Live-Blog: Audiences & Tech Conference Dec 12-16

illustration by Tom Dougherty

The Continuing Innovation Convening on Technology and Audience Engagement kicked off Tuesday night, went all day Wednesday and Thursday, through Friday morning and is now over!  We’re back at the office processing everything that happened in this very full experience.  Stay tuned for a few posts synthesizing and highlighting what was learned.

Until then, below is a live blog is of insights, stories and more from the event through all four days.  The days are below, presented in reverse order.

We encourage you to browse through this (epic) resource and let us know what sparks your interest.

Live blog of Friday 12/16

  • 9:00am – Day 4 kicks off at New York Live Arts with John McCann welcoming the group setting the agenda for the day, which will include a reporting back from each group about how they plan to take what they’ve learned home to incorporate into their projects.
  • University Musical Society – As they go home, they’re thinking about how to leverage the “hardcore player” at different levels of engagement around the performances.  They also want to blow up their vocabulary and see that innovation doesn’t have to be big changes, but can be something small.  Organizationally, they feel challenged by trying move away from perfection and avoiding sliding back. 
  • Yerba Buena – The YBCA team wants to go home and THINK differently rather than DO differently.  Ken Foster says that he wants to to strive to find that careful balance between tyranny and democracy.  Joel Tan plans to reach out to some of the other conference attendees to keep learning from them.  Organizationally, they acknowledge the reality of innovation fatigue and are looking to change the organizational thinking about how innovation fits into their work – not seeing it as outside the “regular” work.
  • Wesleyan – They want to focus their message. And embrace their split personality, rather than battling it. They want to embrace the principles of marketing that came up in the meeting as they head into a website redesign this next year.  They are interesting in learning how to empower themselves and others to go on a journey with them, to tell a story.  Organizationally, they see tension between being the center of the arts of the students and for the community and about balancing their multiple roles.
  • NPR – They want to think more about developing ways for the audience to interact with the content rather then passingly receiving it, though they do have concerns about privacy.  In response to all the guests, they have reaffirmed the necessity of engage multiple perspectives to open up experiences for their audiences. Organizationally, they want to find more ways to reduce friction with the larger NPR brand.
  • Appalshop – They are thinking about how “smart is simple.”  And about how to provide more payoffs for people.  They want to look back to the beginning of their project, before it was encumbered, and look at what worked.  They’re asking themselves how they lost the “white space.”  Organizationally, they want to develop new institutions questions to respond to.  They also want to focus the innovation work – not innovate on all fronts.
  • Fractured Atlas – Organizationally, they’ve been challenged by knowledge transfer across the organization.  They will be working on streamlining communications so they aren’t in meetings all day.  They will also be trying to balance non-profit values with staying competitive in the software development sector.  They will also be developing new capacities and structures to support high-touch with their users in order to really listen to them during the development process.
  • HERE – They want to keep inventing ways for people to engage with the work beyond just the final performance and to create a ladder of engagement that creates value for users at all levels. They want to wrestle with their fragmented brand and whether they need more frames. For their website, they want to simplify and distill that into something that allows people to maximize their experience. They want to change the focus from marketing to inviting. Organizationally, they want to continue finding ways to make room for innovation and make the process of getting involved in the innovation work easy for the artists.
  • New York Live Arts – They need to define their inner circle and think more about their philosophy of engagement with this group.  They are want to be “unafraid,” “direct,” and “listening.”  They want to embrace the emotional connections that their audiences felt with the old organizations, DTW and Bill T.   And perhaps make their marketing materials less slick.
  • 10:15pm – Richard introduces a game as the final activity.  He asks all the participants to stand up and sort themselves in to four quadrants on the axes of Transaction vs. Transformation and Open vs. Closed.
Participants array themselves on two scales: Transaction vs. Transformational and Open vs. Closed

And DONE!  Commence mingling.

Live blog of Thursday 12/15

Piama Habibullah, Online Producer + Communications Manager of EmcArts takes over live-blogging today!

  • Day 3 kicks off at New York Live Arts with John McCann asking participants to reflect on what stuck with them yesterday. Participants mention the ideas of “hardcore players,” “questioning institutional orthodoxy,” “giving the audience agency,” “leveling,” and “don’t wait until it’s perfect!”  Richard kicks off the day by introducing the four guests, our “Critical Friends,” who will spent an hour with each of the organizations helping them deepen their thinking about their project.

    Day 3 of the Continuing Innovation Convening at NY Live Arts
  • 9:30am- Introduction of the guests for the day who provide short provocative introductions to their work and perspectives:
  • Ali DeMoss of Ogilvy, comes from a background in ethnographic research. She speaks about the Space Race and the push to create a zero-gravity pen while in the meantime the Soviets were using pencils! We often don’t see from the onset what the end goal of a process may be. From an anthropologist’s perspective, she describes audience insight is difficult to decipher since people don’t actually know what they want. As for audience involvement, it’s one thing to understand people but an entirely different thing to actually apply that to a final product. “When you’re baiting a mousetrap with cheese, don’t forget to leave room for the mouse. Let the audience be involved.”

