of 4G, to seeing the increase in digital in-house departments, it was clear that digital was a wide topic for discussion. Continuing the mini-series, this week’s discussion looks at how these arts professionals will be focusing their use of digital in their 2013 strategies.

Commenters in the series:

Jack Harris, Digital Manager at Shakespeare’s Globe
Eve Nicol, Digital Associate at National Theatre of Scotland
Jonathan May, Digital Producer at LIFT
Katherine Jewkes, Digital Associate at National Theatre of Wales
Amy Rushby, Digital Marketing Officer, Royal Shakespeare Company
Bianca Winter, Digital Associate, Hoipolloi

If you have something to say about series feel free to contact me, or to tweet me at@jakeyoh

What is the Future of Digital for the Arts? #2 2013 Strategies

As spring begins to set, it’s safe to presume that arts organisations are now in the full swing of the year. Curious to know what lies in store for the organisations represented in this discussion my next question for this series relates to digital activities for 2013. What would be the organisations focus for the year ahead?

Understanding a growing digital audience takes priority for most, with an empathersis on developing digital for mobile or location based technologies. Social networks naturally appear, with the Royal Shakespeare Company exploring Google Plus, and an empthasis on ensuring organisations have developed and improved their social media usage (a given perhaps).

For me though the comments on the use of new technologies such as location based software, augmented reality and holograms open up a whole new development to digital performance and engagement. With this though comes a strong message that several of the commenters notes: understand and learn about your audience; discovering your story comes first, before the technology.

Jack Harris, Digital Manager at Shakespeare’s Globe

Over the past year, we’ve cleaned up how we work internally as a digital team with other internal teams – our e-marketing, website updates, social campaigns are much more structured, and I believe are stronger for being so. There are commercial areas of the business which are hopefully going to be given larger opportunities through digital – focussing on attending audiences.
Yet we (as digital teams) constantly need to be adaptive to what’s new and hot and plan how new tools may be used and introduced.
A large area of focus is still developing our mobile web app (more later in the series), and for 2013 it’s looking at audience focussed user journeys and content. We use a heavily (charitable) mission led structure for the desktop sitemap and we’re looking at key changes to make content more accessible.


Eve Nicol, Digital Associate at National Theatre of Scotland

Personally, I’m interested in the sharing of data that already exists around productions or being able to monitor more than the basic demographics of audience attendees. Thanks why I’m wearing a heart rate monitor to shows, investigating how as an audience member I respond physically, not just analytically.


Jonathan May, Digital Producer at LIFT

2013 for LIFT is about looking into ticketing, location technology and continuing to refine and develop our social media.


Amy Rushby, Digital Marketing Officer at Royal Shakespeare Company

As a digital marketer I think in 2013 my priorities will be:
–       Looking at how we can start offering an improved mobile experience for audiences.
–       Using Facebook more intelligently – allocating budget to promoted posts, being more creative in how we use Facebook and winning against Edgerank.
–       Incorporating Google Plus into the RSC’s social media portfolio.
–       Being increasingly tactical with our use of Google Adwords.


Katherine Jewkes, Digital Associate at National Theatre of Wales

Its the storytelling that should come first, not the technology. As such, we always start thinking about a production with ‘platform neutral ideas’. The most important thing is figuring out what story you want to tell, then think about who your audience are, how you want their experience to be, and then find the technology that suits all that the best.
We’ve got some brilliant productions coming up, and the creative teams behind them are thinking about everything from audio walks, to livestreaming, to simple text message interactions. More often than not, the newest technology isn’t the best for audiences. You don’t want a digital initiative to be exclusive to the people in the audience with smart phones, you want everyone to be able to join in.
There are other moments when very complicated technology is required to make digital interventions which seem magical to audiences. On De Gabay (our last production), we wanted the audience to have a surprising experience, and use technology to invert their preconceptions about what was going to happen. Jon Street our video designer and André Sier our programmer, made this beautiful face recognition software, that swapped audiences faces for ones on a preprinted passport that the audience member carried. They also made a tracking software, that spotted audience members walking past, and projected an ‘X-ray’ of their skeletons on the opposite wall. Really complicated bits of technology, but delivered in a way that seemed magical to the audience member.
Then there’s lots of technology that we’ve been playing with – augmented reality and holograms, software that inverts the way we think about social networks, spy cams which can livestream footage from camera’s the size of a button. We have to find the right stories to tell first, though.


Bianca Winter, Digital Associate at Hoipolloi

Hoipolloi made a considerable investment in the creation of an online world that accompanied a live show in 2012. The scale of this website is vast: it contains an extensive collection of stories in a variety of media. In 2013, we will be building on our learning from the development of this site and further experimenting with our online offer and the platform for our digital content. Particularly, we are interested in shifting our mode of sharing from wide open navigation to focused distribution, so that, in part, we have a better sense of the experience our audiences are having online.
As a company, we have lots of experience of reading and responding to the reaction of a live audience, but we recognise our need to learn how to read and respond to the behaviour of members of our online audience – though doubtless there’s a qualitative difference between these two forms of engagement, they both centre on a similar human transaction. Gaining a greater understanding of our audiences is important to us.

The Bullet Points:

Here are the main points from the above, in handy bullet points to take away:

– Digital is about being adaptive
– Think about the ‘user journey’ and the content audiences will experience online.
– Data sharing of audiences for productions need to be more than just demographics.
– Refine and develop social media.
– Offer an improved mobile experience.
– Can you be creative with Facebook and win against Edgerank?
– Tactical Google Adwords
– Storytelling comes first, then the digital.
– Technology is for playing.
– Switching from wide distribution to focused distribution.
– Learn further about online engagement behaviours.

Userful Websites

Mobile websites for Arts Organisations
Augmented Face Mirror
– Social Media and Telling the Stories
Google Adwords Grants for Charities