Mobile for the Culture Sector

Interesting two days hearing from a mix of commercial and cultural players working on mobile services/products.

The event took place in the fab Ravensbourne college next to the O2 and was organized by Culturelabel and Camerjam who managed, I thought, to get just the right feel for the event – not too formal, slightly playful and (mostly) well structured.

There were some good presentations, in particular in the two keynotes from Jonathan MacDonald and Alan Moore.

Alan had the two best takeaway phrases:

1. “No more online or offline, just blended reality”
Indeed and there are big challenges for us as individuals and I personally have mixed emotions about it all. Whilst I love my new ipad-iphone-fourquare-facebook-sms-layer-iplayer-gaming-life, I am often unable to disconnect from the network that is my life to the detriment of my stress levels.

2. “This is a social revolution, not technical”
So obvious, but so true. Thinking about this also helps you to put people first. To consider how technologies genuinely allow us to do things differently – learn, play, communicate, work. You see this everywhere in people’s lives but in particular kids who just accept all the technology without question, expecting it all to link up, be online, be free, be open, all the time.

He talked about the vital relationship between the systems/platforms/data and the communities of interest/personalization/engagement. Plus the need to design for: ecosystems, platforms, participation, value creation, mass customisation, communities of interest, commerce. His slides on these issues were very good and available on his blog.

Jonathan’s talk left me with two profound observations:

1. The need to differentiate between tactics and strategy – between the how and the why.
So if you are not clear what you are doing (specifically) and who it is for (specifically), then how do you know the best way to ‘do’ it. I would like to take this idea and tattoo it on my face and inject in into the brains of everyone who things they have strategy creation as part of their job.

2. Courage
Courage to fail. Courage to admit you are failing, courage to embrace a culture where failing is okay. Yes, yes, yes.

I would also like to add:
– Courage to lead a collaboration
– Courage to agree to collaborate
– Courage to say no (I don’t want to collaborate with you)
– Courage to share your failures
– Courage to get real about your successes and what is really working well and its real impact
– Courage to admit that there is a lack of strategy
– Courage to admit that you don’t know what you are really trying to do with your website/social media channel/app

He also said that “how we suffer depends on how we are structured” which is worth reflecting on as the Director of a small, slightly maverick organisation with its own set of problems, that at least we don’t have the bureaucracies of a large institution

Ed Vaizey also made an appearance with a pre-recorded video. Nice.

BUT …… my personal highlight was the Biggar Augmented Reality art work by artist Sander Weenhof.
This is the biggest AR sculpture in the world and involved wrapping the earth in 7,463,185,678 cubes. Once you have downloaded the layer you can see the cubes everywhere you go. They are always there and always on and if you want to play god, you can even change their colour. A brilliantly beautiful idea, simple and thought-provoking with endless fun. I recommend downloading it and looking at the cubes whenever you are bored in a meeting or event. They will be there to take your mind to another place.

Here are some shots of Sander making his presentaion with the blogs in the room …

… and again, in my office today.

Last but not least, watch out for Culture24 going mobile soon.
: )


In case you missed this acronymn GLAM stands for Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums and has got to be my favourite way to describe our sector….

This two day event at the British Musuems brigns together the Wikimedia community and GLAM sector for the first WIKI of its kind in the UK. Blogger and author Cory Doctorow will open the conference on Friday November 26th with a presentation provocatively entitled “Being a beloved institution will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of being an irrelevant one”.

Tom Morgan, Head of Rights and Reproductions at the National Portrait Gallery will also for the first time express the NPG perspective on the conflicts that erupted between his organisations and Wikimedia last year. His talk is suitably entitled “Wikipedia and the National Portrait Gallery – A bad first date? A perspective on the developing relationship between Wikipedia and cultural heritage organisations”.

The evening of Friday 26th will see a lecture given by Kenneth Crews, Director of the Copyright Advisory office of Columbia University. Following this presentation will be responses and discussion of the issues raised by a really interesteing panel including: director of DACS Gilane Tawadros; Director of Europeana Jill Cousins; Head of Digital at the BFI Paula Le Dieu; Presenter of BBC’s Digital Planet Bill Thompson.

Over the two days of the event there will have presentations by a variety of GLAM institutions from five European countries about how they are working with Wikipedia. I will be doing my own sesssion on Friday afternoon about the opportunites for smaller GLAM venues.

