Culture Hack Day in January was an event for people who make things with data, accompanied by a stream of inspiring talks. It seemed to be a success, and I’ve spent some time recently thinking (and talking to Katy Beale) about what to do with it next.
The original event was intended to be a barnraiser: something that said to the cultural sector, “Look! There’s a whole world of other ways of doing things out there, and we can do them too!”. Unlike some other hacks, it wasn’t a way of making sense of an abundance of linked data (because there isn’t one – yet), but it was an exploration of the possibilities that linked data + collaborative practice could bring to the worlds of arts and culture if we decided to let them in.
And, brilliantly, it’s now taken on a life of its own with upcoming Culture Hacks in Ireland, Scotland and the North of England. We’re working on a kit of parts that explains how to do the nuts and bolts, but the idea is that it’s an open-source project: if you do it better, then tell us how, and then everyone can make their event more effective the next time.
But in the meantime, there are two distinct strands of activity that need to happen to allow the idea of Culture Hack to usefully evolve:
- advocacy around linked open data
- new kinds of digital/creative collaboration in the cultural sector
The way to achieve these is likely to be very different. One is policy based, and will rely upon investment, planning and hard work, while the other is about getting people in the room together to Make Cool Stuff and Think Interesting Things. So there’s a long game, and a series of fun, short sprints that will hopefully combine together to make a great deal of change. And while the advocacy stream is likely to be more difficult, I hope to be able to announce some smaller multi-disciplinary events (for technologists, producers, artists and anyone-else-who’s-interested) in the next few weeks. These will be about making, prototyping and proposing and, if a pot of money falls from the sky, might even be about commissioning. Let’s see.
In the meantime, there’s a piece of work to be done around advocacy, which needs more thought and consideration, in order to persuade the people who look after the data to expose it in new ways. And I’m not entirely sure how to do that bit. So if you have any thoughts about it, please do say: if we don’t manage our arts and cultural data in the right way, then the digital world will be a poorer place – with less of the beauty, truth and amazement than we have in the physical world around us.