Oct 292015

And… After a dash across town I’m now at the Internet of Things Edinburgh MeetUp, which tonight is focused on “The Maker Revolution“…

Introduction – Simon Montford, Founder WEB3//IOT @simonmontford 

The theme tonight is the maker revolution – the opening up of industrial technologies to amateaur makers. The maker movement contributes 30 billion to the global economy, so this is a big and growing thing, with Internet of Things at the centre.

18:20 – 18:40 Dr Patrick Hickey (NIPHT)

From the event page: Patrick Hickey is founder of NIPHT and specialises in a diverse range of disciplines including biology, electronics and art. Recent projects include designing LED systems for laboratories, consulting for TV and film, art installations and providing technical expertise for several guerrilla marketing projects. In 2012, Patrick launched a successful crowd funding campaign creating modular enclosures for Arduino and Raspberry Pi, and plans to launch more projects including smart clocks and gadgets built using rare, vintage LED displays from the 1970s and 80s.

I wanted to just show you some of the things that I’ve been doing. I have a studio here at Summerhall, with a wee lab space. I have lots of projects on the go here. I’m from a biological background so a lot of my projects involve biology. I first got interested in maker things about 7 or 8 years ago. I wanted to take images from a microscope and until then I hadn’t realised that you coul dget all this cool stuff with microcontrollers… I love electronics and electronics and bio complement each other very well.

Back when I was working for the University of California, and the University of Edinburgh I was looking at fungal colony and tweaking and hacking the microscope enabled me to find new patterns that were very exciting. After my PhD I discovered microbial species that you can grow and play with in the lab… And using those as indicators…. I’ve now set up NIPHT which encompasses both art and sciences. So, for instance, I was approached to create living micobial art work to advertise Contagion, the Warner Brothers movie – this was the world’s first living billboards… Essentially using a huge petri dish which caused a great buzz. We did that by projecting the image we wanted, placing the bacteria according to the pattern, and they grew up really nicely.

I’ve done a few other projects with Curb media since then… For instance for 12 Monkeys on SyFy… And that started really interesting conversations… It’s all safe bacterial cultures here… The most recent project we did was a brand of soap called Lifebuoy… with the product a clean outline with bugs around it… It did really well on the Chinese version of YouTube (80m views). And we also did work with BBC for the Magic of Mushrooms – lots of timelapse for instance.

I did a crowdfunding project back in 2012… When I started to work with Arduino I was making my own enclosures… So I started a crowd funder for modular arduino enclosures… I didn’t ask for much cash – £1500 to get these laser cut. I got twice what I needed… Really successful project – I met some interesting people, sharing ideas and projects with me. And I still get orders for them… A lot of enclosures are available cheaply from China now, but they are a quality product. They let me test the market, lots of folks were also using Raspberry Pi along with their Arduino… We keep having to adapt it because of the changes to Raspberry Pi…

A few years ago I got a grant for an art project called Dis-Play… I was fascinated for years by LEDs in calculators and watches… Back before liquid crystal displays. My first computers were Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Amiga etc. Witnessing this revolution in computing has been a really exciting thing… But I love this 70s and 80s stuff… So I built up vintage LEDs… Like a clock. Often when you pick these up from eBay they are ex-military so were great high spec pieces… So I’ve been building these up for years for projects… .

I’ve also been making home made LEDs using silicon carbide crystals… One of the first LEDs was Monsanto MV – very dim… Used to be £10-£12 but now pennies! I take pictures of LED tips… And weird and wonderful stuff like Russian diodes… And we have Nixie Tubes – I love them but they aren’t in my collection as I focus on LEDs.

Many many very cool close macro images of LEDs and dissection under microscopes being shown here. 

I’m quite into these old LEDs, the data sheets, images, etc. What I plan to do is to rewrite the data sheets in a simple form so that someone with an Arduino can use these in a very simple way… One of my favourite LEDs is what looks like a prototype, an early dot matrix display… Only ever seen one..

And also smart displays – LEDs with a micro-controller chip. I tend to buy these and then build them into clocks… And you get HDSP Series Intelligent displays, and again I tend to build those into clocks… I will be selling those retro clocks. One of these has a chronodock so that when you unplug the clock, it keeps time… People do ask me why I don’t get PCBs made for these but I do actually enjoy the wiring, it’s very calming… But I will eventually…

So, finally I wanted to talk about some of the hacked devices… The HAL-culator – a calculator that won’t do what’s told. I have the Speak-and-Hell – which speaks profanity, so no longer for children. I did have a great Submarine missile launcher clock – a real one – which I picked up!Really any device can be hacked.