Diamond Shreddies – Benjamin by hourigan

  • Doug Mowbray of Mogo Marketing fleshes out digital marketing and online ticketing outlining shifting habits with more involvement with social media. Audiences have more opportunities now to click on ads, get information and come from varying sources, so a robust website is beyond essential.
  • Heather Cronk of GetEqual sees her organization as the left flank of the LGBT movement. “There’s so much promise behind the American dream, except if you’re gay.” GetEqual wants people to get equal and go home. Most of the traction of GetEqual is not in liberal states, but where the inequalities are more stringently felt.
  • Rich Mintz of Blue State Digital, a relationship marketing agency who started out in direct mail and is now in online marketing ranging from voting to getting butts in theater seats. Their mission is to “create those moments of spark that lead people to take action.” He describes methods organizations can use in terms of outward-facing (website, advertisements) vs. inward-facing (institutional change, interdepartmental issues).

    A graphic capture of the guests by Bruce Flye
  • 10:00am Critical Friends. In four concurrent sessions, each of the guests works with two organizations in a 60-minute “clinic” to provide expert thinking and strategic advice. Here are some things overheard:
  • Round 1: On website building: Doug Mowbray emphasizes “content is king” no matter what content management system you are choosing. “Build it around your SEO. It’s worth hiring a professional to write content for your website specifically to increase your visibility in searches.” Google offers a $10k / month grant for non-profits for AdWords and increasing visibility. Wesleyan fleshes out what their needs are within larger audience, while having the benefit of having very connected students as their main users.
  • On continuing successes:  Joel Tan of YBCA explains that they already have made progress in audience engagement and staff involvement, but how do we better bring even more progressive groups in San Francisco. “Do social justice. Get involved in the campaigns,” says Heather Cronk. Nick Szuberla relates in terms of Appalshop‘s project goals to advance social justice and provide an authentic and personal voice to legistation and policy change.
  • On software development: Fractured Atlas uses a community response design process to come to solutions in their open-source ticketing software. Adam Huttler shares that he is shocked to learn that the largest ticketing systems on Broadway do not give any information to their client theaters on the patrons purchasing tickets. A deeper level of engagement is needed and often prohibited by these programs. Speaking of peer-to-peer incentives, Adam asks whether there are any significant successes. “Social rewards create long-term relationships between purchasing and emotional loyalty to the product,” says Rich Mintz. He encourages any software development to happen intimately with organizations that have active creative staffs.
  • A commonality emerges that everyone is dealing with much more diverse audiences with greater demands than ever before. People seem more informed whether they are or not.
  • Ali Demos brings up the BAM subway ad campaign and how successful it is as a catalyst for wanting to go to the physical space. A solution that HERE has been experimenting with engaging groups after a performance to shoot their reactions in a casual way and upload to the website. Especially when there are controversial responses, it provokes people to think about a performance critically and perhaps tell others. The group wonders if “Content is king” or if we need to see people in order to believe something.
  • Kim Whitener of HERE wonders “How do we find out the audience’s perspective of how they see us and what outlet they want from us?” Ali says that it’s not complicated. “Just bring a camera in and watch non-verbal cues. Don’t discount what they say but there’s a lot more to uncover in the gap between what they say and what is actually being felt. If you discover a gap, that’s the spot you want to market to and highlight those values.” She quotes Robert Kennedy as saying, “If you have a problem, hang a lantern on it.” She encourages moving away from polished beautiful final products and showing a little more of the inside scoop. Translating anecdotal details, personality quirks, and seemingly unrelated aspects of the artists adds a valuable experience that remains in memory.
  • Reflections of Round 1:
    • Test, learn optimize.
    • Cookies (digital) everywhere.
    • Reveal the brand early.
    • Lost impressions
    • Branding ad vs. performance ad
    • Clean and direct, not necessarily thoughtful
    • Mind the gaps
    • Event space vs. Experience space
    • Too much polish has consequences
    • Tell the backstory
    • Teach people to act in their own self interest
    • Ladder rungs
    • Effective messaging to state a cause to the community
    • Consumers > Creators > Evangelists
    • Manufacture  insiders
    • Trusted voices
    • Peer-to-peer engagement
    • Engage aspirational enthusiasts
    • Social rewards outweigh financial rewards
YBCA and Appalshop discuss their similar challenges with online engagement
  • 11:15am Round 2
  • Ali Demoss asks Anya Grundmann of NPR Music “Why is jazz the focus of your project?” When you’re doing innovation, you want to do new things (hip hop, electronica, etc) but you need to be anchored into the core of your organization and what your best means of distribution allows. Jazz has been around for 40 years and NPR is the most natural megaphone people on the largest scale. How do we take the active younger user experience and reflect that the jazz scene is actually quite vital. NPR’s jazz blogger is in his twenties to bring a fresh perspective.
  • Fractured Atlas asks, “How do we add cohesiveness to marketing efforts over a large organization with various branches ranging from fiscal sponsorship to insurance to ticketing?” Despite the fact that Fractured Atlas deals with a niche community, but has conversations ranging from long-term relationships with fiscal sponsorship to needing insurance fast and cheaply before a crew loads in for a performance. They ended up shifting to a decentralized model where program directors lead their own marketing campaigns. There is budget for each, but they feel like no one harnesses their marketing to its fullest since it’s fragmented. Ali DeMoss asks what is missing and wonders if incentivizing the marketing efforts for the staff would add energy.
  • Heather Cronk describes the theme of moving from consumers to creators to evangelists as creating space for people to be able to become evangelists for you. “There’s a sweet spot where you don’t get in people’s way. It’s people taking ownership, moving issues forward themselves. People end up self-identifying with you brand and act on their own.” The group talks about tearing down hierarchies and having less people in the top rungs of the ladder. “What do you want people at level 10 to be accomplishing? How do we figure out all the steps along the way and what that means to the common good of the institution?”
  • Sara Billmann of UMS brings up the difficulties in culling the value of people who are true fans, comment on sites and push the conversation who aren’t necessarily on their mailing or subscriber list. Heather emphasizes, “Participation in social media shapes the conversation, purely because of active participation, posting and tweeting to friends, and pushing content out. People who share our values are the most evangelical and create the deepest connections between people. Use those people as your ambassadors.” There is a derth of transactional and transformational engagement.
  • Kristin Marting of HERE says, “We want to focusing on what the show is sparking in terms of societal issues. What is the substance you walk away from? What are the resulting conversations? What does that mean to you? How does this reflect to your life?” Heather Cronk says there’s a step beyond that. “What is the commitment you’d like to make? You have to organize the people who are sitting in the seats. You have no assurance that they may come back. How do we get them to come back and engage? Giving some direction of how they could engage in the future is essential because audiences won’t have the solutions.
