What Next for the Digital Creative Industries?

I’ve been researching the application of digital technology to media development projects in authoritarian states and conflict zones – and now, of course the zone of refugee movement between Aleppo, north-west across Europe, to Lillehammer, I guess.

A big part of that has been the incorporation of emerging digital media tools into existing work streams or adapting existing tools to deliver different outputs to deliver different outcomes. There’s plenty of pickings out there if your intention is to pick up an app or tool that has seen its growth in take-up flatline, and which the developers want to run out in a different market.

This is what I’ve seen in the last few weeks in the wake of Europe’s belated recognition of the refugee crisis triggered by the Arab World War. App developers picked up on the fact that of the hundreds of thousands of family members escaping conflict or dictatorship in Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan and elsewhere, almost every one has at least access to a smartphone.

So I’ve seen scores of practical examples of use of existing tech, from social media apps like Snapchat, Periscope and Zello to shared content on Facebook pages to assist (or proslytise to) refugees on their travels. Some perhaps have been less practical – but still interesting and worth investigation – like, to cite just one, the use of blockchains to provide temporary validated IDs for undocumented migrant families.

But what’s been missing from our process is a way of incorporating the management of innovation – how you go from concept and research all the way through to launch and evaluation. I did try three years ago to develop a way that the methodology of monitoring & evaluating the application of ‘lean start-up’ digital media technology might be shared with human rights defenders for the advantage of both, but the moment wasn’t right.

I saw the same thing in the arts & creative sector, as the BBC and the Arts Council and many others tried and failed to accommodate innovation because they had not accommodated the management of innovation as well.

More understanding of the mechanics of innovation, as well as the professional skills needed by journalists and the creative community, is needed before they can exploit innovation to the advantage of the people who use their news services and enjoy their creativity.

I’m not a slavish admirer of the Eric Ries ‘Lean Startup’ model. Too often it’s an excuse for the dumping of half-baked, half-developed concepts on a dissatisfied public. But I do think that all of us need to be more accommodating of the “why, who, what and how of digital product development” as a new NESTA paper puts it. And things are changing.

NESTA’s really useful toolkit on innovation management for the arts & culture sector – there’s an event featuring it in Birmingham on the 7th October – is a start. I also got a lot out of looking at the way the BBC currently manages its innovation process – not easily, not even prettily. But the Beeb has put a lot of thought and effort into the problems of managing the vastness of its digital development options.

I was reminded of this by an invite to the University of Brighton’s launch of its new Journalism and Digital Media Hub in Hastings this week. The launch at the ever lovely De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, brings together industry and academics involved in the digital creative industries for an early-evening gathering of short talks and discussion today.

The aim of the event is to consider the future of the digital creative industries and ways in which universities and industry can work together in advancing the sector. The University of Brighton is an interesting focal point for this as it also runs a Centre for Research and Innovation Management, so I’m sure something is on the boil regarding synergy between its departments.

Follow the Brighton University Hastings campus team on Twitter for more.

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