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Re-Growing Digital Arts

Re-Growing Digital Arts: Launching three new research collaboration projects 

Two open calls launching this Friday

Despite the difficulties of the last year, and the reduced programme of digitals arts activities, NEoN has been collaborating with Dr Michael Pierre Johnson from The Glasgow School of Art’s Innovation School as part of his AHRC-funded Innovation Leadership Fellowship in the creative and digital economy, The Value of Creative Growth. His research focuses on applying a Creative Growth Model through design-led approaches to better understand, support and evaluate creative enterprise at the sole trader and microenterprise (1-5 people) level, based on the networks of people, organisations, resources and assets they work with. 

Having worked with Michael in the past, NEoNs director, Donna Holford-Lovell knew the value of design-led understanding, saying that “this was an opportunity to really look at the way we work, what value we are creating and how we can adapt in a rapidly changing world. The arts are under so much pressure just to survive, with new insights and tools we hope to be better equipped to cope with change and instability.”

Pre-pandemic, the original plan was to for Michael to work with NEoN to develop evidence-based approaches to evaluating outreach in making digital skills, arts and creative careers accessible to everyone. Since the Covid-19 disruption, the opportunity was seen to use the collaboration to support and evaluate NEoN’s adaptation and re-emergence going forward. We’ve been doing this by gathering reflections from artists, collaborators and volunteers who contributed to some of NEoN’s past projects and successes, using the research project’s Creative Growth Model as a framework for evaluation. This evaluative review has focused on three key areas that NEoN believes can shape its model of practice going forward: student and graduate work placements; Pop-Up digital arts with external partners; and the annual festival’s provision of public art, symposia and podcasts.

Having collected and reviewed reflections and insights from interns, volunteers, artists and staff, a development programme for NEoN has been co-designed based on key goals for their future growth with digital arts in Dundee and beyond. Three short digital arts projects will be delivered between March and May 2021 to test the development opportunities identified, such as a manifesto for best practice in digital arts work placements, developing an exemplary digital arts commission for international festivals, and reimagining the digital arts symposium. 

Having an evaluation process from the start will maximise learning for NEoN that will be showcased for the wider digital arts community to ensure everyone who supports digital arts can engage with what comes next, as well as through research articles and reports as part of Michael’s The Value of Creative Growth Fellowship. 

To give a little insight on this research, his Creative Growth Model was developed from a trajectory of work developing an Actor-Network Mapping methodology through the AHRC knowledge exchange hub Design in Action and follow-on project Design Innovation for New Growth. The Model provides a framework for relational mapping based on four key perspectives of stakeholder interests in creative enterprise - economic, cultural, social and practice - which then frame four forms of relational growth discerned by the live or potential work of key actors:

- network growth, new and enhanced relationships and communities;

- knowledge growth, new and enhanced skills, know-how and technology;

- value growth, new and enhanced products, services, experiences and models;

- market growth, new and enhanced audiences and communications.

Running since February 2019 and due to complete in July 2021, this Fellowship has been testing this Model by asking how effectively it captures the value of creative work through the changes in outcomes, changes in process and what contextual factors influence creative enterprise int regional UK contexts. The research has already collaborated with the Network for Creative Enterprise in Bristol, supporting the delivery and evaluation of a creative hubs network supporting creative enterprise development in the region, and is also currently collaborating with Culture Heritage Arts Argyll and Isles (CHARTS), a membership network looking to support creative and cultural organisations as part of the region’s development. To learn more, please feel free to contact Dr Johnson directly. 

This Friday we will be releasing details of our two open calls relating to this project.

Image: NEoN Digital Arts Festival 2019, Atmosphere | Blade Runner