So, finally just a word about Tech Cube… We used LEDs and lighting to install a display here in the building… They are still there… And thats with James from Acus lab – doing very cool stuff with art and science…

Larissa Pschetz  (Design Informatics)

From the event page: Larissa Pschetz is an interaction designer and lecturer in Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. Using examples of projects produced by the design informatics team, she will be talking about how designers are being influenced by the maker movement and vice versa, finally discussing the role of IoT in sustaining this relationship.

What I wanted to get out of this talk was to break the usual assumptions that designers “make things pretty”. I think design has contributed a lot to the maker community. I have recently becoming a lecturer in Design Informatics, and Design Informatics is all about the interactions between design and computing…

Design has had a love and hate relationship with crafts over the year… Design has tended towards mass production – with pros and cons around that. Although Design is beyond the handmade, it is still very related to craft activity… They try things, they craft, and that’s where the relationship to the maker movement comes. And, to note, we’ll be hosting Research Through Design next year, which looks at this relationship between research, making and design.

I am an interaction designer by training and part of that process is about building and trying things out… When I started there was no Arduino, you had to figure out how things work… and the maker movement has partly grown out of this need for designers to prototype… That has revolutionised what we do. Design has helped to promote things, by building cools things and trying stuff out…

And we have the idea of Fritzing, allowing designers to produce PCBs without having to go through a full industrial process. And the MakerBot also came significantly from design needs. So, design loves the maker movement, this new way to try ideas and experiment…

So, how does design work with the maker movement? Well design is a lot about sketching.. In design informatics that’s often about sketching with data, trying things out… For instance looking at countries travel rights without a visa…. showing those with balanced, and those with unbalanced relationships… This was written in a couple of lines of code… But you can quickly grasp the idea…

And another project is more sketching with hardware… In this case a toilet roll holder tracking activity over time… We have also used clocks that can track “family time” where the clock can change to reflect the needs and interests of the family… Our approach is to build something and test it in a real situation. So this is about designing interactions, thinking about future technologies, and imagining the world as it could be… And thinking about how the technology could enables people to keep things for longer… Embedding behaviour in objects… For instance the Long Living Chair… which remembers moment of activities… It captures when it was produced, it tracks how often it is used… This speculates the future of the home…

And of course we have final products too… So, of course designers want ideas produced at a certain point. As aesthetic as you can be, you think about how wonderful it would be to have real people consuming and interacting with your products… I haven’t directly produced items myself, but know people who have tried and found it challenging. A friend has created a lamp with Arduino for some robotic features… She crowdfunded for it (Clyde – the expressive lamp for creative home) and it was funded but it was very difficult to get it made as a product… So there is still a lot more to do to make that stage more easy to do, that leap to production. So design and making have helped each other hugely and both benefitted but there is much more to do to make it a revolution!

And now… Pizza break…

Lorna Crawford (IBM BlueMix IoT Hosting)

From the event page: Lorna has been with IBM for the last 17 years and currently manages the Software Business Partner Channel and Global Entrepreneurs for IBM in Scotland. Her presentation will give an overview of IBM’s strategy in the IoT space and the availability of IBM programmes to support IoT and tech start up businesses.

Thanks for asking us to speak to you, people who are the makers and take it to the next level, which is where see this stuff. Over the last few years, particularly the last 18 months, we’ve really realised that developers, young people, makers outside of industry are really shaping future ideas…

IBM are doing various things in the Internet of Things space, about harnsessing data, what IBM can help you achieve – things to play with!

Several years back we had a campaign called IBM Smarter Planet – about instrumenting things, capturing data, and seeing how that data analysis can make business change. For instance…

In wineries (e.g. E&J Gallo) we use high res satellite data on soil moisture, weather data, sensors at an individual plant level, and systems that deliver water accordingly – which saves 20% water as you only provide water where needed…

If you’ve heard of the Fatberg… We have Victorian drainage trying to meet massively more demand than it was ever designed for. Dealing with the build up and reduction of the fatberg is a huge issues. Again we’ve put sensors throughout the system to carefully plan, forecast, and time maintenance to tie in to other road digging, or to less disruptive periods. That again has had a massive impact.

