digital strategy

About TheKnowledge

By mrchristian, 17 December 2011

The work of art in the age of digital transition

TheKnowledge borrows its name from the learning and examination performed by London Cab drivers to test their navigation skills of the streets of London. The city’s topography – its neighbourhoods, street names, and short cuts – is internalised by endlessly driving around the city during an arduous training period, at the end of which ‘the knowledge’ is understood to be etched indelibly in their memory.

It is the knowledge of the use of digital tools in a cultural context from its practitioners that we have called peer learning. Building on the experience of practitioners, addressing the needs of cultural organisations across all sizes and covering opportunities for artistic development to operational areas of production, we have put a series of articles and research using the collaborative writing tool, a Wiki.

    TheKnowledge publishes guides to the following nine area:

  1. Publishing
  2. Video
  3. Digital Archiving
  4. Open Source
  5. Sound
  6. Communities
  7. Gaming
  8. Analytics
  9. Social Media

TheKnowledge is under the umbrella of Art of Digital London (AoDL), which runs social meetings, training sessions and events for developing digital strategy in London's cultural communities. The project has been organised by OpenMute, Mute Publishings digital agency, with seventeen years of writing on the culture of the net, making Open Source software. Having grown up with the Free Culture movements of the Net we advocate the qualities of the Open Net. This means open standards and non proprietary systems, collaborative communities, the net as place of heterogeneous voices, many to many media, communities of interest and maybe most importantly a place of new cultural, artistic, political and social reconfigurations.

A time of transition
As society is altered by the ever expanding digital networks, cultural organisations have to grapple with a world in transition, with its opportunities and challenges, as audiences previously only available to mass media opening up. Mediums under fundamental transformation, photography moves from chemical and paper to screens and metadata, the internet of things means the while cube is in a new phase of dematerialisation with areas like augmented reality.

In addressing this current condition of digital-transition we will be exploring some of these key issues.

  • The Public domain - there is a struggle to maintain a public domain on the net, where pluralism is valued and artistic experimentation can be supported. This is a challenge where the ground (or real estate) of the net is increasingly privately owned.
  • Economic models - Promises come and go, net gurus and commercial media pundits can't help but promising the earth. Remember the long tail, where small producers were going to win out, it proved to be quite the opposite and instead the reality is a long tail of digital labour (Trebor Scholz) benefiting the big players like Google. As cultural organisations or small media makers our audiences grow, double and triple, but still, viable and reliable economic models are speculative and thin on the ground.
  • Organisational change - integrating the net into artistic and operational practice means root and branch changes for many organisations. There are processes of disintermediation and disruption, artistic areas have become almost fully digital like photography or supply chains almost exclusively online, like publishing with Amazon book selling and the disappearance of bookstores. The challenges have to understood outside of traditional IT contexts and thinking need to go into involvement of all levels of an organisation to make the right decisions.
  • Different stories - the cultural sector has a different set of orientations than the commercial, market led, media sector. Most of what we hear about the net is determined by their agendas and it can be hard to find our own stories and ideas of good practice on the web.
  • Privacy/surveillance – peoples online lives and activity are increasingly being tracked for commercial reasons, so when engaging in social networks, ecommerce networks or locative media its important to engage with these issues, especially in relationship to freedom of expression.
  • Labour and value fluency – understanding the value of our content and our relationships to our communities, creators and audiences. As peoples social graphs, the term so describe an individuals cumulative traces, media and connections in social networks, create value for these networks. As your content is channeled through networks that deliver your content while creating no content of their own, the question has to be asked is the trade off or balance of who benefits and is remunerate fair?
  • Audiences are on the move – you might think the directly experienced live event as being impervious to the transformation that nearly all other mechanically/digitally created works are undergoing as a result of the digital. But even here the opposite is true and live events are gaining greater audiences as the authenticity of the live is sought out and secondly live event producers have unprecedented ways of attracting audiences.

People at TheKnowledge
Simon Worthington – director of digital, Mute Publishing
Caroline Heron – project coordinator, Mute Publishing
Paul Squires – editorial contributor on TheKnowledge, Perini
Paul Graham - copy editor
Pauline van Mourik Broekman – director, Mute Publishing
Raquel Perez de Eulate - web and interactive designer
Laura Oldenbourg - web designer
Michiel van der Haagen – MediaWiki configuration

Research interns


Lauren Irizarry
Mamiko Nakano
Michael Conte
Rosa Barney

About Art of Digital London
AoDL was orginally commissioned under ACE’s Digital Opportunities scheme in 2009, a three-year digital research programme investigating the impact digital technologies are having on the public experience of art and how, on an organisational level, they are effecting artistic management and production. Previous investments under this scheme have been with initiatives such as Art of Digital North West and AmbITion England.

Digital strategy for the arts
As part of the AoDL series we are also exploring the term ‘Digital Strategy’, a key piece of terminology associated with the 'Digital Britain' report of 2009 but one that did not yet have any grounding definition. And so, a digital strategy, as defined from the outset by Openmute and WCIT, is an individual project plan drawn up by each cultural organisation for the creative and efficient implementation of new technologies, helping them to:

  • better connect with their audience
  • share artistic and resource material with their audience
  • get their audience to support the organisation both artistically and financially
  • measure and evaluate online projects and engagement

Arts and the digital
AoDL is an exploratory exercise in that this is something entirely new to arts production - namely digital technologies' role in the creation, management and distribution of art. The sector has traditionally adopted working methods specific to certain disciplines. The advent of digital media – whose effects arguably cross such boundaries – means there is now an urgent need to create an arts-appropriate operational framework that is not only alive to this fact but also encourages the development of an associated discourse capable of examining and pushing forward the intersection of art, technology and their respective communities.

‘Digital Salon & Surgeries’
The Art of Digital London (AoDL) programme was initiated to facilitate the establishment and maintenance of a London RFO network, which investigates the relationship between art organisations and digital technology. The project began in September 2009 with a series of ten ‘Digital Salon & Surgeries’ - day long events where London arts administrators and producers, business and media consultants, developers, innovators and funders gather together and discuss the current relationship that exists between arts and technology communities and the tools that are used in the creation, production, distribution and marketing of artistic programmes. Through these events we have been able to build a comprehensive picture of the problems and benefits that digital media offer. The events were administered through a ning social network (now closed). The ‘Digital Salon & Surgeries’ program finished in November 2010 and was funded by Arts Council England, London from Sept '09 - Nov '10. The ‘Digital Salon & Surgeries’ was organised by OpenMute and IT4Arts of The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists (WCIT).

AoDL Meetups - as of 2011
These meetups are to follow on from the AoDL digital salon and surgeries event series. They are open to all those interested in bridging the gap between the arts and tech communities and exploring new ways to implement digital techs in creative processes. We would also encourage any suggestions for topics to discuss.
These are a set of unfunded events and volunteer run, see

AoDL TheKnowledge
Further to the event series we are also producing an online or information gateway (2011) that will initially act as a site for the compilation and synthesis of information and experiences gathered during the AoDL workshops. Pooling this collective knowledge further, it will also function as an area where people can find out about relevant experiences undergone by other RFOs as they strive to establish a personalized digital strategy. This secondary function as a support framework will enable arts professionals to interface with CEOs, innovative groups, artists, curators, consultants, technologists, funders and their various perspectives. In time, the Knowledgebase aims to become a core destination for those interested in the application of new media tools and methodologies to contemporary cultural practice, demonstrating new approaches that expand audiences’ notions of how to produce, promote and experience art.