  • “With organizations that have a lot of volunteers, you get a lot of ideas that aren’t necessarily grounded in experience. HERE speaks of participatory work and the difficulties in engaging audience members who just want to see a show. They did outreach in every way possible and got a wall of non-response. Maybe people don’t feel comfortable in the downtown theater scene. On the other hand, with very liberal progressive groups you want to reach, Heather Cronk asks, “Are you going to their events? That’s transactional and can become one-way. Buy an ad in their publications. Make it a two-way street.”
  • With groups you want to penetrate that are different from you, find the people within the organization who are influencers, but not necessarily the leaders. Find the people who are on the edge of the group and wanting to collaborate with others.
  • Doug imparts knowledge on data and social media. There is so much data out there that is being crunched that gives us the opportunity to choose who we want to target. Today, websites are selling data since people have trouble have monetizing data. People are selling data to data collectors. The problem is that people coming to your website aren’t necessarily the patrons you want to target for live experience. Data should be parsed by geography.
  • Google AdWords is very valuable but Nick Szuberla says that he’s never clicked on a google ad. Doug says consumers want organic content and then the PPC (paid ads), but you can control the message (content, keywords) on the PPC not public comments and posts.
  • Nick asks, “What is Google’s agenda?” Doug responds, “Google wants you to find things that are relevant. And they want to make gazillions of dollars. Google is a socially responsible company and offers a lot of services for free for non-profit organizations.”
  • Nick asks “What’s the end goal? Should we capture people’s email addresses or are we trying to cull data and find out how active people are in social networking.” It’s clunky to capture emails, but capturing them as a data point through cookies is easier and more effective for audience analysis and driving them to you.
  • Optimizing websites for mobile: “You can either receive it on a mobile and have it look the same or create a fully functional application for the mobile. Data needs to be streamlined and accessible without scrolling. We’re going towards that, we’re already there. Stay away from Flash. Apple doesn’t like Flash.” says Doug.
  • Reflections of Round 2:
    • Manufacturing of insiders. Finding someone who is a committed user who is emotionally connected and offer an incentive to this person to keep engaged. (from NPR)
    • Lost impressions: If you’re putting an ad or image up, the amount of time you have to capture one’s attention regardless of juicy images and slogans is tiny. If it’s not brisk enough, they’re gone. (from Wesleyan)
    • Mind the gap. The gap of what your audience expects and what you want them to know is a ripe area to put your content so you can bring them towards you. (from HERE)
    • Ladder rungs. You have someone who wants to participate, so you want to give them a 2nd and 3rd rung of lateral participation. (from Appalshop)
    • Own your identity
    • If you have an authentic mission, don’t worry about it.
    • Empower people to make the journey with you
    • Don’t be afraid to alienate. Let go of the tender “come with us” and own your identity.
    • Simple acts of trust
    • Embrace the authentic
    • Transformational vs. Transactional
    • Show up for them and they’ll show up for you.
    • Create the insider by daring them to risk themselves emotionally and reward them more than they expect to be rewarded.
    • Coalition is a two way street.
    • Learn from loyalists
    • Why? vs. How many?
    • Head-nodding (in reference to different genres of music). Example of what you can pull out of an experience rather than audience numbers.
    • Brand awareness is not actionable
    • Get that Google grant!
    • White space is king (make your websites cleaner, concise, less is more)
    • Go to where people are
    • They’re not going to go to Page 2
    • What’s the point of throwing a party without inviting anyone?
Rich Mintz is struck by the lack of repetition by each of these groups. They are not competing but very different approaches to similar thoughts.
Round 3 of groups discussing similar challenges
  • 1:30pm Round 3
  • YBCA speaks about engaging artists with audiences both online and onsite. Ken Foster finds a connection with Appalshop in the desire to change people’s relationship with art- away from transactional to more immersive and experiential relationships. YBCA experiments with quantities that aren’t particularly defined, but the challenge is how to create continuity between all of the programming.
  • Doug encourages organizations to go out to audiences rather than waiting for them to come to you. In the digital world, that means analyzing cookies. “Google is a game. But do invest the resources. There is an actual feedback loop there.”
  • Doug’s favorite websites: Amazon, Zappos. “Keep it clean, lots of white space, be thoughtful to how you make things visual.”
  • “Consumers can choose to clear their cookies to have relevant vs. irrelevant ads and related info come to them. Your computer assigns you a unique ID with over 300 data points. Focus your money on the 10% of people that say they like what you have to offer as opposed to the whole market,” Doug recommends.
  • Insight from Doug: the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is 55+ and they are also purchasing the most phones and tablets. “Go mobile and broaden your scope.”
  • NPR’s challenge is that their brand resonates so deeply that in the digital space, in order to be powerful in the space, you have to claim your brand. The branded national portal is important while providing content for affiliate stations through their API for free, packaged with their own brand. “Cross-pollination between digital, radio and audiences is quite challenging and ever-evolving.”
  • Patrick Jarenwattananon, NPR Jazz blogger: “In certain progressive causes, it can be hard to wrangle multiple sub-constituencies together, especially in the left. It’s much more fragmented. Jazz has so many people coming from so many backgrounds and generations. How do we bring all these fragments together in an enjoyable and fruitful manner?” Heather Cronk says that there’s usually a goal in the political sphere, so concrete goals beyond bringing people into one dialogue must be delineated.
  • Ali DeMoss encourages everyone to show research and deeper analysis of trends through a video and not volumes of reports. People get it in an instant. Pamela Tatge asks what the best way to do this without spending too much money. Ali suggests setting up a makeshift booth, a la Storycorps, as an open mic to capture experiences right after a performance.
  • Reflections of Round 3:
    • We are not like “that” and “those people” are not like me (Extraction is fine.)
    • Instead of looking at the intersections, make the circle much bigger.
    • Arts as a new way of knowing the world.
    • Tupperware for body builders (discovering the unexpected by stepping outside your organization)
    • Authenticity and consistency over form
    • We don’t need to be the biggest arts center in the universe.
    • People want to ride along for the insider experience.
    • You’ve got to poke people to let them know you’re alive.
    • Know your story and know your ask
    • Everything is organizing
    • Influencers vs. shouters (people making the most noise aren’t necessarily the leaders)
    • 3 not 20 (the inner most circle of people you’re working with should be manageable with limited bandwidth)
    • Values-based vs. Values-agnostic
    • You can’t fly without someone to build the airplane.
    • Reveal the brand early, tell people right up front.
    • Find a specialist for your Google AdWords, so you don’t have to learn to build an airplane
    • Find proxies for actions (patterned behavior)
    • Try not to big assumptions that your audience “gets it”
    • Google wants content (and relevance and money)