21st March 2015 we announced spending of £5bn on Internet of Things – not only at IBM, but also enabling makers, other etc. So we have invested in Industry wide IoT Ecosystem – for instance using vehicle data to customise insurance policies based on your personal driving and car use. We also have the IoT Bluemix – it’s IBM’s platform, our own flavour of a development platform – APIs and services to play with, and experiment. It’s an Internet of Things foundations services… You mentioned Watson – cognitive computing capability… Plugging in your sensor devices into those could give a real competitive advantage. And we have IBM IoT Cloud/Open/Platform for Industries. Over the last few years we’ve seen the route to market change hugely here… and our offering reflect that, and the ways in which scaling and development moves now.

So, Bluemix you can find at https://console.ng.bluemix.net/catalog/ – a range of tools to try out for free! And if you are looking to get started, and get some help, we’ve made essentially recipe cards for getting started, also on that website. It’s really easy to use – I’m not technical and I’ve used Bluemix.

In Gartners report they started there are 4.9bn connected things, and that’s rapidly rising! That’s a huge opportunity – $69bn of opportunity this year according to that work. Take something to market, there’s such opportunity…

So IBM are building a working IT Alliance ecosystem… Trying to make free and open innovation spaces, IBM programs for HE and FE (Bluemix free for this market for 6 months). And we have a Global Entrepreneur programme for small technology start ups – do come on board. We’ll give you $1000 per month of Bluemix usage – for private server or virtual server… If you have a great business proposition we’ll give you up to $120k per year… We also give you access to the IBM Software Access Catalog, and support, Bluemix, IBM Watson.. And IBM, as a massive procurement organisation, have discounts that we’ve negotiated and share those with business partners too. And we have IBM Smart Camp – to pitch your ideas… A local girl, Victoria, has been using our hardware to develop her shortlisted idea for a recent Smart Camp, and she’s now working with some of our clients and business partners. We have expertise, people connected to customers in areas you want to work in -get in touch.

So, what we are saying here… Harness intelligent data… If you buy a washing machine, the people you brought it from know nothing about you and what you’ll do with it… An intelligent washing machine using sensors, who brought it… You can understand the actual usage versus your prediction – maybe it’s people always washing their dog blankets – and also predictive maintenance and quality work. Applying that technology to real life examples.

PhotonStar are a British organisation working on connected devices. They have a light project, called Halcyon, using intelligence wireless lights… And Nasa invested $12m to design products for the space station… PhotonStar apply that technology to household solutions – and they are an IBM partner using our technologies.

So, do go try things, engage with the community that are also using this technology. We have staff that can help with finances, business planning, etc. And if you want to get your own kit… It’s cheap and easy to get started!

We play in all these areas, please do get in touch!

Dr Benjaman Schogler (Skoog)

From the event page: David Skulina and Ben Schogler, and their small team of creative-developers, have spent the last 4 years demonstrating their ‘music for everyone’ concept (in the shape of Skoog 1.0) in the world of education. Tested, honed and developed internationally, Skoog 2 is the evolved result: a nifty, wireless, thing of beauty that everyone can play. Ben will give an overview of their journey so far, including raising investment, manufacturing, crowdfunding and more…

I’m Ben from Skoog! We were founded in 2009… We make this, a Skoog, a musical instrument. It was originally for kids with disabilities but we’ve just launched new Skoog. We started before crowdfunding, we did classic University spin out fund raising… But before I talk about this, a wee bit of video on how Skoog is used, and I’ll be ending on a demo on new Skoog!

