Culture Hack East Ideas Lab Round-up 2: Inspirational talks


After brainstorming digital projects to develop during the Ideas Lab, participants heard about a range of other contemporary projects in the field through a selection of fast moving 5 minute talks.

First to speak was Martha Henson, a digital producer previously working with Wellcome Trust. Martha focused on ‘High Tea’ an online game where players act as Independent British Smugglers selling Opium in China’s Pearl Delta. This game has an educational function in that it uses real historical data in its production. However, the application is not didactic, rather using the game format to help empower audiences.

One particularly interesting thing about High Tea is that Wellcome Trust actually encouraged the sharing of the game on other sites. According to Martha, this greatly contributed to the popularity of the game, but also offered the indirect benefit of spontaneous user evaluation through social media commentaries uploaded on other sites.

Tom Armitage, a freelance technologist and designer was next to present around his project Spirits Melted into Air commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which visualises performance data by capturing all but the written word. Tom suggested smaller finished projects can be more interesting than larger sprawling initiatives, though he made clear the importance of retaining big thoughts. Tom also reflected that digital projects can be important as a way to represent facets of the life and motivations of a wider organisation.

Francesca Panetta, Special Projects Editor at Guardian, Director of Hackney Podcast and Producer of Hackney Hear was next to offer insight. Hackney Hear is a geomapped locative audio app filled with oral histories, poetry and archival material from Hackney’s London Fields.  Francesca gave an overview of this project touching on its ability to change our very relationship to space and place, with particular focus on the importance of user-testing and knowing one’s audience – and the need to build for these users rather than for yourself.

Finally, we heard from Jonathan Austin, one of the Founders of Makespace Cambridge – a resourced Hacker Space where people can meet and collaborate.  Jonathan focused on the importance of creating a space which facilitates doing, not just thinking and questioned how to work collaboratively to develop the most creative possible ideas rather than the loudest.