  • 3:00pm Round 4
  • Wesleyan explores with Heather Cronk service learning projects and how to add value to student life beyond the classroom. JJ Lind suggests virtual classrooms to exhibit the successes Wesleyan has had incorporating the arts into academia in order for a larger audience to participate and learn.
  • YBCA wonders how can we know what the triggers are to engage audiences. Ali says, “Audiences expect us to tout vacuous benefits. We know you can see through crap. Keep doing the crazy stuff you do although it may have to filter through traditional media routes.”
  • Questions the group asks: How does an arts organization address all the different constituencies? How do you crystalize the differences?
  • Ali encourages using marketable snippets, catchy phrases that people can remember like the “Got Milk” campaign
  • Nick describes Appalshop’s fragmented brand and aesthetics since they have to cater to funders, policy makers and general audience in a rural setting.
  • UMS and HERE come up with a commonality “How do we energize public commenting? How do we translate the process of art to an audience and not just the final product?” Rich brings up Kickstarter who tries to bring people along through the beginning of a process. He says “People want to be part of the process that is real experience, but don’t want to be part of the editing.”
  • Rich says, “Real art is hard. And real art is uncertain.” He encourages everyone to follow the Artist’s Way self-help method. “Creative passion is within everyone. A fitful progression is the natural way to find evidence of what’s broken. Just put it out, it doesn’t have to be perfect.”
  • General consensus: Quick turn around of content whether properly edited or not is essential. Don’t make people dig for content, put it up and put it up fast.
  • Reference: www.the blog of creative people- little snippets of human stories and interviews.
  • Consumers shouldn’t have to line up and wait for content. Reach out for them.
  • AB testing (method of marketing testing) is important in PPC. You have to bring a signal unit of testing and analyze.
  • Doug says, “The biggest difficulty with online purchases is having 15 steps to purchase. An organization’s most profitable sale is online. The fewer the steps the better. Every time you reload a page, you may lose someone.” Fractured Atlas’ ATHENA uses javascript to keep everything on one page so it’s perceived to be simpler, while the backend is just as complex.
  • Creative best practices from Doug: Use animation, colors, you have 2 seconds to engage. Reveal the brand early. Who you are, what your message is. Test different calls to action (Click now vs. Buy now). Urgency is important. Simple landing pages. Get them into your audience circle asap.
  • Organizations need to realize that audiences still want to be talked to but from many different sources, so we have to adapt rapidly.
  • Reflections of Round 4:
    • A minority voice can be turned into a champion.
    • Pick up the phone. (Connect through “real” methods, not just online)
    • Find their hurdles and see if there’s a way to get around them
    • If you try to build a roof with a screwdriver, you’re going to be there a long time. (use your tools for their intended purpose)
    • Identify centers of power and work with them and if you can’t, work around them
    • Culture is important.
    • A brand is like a person
    • Non-profits are too democratic
    • A brand is a like a person
    • Behavioral economics
    • Choice architecture (are you a cheap option? expensive option? do you have to invent the hierarchy so people think they’re choosing?)
    • Delivering connectedness within a cultural context
    • Audiences are just people
    • People want to be part of the process, but an edited process.
    • Ride with us (…Is the top down?)
    • Create a replicable social experience
    • for Google AdWords, bid on your competitor’s names
    • Streamlined checkout
    • It’s always about the artist.
    • AB testing isn’t cat vs. dog but brown-dog vs. black-dog
    • If you want a market, you need a marketing department (and money!)