Cue some awesome video of Skoog in use, e.g. being played with an orchestra, enabling play, playing along to Rush and such… 

You saw a range of different people using Skoog… Young people, old people… People with cerebral palsy, autism, paraplegic people, and able bodied people too. The mission was to create a new musical instrument. I love and am a passionate musician… If you can’t play an instrument you already have a disability, and it’s harder still if you also have a physical or mental impediment too…

So our first prototype was pretty crude – its harder for you guys now as the expectation of prototypes is so high now! But we worked with schools, hospitals, through the University and really built up relationships with our communities… Crowd funders can be quite isolating in a way, that creates challenges… You need to get your product in the hands of users, to understand your audience… Those crowd funding schemes are great but you need that connection with community, share ideas, speak to people, get out there… We spend 2 years researching… We had a block of foam… It worked…

Part of the thing of the maker revolution… People look at Skoog and ask if there is an arduino inside… No! We were working before that… But that meant using off the shelf sensor products, and working within the constraints of what was available. But that did allow us to go to market quickly – it was all tested and ready for market… But it did mean we were tied to one supplier… A problem when pricing changed… There is such vibrancy for creating now, but that brings its own challenges…

Anyway we went to market in 2009, with this cube, with squishy bits… Now just to note that musical instruments of any type is technology – technology isn’t computers. People can be protective of their instruments – but I always say anything you can make music with is an instrument, and that’s defined by people not by the technology we use. So Stomp for instance is a brilliant example of that – they make a matchbox into a musical instrument!

So we evolved this new approach,  thinking about what do we need to enable access to music… Needed to make a sound, be tactile and engaging. We went to market, we had the product… Manufactured in the UK – expensive but real benefits to having it local, so when we have to make a change we can pop over to Livingstone and ask them to make the change. We went out to traditional equity investors… People see Skoog and say “Go on Dragon’s Den!” but that’s just a programme using a well worn real world idea – and we have brilliant networks for start ups, for VCs… Things like Link. Anyone looking for capital to start these things… Go to Business Gateway, go to Scottish Enterprise, just get out there… So we did that, we raised about £800k through that… And we were very much a business to customer organisation.

There are about 2000 Skoog’s out there but they cost about £500 each, so more an educational purchase. Many of our sales have pretty much been face to face, we had coverage, BBC Scotland news etc. But on the business side I’d say that people will offer help and mentorship… You may be quite suspicious of them but actually having more experience around you as an entrepreneur… Having them on your board… They are so valuable, can help you monetise your idea, think about new opportunities… Be open to offers of help. There are also a lot of people trying to make money from you – marketing etc – that’s just how it is, they are just trying to make money.

So we make the Skoog and we also make software… But because our product was equity investment based they wanted us to get out there and sell them and ship them… That meant feedback, developments, improvements… interaction with users. So that got us to a place where we knew what we wanted to do next… Children and young people have no set idea of music and how you take part… So if you can learn and try rather than learn a musical instrument… So then we had two specific uses, one for increasing access to music for people with significant disabilities. But in parallel we had people who just loved playing it for fun! And to do this stuff you need to know what notes you need… We use pentatonic tuning, tune it to the right scale, then you can jam along to Taylor Swift…

So, we found out where we wanted to get to… Rather than equity route we decided to go on IndieGoGo – we’ve run 3 campaigns… Failed spectacularly… Then had a successful one… Then some small ones. Its a great space to test ideas, get feedback and interaction… One thing about IndieGoGo and KickStarter… If you are thinking of doing one there is so much good help there… But be careful with traffic, PR and marketing… One of the best ways to improve your ranking is to up your conversion rate. Our first campaign had loads of press and interest, but actually few purchased… and that messed our ranking. So do a lot of marketing offline, send just those you know you can convert. Press coverage isn’t the thing – that can be difficult – you need that niche that will buy your thing… Equity great for expertise, advice, etc. Crowdfunding is so quick!

Finally, a quick demo.

Old Skoog had wires… New Skoog has blue tooth which connects to iPad… People don’t buy music anymore… they subscribe, stream etc… So now you can play along… So on my iPad I’ll pick a tune… And that tunes the Skoog to your favourite tune… Everything is interactive… I can play, mess with this stuff… And you can now work with Skoog in GarageBand too… Allows loads of stuff but it’s fun, it lets kids play with stuff they want – age appropriate and culturally engaging – but that has evolved quickly from our product…

Panel Discussion / Q&A 

Q1) When did Skoog start?

A1 – Ben) We started 2006/7, then participatory design from 2008, trying them out getting feedback, developing the idea. Then 2009 we went into production, at first entirely in house by hand. But Skoog 2… That still has taken maybe 2 years to develop, with new technology, software, etc.

Q2) How do people get hold of what you are doing… Do you make or protect IP first… How does that work?

