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FUTURE PAST FUTURE by Allan McCafferty

During the very strange lockdown summer of 2020, NEoN was fortunate to have two recent graduates from the University of Glasgow join us on virtual placements to put their undergraduate degrees into action within our organisation. As our planning for our programme was shifting and changing, it was an absolute delight and reassurance to know that someone, Allan McCafferty, was delving into our records to find out what we’d done and how we can better share those digital assets with audiences. Through his deep dive, Allan has instituted small changes, like naming protocols, and tidying up ownership permissions on online files. These small tangible changes are so important as we move towards more transparent ways of working, and with time we hope we’ll understand the databases he built too! This is his blog post about his time with NEoN:

Having just finished a four-week web curatorial placement awarded via the College of Arts at the University of Glasgow, this post aims to consolidate and describe my role and experience. 

Being awarded this placement was a big achievement for me personally. I am fortunate enough to have a comfortable home set-up for working remotely which gave me the chance to put the skills developed throughout university, and my previous remote working experience to the test in a new, virtual environment. With the lockdown restrictions in place, the placement could not have been carried out in NEoN’s Dundee office. 

I really felt at home instantly with the NEoN team as they are blessed with being down-to-earth, passionate, knowledgeable, and full of hope and humour. Meeting my fellow intern Nini was great too, and I was blown away by her final presentation on the last day, which displayed an authentic passion for digital art curation relating to potential artists and the art of performance lectures in response to the NEoN 2020 “Share, Share-Alike” theme. I have taken away with me a wider appreciation for many new digital artists thanks to Nini and the NEoN team.

The nature of my role was diverse, technical, and organisational. I spent some days working on curating digital assets, which involved optimising, versioning, and audio mastering, and then catalogued all the information into metadata sheets for future reference. I spent time creating content surveys to have a record of everything from online content to all digital content backed up onto the cloud. I used my experience in digital media research to draft digital preservation and data management policies. I also did a lot of technical research into digital archiving software. 

My role took a very behind-the-scenes look at the festival and all its hard work and achievements, making me very keen to visit the city of Dundee in November to meet the team in person. The placement has given me a unique perspective on the NEoN Digital Arts Festival and I have taken myself on a journey where looking at the past of the festival, throughout thousands of digital materials, was a necessary and enjoyable task for someone like me who is strategising for the future. 

I have navigated through exhibitions such as ‘Coded After Lovelace’, listened to and optimised hours of artist talks, spotted images of Dave Jones (famous for Grand Theft Auto/Lemmings), watched footage of 3D mapping, live electronic music, incredible physical performances, and read documents about potential future artists and performers who would fit into the NEoN ethos excellently. 

Exploring the rich, twelve-year history of the festival made my internship a rich and diverse multimedia experience, and proof that when NEoN launches their future online archive, a similar experience will be provided for the visitor. 


Picture of a man wearing cap and orange wind breaker jacket who is smiling and looking down.About AllanIn June 2020 I graduated from the University of Glasgow with a first-class degree in Digital Media & Information Studies. My plan is to gain experience over the next twelve months in digital copywriting, data analysis, content production, and user experience research, before doing a post-grad in human-computer interaction.

I am a huge consumer of digital art in all forms – visual, interactive, and in a particular sound. I enjoy collaborating with visual artists to produce abstract “no wave” sound pieces mixing analogue and software synths to design sounds and music which get destroyed using programmes like Max MSP.

In 2019, I worked with a start-up motion capture and animation studio based in Oradea, Romania, where I helped to plan and develop the website, write content, and strategise a marketing plan.

I am also an Airbnb host in Glasgow, where I sometimes have to protect my guests from the protective bark of my dog, Dobi.


Images: Donna Holford-Lovell and Allan McCafferty