    HOMEWORK: What will you go home and do differently as a result of this convening?
    What organizational challenges are you experiencing in doing your innovation work?

    John McCann and Richard Evans give the group homework.

    4:50pm: Graphic Facilitation session with Bruce Flye

  • Bruce will be doing a live drawing to synthesize all the themes discussed in the past couple days between the eight groups.
  • Things to look for in this type of synthesis: Different modalities of thinking. Let each modality have a voice. Use both sides of the brain. The benefit is that this group thinks with both sides of their brains already.
  • Bruce tells the group take a gallery walk around and look at all the points of synthesis and absorb the big picture before he starts drawing.
  • What got your attention?
    • A bomb exploding (creativity bursts)
    • Creating a spark (among staff, among audiences)
    • Ladder rungs (meet people where they’re comfortable or lift them up, you don’t have to be up at the top)
    • Creating space for play
    • Why are you innovating?
    • 50,000 people that love you vs. 300,000 who do nothing
    • Tell the back story
    • Throwing a party without inviting anyone
    • Learning from loyalists
    • More depth than breadth in innovation
    • Go to where people are
    • Audiences are people too
    • Changing their perspective (Diamond Shreddie video)
    • Just because things have changed doesn’t mean anything’s different.
  • What about things that shifted your assumptions or surprised you? 
    • People may not know what they don’t know
    • People take up different spaces
    • Ride along (in social science it’s observational research. a new meaning emerged: an engagement tactic- helping people actively engage)
    • Game theory and its applications
    • DNA- building on strengths
    • Cookies- putting out data as a consumer. How do we reason through that ethically?
    • Challenging of orthodoxies
    • Performance is not the center of what we do
    • Causing anxiety for the artist (if it’s not about the performance and we expect them to program before, during and after puts a lot on the artist to create more content)
    • encouraging patrons to do something emotionally risky and then reward them when they do publicly
  • What are givens that you reminded of?
    • Art is a normal. A universal. As opposed to a special transcendent thing.
    • Infuse everything with empathy?
    • Progress has been made in a short amount of time, it’s exciting. But not all change is progress.
    • Fail Fair- share your experiences of failure and challenge
    • Don’t worry. Try and try again.
    • Not everyone is thinking about what we’re thinking about all the time.
    • Audiences may be people, but don’t (always) work in the arts.
    • These types of think tanks, sharing of resources, online forums are bubbling up. It’s starting to feel like a movement with a forming vocabulary.
  • Let’s take that idea and see what ideas are emerging. (New knowledge, insights, way of understanding that is more complete or different than before.)
    • Wanting to be a part of the community / inclusion: who are “we”?
    • Concept of affordances and subtle ways in which we telegraph who we are- online or onsite. Being aware of how we’re inviting people or not. Unconsciousness can be costly.
    • If you demonstrate through action that you’re willing to go the distance, the likelihood of them doing the same is high.
    • Making insiders of people. There’s a hunger but it has to be of the right things.
    • Do you throw every doorknob you have on your homepage? Are you cluttering your brand? Showing off your riches makes you look poor.
    • Find the influencers
    • Hire specialists for certain aspects of media (mobile app development, Google AdWords)
    • Importance of setting up a system of choices
    • Creating the playspace that allows us to engage rather than just have an transaction – letting that be discovered by participants, without having rules of engagement
    • Process vs. Product
    • Transformational relationships vs. Transactional
    • Multiple entry points, not just one doorknob
    • Necessity of considering the holistic experience of what it means to be a member of the community

