R&D in the City
To me, they have never seemed to live up to the promise of the first internet-age, genre-busting programme Wanted (full disclosure - a TV show I worked on with Channel 4 TV back in 1997).
That is, until now. I've just spent the last hour following 3 trackers hurtling around the streets of Sheffield. They're playing I'd Hide You, a game of run-around designed for mobile 4G. Designed by Blast Theory and part of the wonderful Doc/Fest.
The online experience of watching the runners hunt each other down and being able to participate by snapping photos of them and scoring points is addictive and there's real interactivity too - online users can communicate with runners via text.
This research piece, called Digital Art² is the first of the new generation of Digital R&D Fund for the Arts projects, a collaboration between Nesta, the Arts Council England and the AHRC. The production partners are Doc/Fest, Blast Theory, EE, C3RI and Sheffield Hallam University. It seeks to investigate what is needed to connect audiences and artists and to understand what constitutes a stage for art in an interactive and digital context.
Testing how digital allows for interaction between live performance and online audiences is not a new theme for the fund. Last year, theatre company Punchdrunk piloted matching online audiences with venue audiences during their sell-out production, Sleep No More. The lessons from that project can be found here.
I don't know whether this type of interactive broadcast would stand up to millions of viewers online - would the generous amount of runner attention given to audiences be scaleable? But what is striking is how fantastic the streaming quality is and how the audience at home can be integral to the performance. This is a creative insight into how 4G might be used in the future for arts organisations to directly engage with large numbers people beyond their geographic venue. And it's great that the arts world are working with a major phone company to innovate.