For more information about the conference

Culture24 become official cultural data provider to the BBC

ITs really exciting to be able to announce that Culture24 have become the “official cultural data provider to the BBC”. This is a really exciting three-year data-sharing partnership that will open up a channel from the Culture24 database of activities from over 4,500 cultural venues to the BBC’s vast online audience, putting arts and heritage activities data at the heart of the BBC website. Audiences, inspired by BBC broadcasts, will benefit by being able to find related ‘real world’ activities quickly and easily.

This is a key milestone in our plans to provide a central aggregation service for the cultural sector – something that is long overdue. I am convincec that the availability of quality cultural data will play a key part in the sectors ability to engage audiences online in ways that are low cost and high impact. Crucially, at a time of much austerity this collaboration increases cultural venues’ reach and profile without increasing workloads or costs.

As well as sharing our data with the BBC, Culture24 is also supporting a range of national, local, commercial and educational services including: NCT, Art Fund, Tourism South East, Engaging Places, Technology Strategy Board, Museums in Cornwall and Hewlett Packard. Of course our data also supports and reaches over 3.5 million individual visitors a year via our own websites and services!

Moving forward, more than 3,500 libraries are also being invited to join the Culture24 network and will benefit from this new initiative. Full details can be found at

It’s taken us nearly two years to negotiate this deal and we are very excited about its potential, particularly as we try and move towards greater cross sector working and digital collaboration.

Not really Marketing at all – Arts Marketing Association 2010 (AMA10)

Who knew Leeds had such beautiful canals or that the Royal Armories was such a cool place where the pay-per-ride shoot ‘em up games were built with old machine guns? Now I know why their work with us on Caboodle was so great.

I arrived here for this years AMA conference in time to catch Shelly Bernstein’s keynote about her long-term innovations and leading edge thinking at the Brooklyn Museum. She is someone whose work I have followed for years but never met so it was a real pleasure to spend some time with her and find her as fresh in person as her work.

She was talking about Brooklyn’s use of community and the freedom she has had under a very open Director to pursue a vision of how online technologies could transform the museums relationship to its community. Also to help them with their number one problem, their proximity to Manhattan and the long psychological journey New Yorkers have to make over the Brooklyn Bridge (SATC fans know this well from Carries relation to Miranda’s moves there).

One of their solutions is to work with Four Square to offer an ‘Art’ Badge to those intrepid travelers who make it across the Bridge. Very clever as anyone can get the badge and it’s a fun way to reward that doesn’t interfere with the competition to be Mayor. She’s also banned all staff form checking into the Brooklyn Museum’s own Four Square account in order to ensure the community ‘own’ the mayorship but matched this with staff offering tips about local restaurants to exploit all their good local knowledge.

This latest partnership with Four Square is just another example of thinking outside the institution and taking their knowledge and stories into existing online communities. You can see other examples of this in their various iPhone apps, work with Flick Commons etc. They also reverse that logic and bring stuff from these communities back onto their own website by incorporating visitor comments from Facebook and the like onto their own website live – be they good or bad.

For me, its not really helpful or accurate to call any of the stuff she talked about ‘marketing’ It is more in the vein of what used to be called ‘outreach’ or community work as at its core is the respect for the visitors and their own stories, opinions and views.
The Brooklyn Museum is not pushing its own ‘Brand’ here. The visitors tell how they think it is and the Museum curates, hosts, plays home to these interactions and their course. It’s the opposite to the kind of Brand development thinking that you se now in the commercial sector with big companies trying to use their brands to tell stories but lacking the substance that comes from the cultural assets (the art, the stuff).

If only we could find the business models for capturing some financial successes and sustainability from Brooklyn’s model? Perhaps the key lies in their grass roots, bottom up approach, the one that sets their visitor at the core and the one that puts their own brand behind?

Great to meet you Shelly and Go Brooklyn!

Invitation to tender: the new Culture24 smartphone application

Culture24 is looking for either an individual developer or a small company to create a smartphone application that will make available our current and expansive database of venues, events and listings to mobile phone users.

Whilst the main drive of the app is applying a geo-locating facility to our event and venue specific data, a successful bid will provide a participative element, engaging the user in an imaginative way to differing elements of our available content.