    What are we now called to do?

    • We need to change our behaviors.
    • Don’t take our own stories for granted. Don’t assume they’re receiving what we intend.
    • Connect with organizations at our organizations. Can we be consultants for one another? More exchanges amongst ourselves
    • Write some new rules. The game is shifting. Who’s an expert? Who’s an artist? What is an art event?
    • Test, learn and optimize.
    • Verbs. We think so much about the what that we don’t shape the action as well. Express what we want people to do- incite active participation.
    • Blow up our vocabulary
    • Be empowering, not controlling.
    • The word “audience” is monolithic. It shifted to “users”. Use “participants” or “people”.
    • Don’t apologize for who we are. We have to answer to funders and diverging audiences with confidence in our brand.
    • Examine the orthodoxies and still hold on to who we are
    • Know as much as possible about resources, patrons, competition- understanding that you may not need to use all of it.
    • Building systems that anticipate continued innovation. Not episodic innovation. Expect change. Change is the only constant.
    • Create structures that support ongoing innovation
    • Define success. Create your own metrics for success.
Live blog of Wednesday 12/14:
  • 9:15am – Day 2 kicks off at HERE with a welcome from John McCann of Partners in Performance, co-designer of the conference with EmcArts.  He announces that Day 1 will be three sessions with “provocateurs,” designed to expand the participants horizons and Day 2 will be four sessions with “critical friends,” designed to help them focus on their projects.  Then, Richard Evans introduces the plan for Day 1 in more detail and inviting each of the three “provocateurs” to share something about their work.
  • 9:28am – Game designer Colleen Macklin starts by getting everyone on their feet for a game called “Massively Multi-Player Rock Paper Scissors” where everyone plays Rock Paper Scissors with the person next to them and losers are eliminated from the game, until only one person is left standing.
A first match in Massive Multi-Player Rock Paper Scissor
Final Rounds in Massive Multi-Player Rock Paper Scissor
  • 9:32am – Colleen goes on to say that being a game designer, she thinks a lot about rules because play is enabled by rules. Play is about finding ways to express yourself within the contraints of rules, finding new strategies, and innovative strategies.  As a game designer, she doesn’t design the play, she designs the rules – the game only happens once players get involved.  She also talks about how games have mechanics, more commonly described as “the things you’re doing,” or, the verbs.  In basketball, the mechanics would be shooting, passing, and dribbling.  In video games, shooting is a common mechanic. Finally she mentiones Ian Dallas, designer of Ego Shooter, a single person shooter game that’s a little different.

