Life through the lens #4 Digital Playgrounds

Where Diarmaid Lawlor’s discussion on being “Public” was grounded firmly in the physical world of placemaking and design, our next panel of experts to be welcomed into the Solar Pavilion were a trio of leading digital practitioners discussing the concept of “Festivals as Digital Playgrounds”. Introduced by Suzy Glass of Trigger; Annette Mees of Coney , Alex Fleetwood of Hide & Seek  and Rohan Gunatillake of Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab came along to explore the creative opportunities made possible by digital tools.

Marking the launch of “Watch the Water“, an ambient audio work commissioned by the Edinburgh Art Festival, this was a lively discussion about the interactive opportunities of the digital medium. The panel introduced us to their individual philosophies concerning the link between arts and digital. Annette Mees, artist, director and storymaker discussed her creative process, inhabiting as she does a space within and across different artforms and media. Alex Fleetwood made a cry to “Stop the merry-go-round” of consuming behaviour so prevalent in festivals when everything is a show. The interactive, portable and flexible nature of projects such as “Watch the Water” and “Hinterland”  that allow the audience to become the heroes of the story are one way to dispel this behaviour and engage dispersed audiences. Rohan Gunatillake introduced us to Zen contemplative traditions, with the suggestion that arts administrators need to push the limits of their conventional minds and continue to question the relationship between arts and digital again and again in pursuit of an answer beyond ‘marketing’.

This was a productive hour for those involved and those listening, with a general consensus of the need for a critical framework for the type of work being  produced by artists such as Alex Fleetwood and Annette Mees. The starting concept was “Festivals as Digital Playgrounds” but by the end of the session it looked like there could be a need for a Digital Playground Festival…

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2 Comments

Filed under Janeefromtheburgh, Solar Pavilion, Talk

2 responses to “Life through the lens #4 Digital Playgrounds

  1. Was there any consensus on what a critical framework for this kind of work might look like or consist of? Were you thinking a rigid(ish) post-project evaluation thing or something more organic, like having enough people ‘out there’ with the knowledge and experience to act as critics (in the way that there are film/theatre critics)?

    And, before anyone gets too attached to the name, has anyone tried a searching Google for ‘Digital Playground’?

    • Yep seems like a great name until you see who else thinks so…There was no defining framework discussed during this panel, more the lack of one. Alex Fleetwood mentioned that his project ‘Hinterland’ had never been reviewed, suggesting a need for, exactly as you say, people ‘out there’ with knowledge and experience, to enter into a critical dialogue and begin a process of quality marking.

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