This year digital art will become entrenched in daily life as cultural producers exploit digital technologies to create more accessible experiences, says Tandi Williams
Only half of Britain’s adults visited a museum or gallery last year. Despite having some of the world’s most exciting cultural offerings on our doorstep, it’s hard to find the time to experience more than a taste of what’s out there.
But things are changing fast, and digital technology is continuing to help the arts leap stone walls and defy timezones. 2015 will be the tipping point for great art that won’t wait until you find the time (or the inclination) to seek it out. It’s coming to find you.
The latest Digital Culture figures show more than 55 per cent of arts and cultural organisations are optimising their content for mobile. The growth in smartphone ownership means almost two-thirds of internet users can activate cultural content at the click of the button.
You can already examine the microscopic fibres in Water Lilies while riding the bus, and over the next year art will become more integrated with our physical routines.
The rollout of 4G to 90 per cent of the population and flourishing public WiFi will enable a ‘digital arts layer’ for the physical world, so we can enjoy site-specific digital works in the park while taking the dog for a walk, or receive phone calls from the statues we pass by on the way to meetings.
We’ve seen city infrastructure come alive during festivals with works like ‘Hello Lamppost’ but cheaper digital technology will enable more permanent, pervasive installations in more places as local authorities look for sustainable long-term solutions.
Alongside augmented reality works activated by mobile devices, we’ll see more works built around ambient triggers (meaning they don’t wait for you to click), like rain, light or even your own shadow. The ‘playable city’ movement (a counterpoint to the smart city) will see more contextual art invite residents to interact with public installations like musical swings, and intelligent screens will engage random passers-by in creative exchanges, like the TILO system installed at FACT Gallery in Liverpool, which can recognise faces and display content to suit.
Over half of arts and cultural organisations are using data to refine their offering around your needs, and R&D practices like user-centred design will ensure cultural products and services are more user-centric than ever before. In 2015 crowdfunding will see Blast Theory launch ‘Karen’ your personal life-coach, adapting the story as she learns about your psychological profile. Others, like the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, will use 3D filming and natural language processing to enable meaningful engagement with those no longer with us, creating interactive experiences that are goosepimply real.
Equal access to art will leap forward in 2015 too, as emerging technologies allow you to navigate step-filled venues or avoid crowded noisy places. We’ll also see immersive digital art tools inspire classrooms and transform pedagogies, and many more will be accessible to people in developing countries, with free or cheap software connecting basic items of equipment. The Pop-Up Playspace, for instance, will wire up a simple set of cameras and projectors to enable safe, new mixed-reality digital play spaces for kids to experiment with theatrical techniques.
Artists and cultural institutions will continue to create experiences that defy predictability. Some of it may be mind-bending, some might be funny and some might be downright creepy, but advancing technology guarantees its reach is about to get wider, deeper and more sophisticated than ever before. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!