  • 9:36am – Devon Smith, digital strategist at Three Spot, starts by asking three questions on her mind.  #1 “When it comes to social media, what’s the point, or meaning, of it” and “how can you be the center of your own community.”  She points out that “more social media is not better social media.”  #2 “As mobile phones become ubiquitous, how do we use mobile media in the moment that we’re experiencing the art – walking through the gallery, listening to jazz.”  #3: “How do you relate to audiences members as artists.”
  • 9:45am – Michael Zimbalist introduces the projects at the R&D Lab and talks about three kinds of innovation: product, process, business model.
  • 10:15am – 5:15pm –  The participants divide into three groups to spend 90 minutes with one of the three guests.  In each group, the participants start by going around the table introducing their organization and their projects.  Over the course of the day they’ll have three chances to do this, each time honing the language they use the describe their work.  Highlights from Colleen’s, Michael’s, and Devon’s groups are below.
A group works with Michael Zimbalist
  • Highlights from Colleen Maklin‘s group about gaming
    • Mechanics – Colleen starts with the idea that “the mechanic is the message,” encouraging the group to think about actions and verbs in terms of their audiences.  What ways can you give them agency?
    • Embedding – A participant from Wesleyan references the way they use embedding in classrooms, describing it as “getting people to do things without even noticing.”
    • Is Reality Broken? – Ken Foster from YBCA brought up Jane McGonigal‘s book Reality Is Broken as an inspiration. No all agreed that reality is, in fact, broken.
    • Community vs. Individual – Colleen encouraged the participants to think about the distinction between community and individual and focus on the individual.  She asked – “How do you build a system that works for hard core players as well as spectators?”
    • Failure – Colleen sparks the group with the idea. “Why are standardized tests only taken once? Why can you take tests more than once if you want to?  That’s the way we play video games!  You find out what works, what the world enables, by failing.”
    • Efficiency – Should we be aiming for efficiency?  Richard Evans says, “if you were designing the game of golf to be efficient, the game would be to take the ball in your hand and put it in a hole.”  If we want people to have meaningful experiences for our audiences, we have to let go a measure of control and allow ourselves to let go of the command-and-control efficiency and embrace a more open experience that gives the participant agency.
    • Virality – How do you reward bringing in other people?
    • Free will – A game is only fun if you choose to play it.
    • Critical Mass – Kim Whitener of HERE talks about an event they’re doing where they only get a handful of participants.  She asks at what point do you ditch a program and try again vs. embrace that you’ve got a hard core audience that isn’t going to expand.  Colleen suggests that it matter that a large group attends, but
    • Changing the Rules – Richard finds from his work with the groups in the lab that its effective to only change one variable at a time.  Colleen builds on that by suggesting that whatever variable you do change should have a significant effect or it’s not worth testing.
  • Highlights from Devon Smith‘s group about social media strategies
    • Keep it Mission Driven – Always relate your strategy to your mission.  You don’t have to use every platform or technology just for the sake of using them.
    • Timeliness – Use social media to figure out what the audience is looking for in a more rapid way and respond rapidly as the needs arise and change.
    • Institutional Brands – How to develop and maintain an institutional brand?  Do you need a department?
    • Integrating Social Media with Onsite – Think concretely about your online group.  For an organization that has 10,000 online fans, try thinking about what would happen if all those people showed up in your lobby?  How can you make them all into ambassadors?
    • Mass SMS Texting – They’re effective for advocacy organizations like Planned Parenthood.  Are they effective for arts organizations?  Could they become extensions of the art?  Or are they better for motivating actions?
    • To sum up their thinking, the group generates statements that begins with “How might we…”
      • …better translate online engagement to onsite interpersonal interactions between audience members and staff?
      • …upend tradition to use new technologies?
      • …look at data about our audience to guide social media?
      • …mirror live online within our organizational personality?
      • …reach the “friends of our friends” via social networks?
      • …identify commonalities in the way out brand is perceived by different segments of our membership and audience?
  • Highlights from Michael Zimbalist‘s group about creating a culture of innovation:
    • Integration: Innovation needs to resonate within your organization.  How do you merge cultures within organizations?  Don’t segregate innovation, let it permeate the entire organization and constantly seed the organization.  Innovation is the responsibility of everyone in their job everyday.
    • Process:  While innovation can be revolutionary, it can also happen in stages.
    • Be Everywhere that Your Customer Is:  Tablet is now most popular at night.  Phones in the morning.  People are spending more time with website on tablets than on computers.  Figure out to be responsive your core audience wherever/whenever they are.
    • Transparency:  It’s becoming more and more of an expectation.  What does this mean for the next generation of performers?
    • Create Gatherings: Set up a lunch at your organization among people who are interested in innovating, or share an interest in social media, or another topic that is evolving for your organization.
    • Pick a Few Projects: And call them your innovation projects.  They don’t have to be innovative to the outside world necessarily, but they should be something that is new for you.
    • Look ahead: Try to look out a few years to what’s going to be happening in the world that will impact your organization.
    • Leverage Connections: Find connections between unrelated things and then be thoughtful about how you leverage and communicate those connections.
  • All-day – During the course of the day, graphic facilitator Bruce Flye visits the groups and sketches illustrations that visually map the concepts that are coming up in the conversation.

4:30pm – Colleen, Devon, and Michael are asked to sit for 30 minutes to share some reflects from their experience throughout the day.