Deadline for Submission: 12 noon on Friday 6th August 2010
Date of Interview: Tuesday 10th August 2010 at the Culture24 office in Brighton

Download the full tender information from our site.

Portal pain and Wikipedia love

This post was orginally published on the mcg blog

Why is the European Commission still convinced that people want their online culture served up via a hideously named “one-stop-shop” portal?

Last Wednesday, instead of watching the new episode of Mad Men, I sat down to read the latest EU report (120 pages) and the first of its nine recommendations goes like this: “Develop, implement and promote an online access point and guide to ‘European culture’ for all cultural disciplines using a ‘one-stop-shop’ approach linking to the multitude of already existing offers, improving these where appropriate, enhanced by Web 2.0 and other functionalities …. “

Save us please! Isn’t it even an oxymoron to have one-stop-shop and web 2.0 in the same sentence?

Surely as user attention online gets ever more competitive, it is the services and sites which have a clear personality, voice, specialism, community of enthusiasts etc that will be the doorways people choose to explore their love of animation, design, archaeology, Folk Art or whatever?

It is a shame, as the report itself is actually pretty interesting and the wealth of stuff happening across almost all the European countries is staggering and most of it didn’t exist 5 years ago.

Let’s hope that others feel the same and through the application of some of the other more sensible recommendations like physical meetings and provision of training, we can get the message across that the web has moved on and so should the EU.

You can download the summary and recommendations here, or download the full report here (warning: it’s long!)

I also wanted to pick up on something on the MuseumNext ning recently that caught my eye “would funders ever accept that you’re spending their money on staff time editing Wikipedia rather than putting together a shiny new web presence which they can point at and be proud of? ”

For some time I’ve been playing with an idea to try and fundraise to do exactly this. Maybe it might be a great way to deal with the current Renaissance underspend?

I’m going to take the idea to the Wikimedia workshop at this years Museums and Web conference and am interested in talking to anyone else who would like to help me make it happen.

Thought for the week: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Harry S. Truman

Looking for a freelance consultant or consultancy business to evalaute a Culture24 online project

Culture24 wish to commission a consultant to evaluate Museums at Night 2010 – a national campaign of late night openings at museums and galleries across the UK. The Campaign is coordinated by Culture24 and supported by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and takes place between 14th and 16th May 2010. The written report is to be produced by the end of July 2010.

Culture24 are looking to appoint a suitable freelance consultant or consultancy business to carry out the work. The finished report will be published on the Culture24 site.

The timetable for the project is as follows:

Deadline to submit complete bids – Monday March 22 2010
Project Team to review and shortlist candidates for interview – Monday March 22nd to Thursday 25th March
Interviews – Friday 26th March at Culture24 office in Brighton
Culture24 decides on the successful consultant – Monday 29th March
Initial meeting – W/c 5th April (to be agreed)
Completion of report – End of July 2010

You can download the invitation to tender document here

See the campaign in action on the Culture24 site
and the Museums at Night blog

Read the evaluation from the 2009 campaign that was carried out internally by Culture24

Cloudcomputing and the future

Looks like I missed a good event at the ICA yesterday with Charles Leadbeater talking with others about his new book/pamphlet for the British Council “Cloud Culture – the future of global cultural relations” (you can download it here and its well worth the effort).

Catch up with a short but succinct interview with Charlie here.
Read a blog posts about the day from
Joanna Jacobs and an ‘Open Cloud Declaration’ from Charlie on the British Council thinktank ‘Counterpoint’.

Join in the debate at the BC here.

Reaching Teachers: Culture24 at the Learning and Technology World Forum 2010

Our Chairman and Becta board member John Newbigin opened the session yesterday on “educational learning from the media Industries” as part of the Learning and Technology World Forum 2010.

The Forum is part of the run up to the BETT conference that is on from Wed 13th Jan to Saturday 16th Jan. Read more here.

Culture24’s Head of Programmes Anra Kennedy did a great presentation challenging the education sector to make use of the fabulous rich online content from museums that it already out there. I watched it all on the Webcast provided by bTween (who were involved in curating the session).

She cited some of the good examples where teachers can already find/explore really useful stuff;
Flickr Commons
National Archives
and of course the new Culture24 Teachers section.

You can read an excellent roundup of the session on Joanne Jacobs blog here.