On the legal Birthday of Creative Scotland I proposed the creation of a web 2.0 platform available to all arts and culture performances in Scotland - providing the basis for comprehensive listings and ticketing for anyone anywhere. As a counterpart, individuals participate in a similar web 2.0 set up. For me the interesting bit is not the listings nor the ticketing, as these are relatively easy to understand and overdue. The key point is the question as to how performers and audiences might use the functionality of the site to upgrade the quality of their experience of arts and culture by doing things with the technology that haven’t been imagined.
This is a totally open ended issue as the nature of a web 2.0 as an organising (or disorganising) principle means that it’s not really for anyone to say what ‘should’ happen at the outset. But by way of illustration here are a few ideas, some of which had not occurred to me.
of preferences in rural arts expenditure: So you want author X or band Y to visit Lochgoilhead? Start a campaign - if 50 people sign up it sends a signal to the public sector purse string holders - and if they don't care, put out the invitation yourself and pool the funding privately.
- stop giving discounted tickets to the discount junkies in the last week before a show. Instead, because you know your audience, distribute excess tickets to people who are likely to bring along new people - eg those who were first to buy tickets or those who regularily attend your productions (with the system able to determine if there is a difference between "well kent" and the most loyal.)
Putting the social back into life
- everyone is different but there seems a consensus that most of us would prefer to go to an arts event with people we know and be in an audience with even more people we know. Social networking says what it does - in an arts and culture web 2.0 context this might empower people who got to know each other online to arrange to meet for food or drinks in large open groups either before or after a performance they had in common.
A practical solutions for small events
- By generating an efficient listing/marketing mechanism, small irregular events, perhaps run by a B&B or hotel, could effectively put their information in a space where they would be found by geographically based search. The capacity to invite known others from across the network would make more events viable than currently occur.
A mechanism for driving content
The idea is that when a person buys a ticket – often a few months ahead of the event – it sits on the metaphorical mantle piece in their social space. This provides a bridge/a relationship between the company and the members of the audience for that particular night, a temporal countdown in which information in video, pictures, text, music can be shared to build anticipation and preparing the audience for the spectacle to come.
Information and incentives
Information matters. The arts ‘industry’ doesn’t exactly sit comfortably with the loyalty card schemes of supermarkets – but.....it might just be a matter of presentation, certainly loyalty, rewards and information are not insubstantial concepts.
All the other things
On a platform where people by definition share an interest in arts and culture happening in Scotland (from wherever) there’s scope for blogs, reviews, sharing lists, notices, auditions, jobs, swaps, whatever...
There were also a few objections:
Why not just do it on Facebook
- nice try. The thing about Facebook is that even if every performance in Scotland had a FB page there would still be no way that individuals could scoop up a Scotland wide listing and manage it by geography, dates, artforms, venues, keywords etc. or implement a ticketing system across the whole range of arts and culture events in Scotland. It is not just the Critical Mass that justifies a Scotland wide site, but a critical proximity. If someone sitting in the US wants to find out what is happening in Scotland ahead of their holiday – they’re not going to find a solution in Facebook.
Too many networks
– It’s been suggested that people have too many networks and don’t want any more - I haven’t been given data sources to back this idea up, and the people I’ve been talking to tend to be the sort of people who may well have too many networks! What I know is that when I’m buying my Edinburgh festival tickets I have to go to the EIF, Fringe, MGEIFT, Book Festival, Tattoo, Mela, Art Festival etc sites so the excellent work that Festivals Edinburgh is doing to pull this together – is exactly the kind of progressive advance which is under discussion. The platform I’m thinking of would just be a bit more ambitious. And, it will be fully integrated with Facebook, Twitter, whatever and the transactional basis of ticket sale and communication flows would drive email traffic email across a member’s inbox.
Doubts about Web 2.0
– Repeatedly I’ve heard the opinion that arts companies would be unable to maintain their own space on a network such that it integrated with their own website/design concepts and provided comprehensive up to date information. I was quite astonished to hear such sceptical views. Frankly I don’t believe them - particularly if future funding from Creative Scotland was predicated on a professional approach to maintaining a system which was specifically designed to increase audiences and disseminate art.
Return on Investment
– This is the big one. How do I know that a significant investment in the design, construction, rolling out and marketing of a Scotland wide arts and culture website will have a satisfactory return on investment? To this I say clearly that I don’t. How could anyone? Nobody has ever tried to build a Web 2.0 arts and culture platform for a whole country. But, on the other hand it is clear that the existing system is bust. This year around £100 million will be ploughed into subsidising the arts. Doing nothing is like running the tap without putting in the plug – again. Would an intelligent digital strategy result in growing audiences with a resultant increase in turnover in excess of the investment? I believe so. But it is also the case that the functionality is additional and there is work to be done on saving the costs of things like Visit Scotland’s listings or some of the marketing costs of individual companies and there is also the question of sponsorship and internal advertising so the discussion on this is still at an early stage. The point is that doing nothing is not a risk averse strategy – it is just a strategy of continuing conservative denial. In this time of cuts, why should largely middle class artforms be subsidised by people who prefer football or pop music. There are really good arguments about this, but they would be a lot stronger if the subsidy was less and the technological opportunity was engaged.
As I’ve got into this subject I’ve enjoyed thinking into issues such as the relationship between culture, nationhood and geography; or the function of time in social network dynamics; or the relationship between top down and bottom up in the provision of a digital strategy and, not forgetting the relationship between the public and the private sector and the role of European competition law. I’ll be blogging about these in a wee while. For now, please do throw more good reasons one way or another into this particular pot.