A final panel of today's guest

Here’s some highlights from that conversation:

  • Colleen is excited about the groups willingness to step outside a comfort zone and embrace new methods. “You’ve been really generous about that.  You’re so ready to experiment and try new things. And be much more responsive tot he participants in your commuity that I hear most groups describe. And I’ve heard the language open up over the course of the day.”
  • Devon is impressed with the quality of debate among the groups and the willingness to challenge and inform each other during the group conversations.
  • Colleen suggests that everyone “rethink the words that you use to describe or define the things around you.  For the next two weeks, try describing “audiences” for the next two weeks as “participants” to shift out the ruts and the tracks.  Also, she recommends that the group rethink the word “engagement.”
  • Colleen reflects that “there’s nothing in the game of baseball that says you have to shake the players hands after every game.  You can create rules with your own institutions.”
  • Ben Cameron brings up the idea that at the global TED conference where all people in the audience were asked not to use any technology during the presentations, and he wonders where we over romanticize technology, especially in young people. His experience at TED was that young people were happy to turn off their devices.
  • JJ from NY Live Arts asks what role technology plays in monetizing participation.
  • Simple is hard.  Complicated is easy.

Live blog of Tuesday 12/13:

  • 6:30pm – Cocktail reception begins.  Joel Tan and Nick Cohn from YBCA are the first to arrive, followed by the Kristin Marting, Kim Whitener, and the team from HERE. Kristin and Joel start swapping stories about artists who use gaming in their work because they’re both curating shows on the theme in the next year.
  • 6:45pm – Representatives from New York Live Arts, UMS, Weselyan, Appalshop, and Fractured Atlas, NPR are all here and the group sits to dinner, with everyone encourage to sit next to someone they don’t know well.
  • 7:20pm – To stimulate discussion, each group to bring a piece of media that inspires or excites them.  New York Live Arts presents “Catvertising.”  According to JJ, “this represents the way they’re thinking about marketing lately.”

  • 7:25 – HERE presents “Take This Lollipop”, a video that snatches your Facebook data and plants it in a creepy staker video (below)/

  • Trevor Martin of HERE presents another video about ReTargeting.  When the group returns to dinner, everyone is buzzing about the implications of retargeting.  Kim Whitener says, “It’s not so much that it’s scary, it’s that is so confining.”

  • 7:50 – Nick Cohn of YBCA presents a mash up of “A Machine to See with,” a live scavenger hunt with cell phones and “Future Motion Control,” a near-future imagination of augmented reality gaming.

  • 8:00 – Fractured Atlas presents a few minutes from Clay Shirky’s TED talk about open source technology.  Adam Huttler, Executive Director, says “It’s interesting to us because Clay Shirky really articulates the radically different dynamics of collaborative activities within and without an institution.”

  • 8:15pm – Pam Tatge of Wesleyn presents a video about the Gilgamesh Project, with Daniel Bernard Roumain.  Pam says “We were thinking about their use of technology to encourage participation in a new work of art – encouraging people at whatever level of artistry they find themselves to take part in the creation of something new.”

  • 8:40 – Sara Billman of University Musical Society shared that “University of Michigan has the largest alumni base in the world.   We’re interested in bringing people together online who are geographically dispersed.”  They presented this info graphic from the New York Times about where people where when they heard about 9/11.

  • And a 2nd one that zooms in on Ann Arbor.

  • 8:55 – Anya Grundmann of NPR presented screenshots of their soon-to-be released  platform of jazz lovers.  Grunman “We found that people wanted to chat about jazz online, so we created a central place for these people to come together around live music.”  Below is screenshot of the new website.
  • 8:05 – Nick from Appalshop presented a few minutes from a program they’ve been doing for 12 years, where people call in to their loved ones who are incarcerated.  Nick says, “It uses accessible technology (phones), interactive technology, and puts the participant in the producer role.”  Listen to the segment here.
Karina Mangu-Ward is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.

  • Wow – this is an epic blog post. Thanks for compiling all of these great resources and notes. Really great job in documenting all of this!

  • Michael Bodel

    This is the longest blog post I’ve seen in my time on this planet. Congratulations! Also, I LOVE NPR’s chatroom idea for live feed concerts. But it makes me wonder what the best tool is for allowing at-home users to interact with the art when there is a much smaller viewership. Or a large number of page visits, but over the course of a 3 months.
    I want for videos. And I want it to be popular! Add please not owned by Google or Facebook.

  • So epic! I’m glad you both found some useful nuggets. From overhearing NPR’s reflections, they seem to be having success with the live concert chatroom as a one-time event, but it does create the same problems as a live event where visitors are expected to all show up at the same time. I wonder if a forum where a concert is posted and visitors can come at anytime (or perhaps over a bounded period of time) to listen and post comments in a chat room format would work. Or whether it would be missing that crucial feeling of peer-to-peer connection. It certainly seems like something worth prototyping! Michael – I’m curious what your problem is with YouTube/Google for video? Why such a hater?

    And stay tuned! The saga continue tomorrow! (I’m going to check with Guiness to see if we’re breaking some record here….)


  • Thanks for sharing – learned a great deal. Esp liked idea of redefining audiences as participants. The term redefines the people attending the performance and encourages the arts to better reach out.

    • Karina Mangu-Ward

      I totally agree John – that emerged as a major theme as the convening. It seems to be an important shift in thinking if arts orgs want to move from transactional experiences with their “participants” to transformative ones.

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