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Focusing on Creativity

In preparation for the CultureLab convening last week, I’ve been researching interactive technologies used by arts and cultural organizations. I’ve mainly been looking into innovative uses of mobile apps and QR codes (square, two-dimensional barcodes). I emphasize innovative uses because unfortunately, like Facebook and Twitter, some seem to be quick to use these “tools” before having a clear sense of what needs to be built. Remember when Facebook first made its splash into primetime? Many organizations jumped onboard, but without necessarily thinking about how they wanted to engage their audiences or what relationships they wanted to create. The same is occurring with QR codes and mobile apps, as is covered in Group of Minds’ recent report for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

However, there are some really neat ways that QR codes and apps are innovatively being used to engage audiences – including interesting ways to:

  • Access information in new ways: has released an augmented reality app that serves up historic photographs when the user points a phone at specific locations.
  • Incorporate audience interaction into a performance: Progressive rockers Umphrey’s McGee have held events in which audience members, armed with cell phones, suggest themes and ideas upon which the band improvises.
  • Curate a listener’s experience as they walk through the city. Hackney Hear transforms the neighborhood sidewalks of London into artistic venues. Poetry, music, writing, and interviews are served to strollers via their smartphones. The project, to be launched in 2012 for the London Olympics, uses GPS to turn the city into a curated audio space.


Visual arts and history-based organizations tend to be further along the development of QR codes and apps, but the performing arts aren’t far behind- check out this experiment that lets the audience actually shape the artistic content of a dance performance.

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