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Digital R&D for Arts and Culture

A one-day event hosted in Istanbul exploring how digital technology can be used in the arts sector to engage audiences in new ways

Digital R&D Fund for the Arts

Forming part of British Council’s Culture Shift Programme, Digital R&D for Arts and Culture was a one-day event in Istanbul this week. Four UK organisations working in the arts and cultural sector shared learnings from connecting with audiences innovative ways with representatives from Istanbul's cultural sector.

Supported by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts in England—a three-year programme delivered in partnership by UK innovation charity Nesta, Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council—members of each organisation presented how they are using digital technology to understand existing audiences and engage with new ones.

Tim Plyming

Director of Digital Arts & Media at NestaTim Plyming spoke about the purpose of the Fund, the problems the UK arts and cultural sector wanted to address and why digital technology is seen as a tool for solving these problems.

Harnessing Digital Technology & Mobile and Digital Technology & Data themes, attendees learned about the problems the organisations were trying to solve, how they went about developing and documenting solutions to these problems, what worked and most importantly where things went wrong and how they overcome the challenges.

Simay Dinc

Director of Digital Arts & Media at Nesta, Tim Plyming speaking at the event

The four projects were:

  • The Hidden Museum - Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives, Aardman Animations and University of Bristol tested a mobile app to make family and group visits to Bristol museums more fun and playful. The project focussed on improving visitor experience in museums and galleries by promoting group interaction directly with the museum, its displays and hidden treasures. The project used iBeacons to explore, improve and promote more effective visitor engagement and to encourage higher levels of intergenerational or group activity and learning.

  • UCAN Go - UCAN Productions and Calvium developed a user-led mobile software app to provide a verbal (and therefore mental) map of an arts venue aimed at visually-impaired venue goers. By using the app on their smartphone, visually impaired users were be able to use the map to help them navigate the complex public area of an arts venue confidently and independently.
  • Arts Data Impact - The Audience Agency worked with Magic Lantern and the University of Ulster to place ‘Data Scientists in Residence’ in three arts organisations (English National Opera, Barbican Arts Centre and the National Theatre). This project encouraged staff to explore in-house and open data sources on audiences and develop platforms to allow data-driven decision making.

  • Culture Metrics - A consortium of arts organisations, museums and galleries worked together to test a platform developed by data experts. The project explored the possibility of using a set of measurements co-created by the consortium on the Culture Counts platform to gather real-time data on impact and quality from audiences, artists and other organisations. The project used this and other existing data sources, to inform decision making on commercial, cultural and programming activities.

Across the day hosted at the SALT Galata art museum, attendees had the opportunity to participate, connect, network, share and take away new ideas and thinking.  


The Digital R&D for Arts and Culture event was produced by British Council in partnership with Nesta.