Festivals As Laboratories
Edinburgh is a city with serious data ambitions and one which is well on the way to being at the forefront of the burgeoning data innovation industry, having designs on becoming the ‘Data Capital of Europe‘. Data-driven innovations are transforming the way we live our lives, from improving traffic signals for easing congestion, to saving lives with cutting-edge advancements in healthcare. Improvements in data analysis and management has the potential to affect every corner of modern life and the possibilities are endless.
The Edinburgh Festivals have always seen themselves as laboratories of new thinking and practice, a fact recognised by leading digital and data academics across the cty's universities. As a result the Festivals are at the centre of the city's data ambitions and are currently involved with ground-breaking cultural data projects, Creative Informatics and The New Real.
1. Creative Informatics
Creative Informatics is an ambitious research and development programme based in Edinburgh, which aims to bring the city’s world-class creative industries and tech sector together. They provide funding and development opportunities to creative individuals and organisations working in Edinburgh and South East Scotland that want to develop new products, businesses and experiences using data and data-driven technology.
One of the Creative Informatics Challenge Projects, set by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, led to the appointment of service design and user experience research consultancy InChat - and ahead of the 2021 Fringe the team launched Dionysus, a chatbot designed to help artists and performers make the most of their time in Edinburgh. Performers were encouraged to have a conversation with Dionysus about their show to help them hone in on their key selling points and fine-tune their ‘pitch’ to make it as appealing as possible to audiences.
2. The New Real
The New Real is an initiative by University of Edinburgh, working with Edinburgh's Festivals and The Alan Turing Institute, to showcase the extraordinary creative potential of AI [Articial Intelligence], and support resilience and recovery in the arts and creative industries. As Drew Hemment, Project Director and Curator, says: “Our mission with The New Real is to build awareness and understanding of the ways data systems and artificial intelligence (AI) reflect and shape our social reality.”
One of the initial projects AWEN [A Walk Encountering Nature] is a new data-driven mobile experience co-created by scientists, artists, designers and engineers, working between the Edinburgh Futures Institute (The University of Edinburgh) and the Edinburgh Science Festival. With the 2021 Festival looking to deploy new experiences to engage dispersed audiences and to make the climate crisis more tangible on a personal level, a “climate walk” was a core creative idea from early on. The core proposition behind it is to use data-driven mobile experiences as a bridge to deliver novel and engaging cultural content in post-Covid-19 times, as well as encourage impactful encounters with the most significant global challenge today – the climate emergency. .