A2 – Ben) Just get on with it… In academia you are very protective of your ideas… That slows you down… In our case, with Skoog… Just go see a lawyer. The people we worked with needed the PR for what we’d done – announced that an article will go in the Times… So, panicked that it would go in the public domain so we couldn’t patent it and make revenue from it, so we had to do a patent in 12 hours… Which is possible… And we got it and it was granted. But, just do it, ask for advice but you can solve that issue if you need.

Simon) In the start up community, ideas are a dime a dozen and it’s easy to replicate ideas so it’s not always worth it, especially internationally…

A2 – Patrick) If you are expecting to make 50k when it could make 100k it’s probably not worth it… But if you’d be missing out on 10 million, its worth it.

A2 – Ben) For us the benefit of the patent was about investment, and it was therefore worthwhile.

Q) Has anyone copied it?

A2 – Ben) Not yet!

Q3) With the maker movement it’s vibrant, energetic, and engaged but how do you see the future… Do you think as costs go down further, do you see collaboration falling off?

Simon) At the moment we have collaboration by neccassity… so what do we think about that?

A3 – Larissa) It’s hard to have great ideas you need a team…. To be truly creative you need that interaction.

A3 – Patrick) I keep looking for an excuse to buy a 3D printer but I really can’t, I’d rather talk to guys who have that kit and engage and share ideas with them…

A3 – Ben) There is a really vibrant community of start ups, there is a shift there of sharing manufacturing issues and solving those – seeing highly specialised hardware startups setting up to address that. Princeton has an internet of things startup of that ilk.

Simon) Some of those take equity in exchange for that help and support, but that’s often worth it. And often supported by retained profits from innovation funds.

Q4) For Patrick: how many LEDs do you have?

A4) The actual figure is in the millions! In terms of unique displays maybe 200 different types – some I have 1 of, some I have hundreds of!

Q5) I’m a marketer, used to be an industrial chemist working in electronics. On crowdfunding I think that’s elegant for testing designs and ideas… But those platforms are not there to connect up market and products… I’ve asked about that… You are supposed to bring market and product – this was IndieGoGo. Is there scope for somebody to crowdfund, crowdsource a makers community… To actually match up those makers and those people who will be interested.

Simon) I blog in this area and am pretty connected… I want a dashboard to track all the interesting projects across all of the sites…

A5 – Lorna) Build it on IBM, We have Watson personality intelligence, that can analyse someone’s Twitter feed for instance!

A5 – Larissa) I think one of the problems of crowdsourcing issues is that when people want a product, their expectations aren’t always aligned with how long it can take to actually get through the design and manufacture process…

Simon) So, some quick announcements…

Jeff Ballinger) People into internet of things, are always interested in mobile. Our next Mobile Monday will be on making money out of mobile. We have some great speakers, it’s on 23rd November – Google Mobile Monday Edinburgh.

?) I am run of the directors of Hacklab, we’re based here at Summerhall… We have 3D printers, laser cutters, kit to play with – all the stuff you might want to play with. We have 45 members who can help you with your ideas. Open nights are Tuesdays 7.30 onwards, or check the website. And we have a reasonably active IRC channel as well. We tend to be more about physical hacking, rather than software but do come along!

Ben) We are hiring at the moment, looking for digital marketing, iOS development, get in touch!

Finally we have a presentation from ChangeCard winners of ProductForge4, John, Johnny, Liam and Pavel (their fifth member couldn’t be here today).

John and Johnny (switching between each other): We were working to a brief of digital participation and the idea we came up with was donation to the homeless, in a way that would ensure that your donation would make a real difference every time. So we came up with the idea of the Change Card, a card to help you give to the community. This will allow you to buy a card in a store, then the homeless person can pay for what they need.

We need social and political change to solve homelessness, giving money isn’t always useful, particularly when those requesting money have drug or alcohol problems. And we are also entering a world of contactless payment, so we don’t have change to give these people… Last time you saw a homeless person begging, did you give them money or did you not have change? Or worry about safety or how any money would be used. What if you could go and buy a coupon, a card to give that person, that could be use only to buy specific goods. We know not all homeless people have drug or alchol issues, many don’t. And we know that homelessness is far greater than what we see on the street. But this is a means to make a difference and help.

The card will have expiry dates, and any money left on card, will go back into the community through Shelter, and support projects including elearning skills for these same communities. That fundraising for the wider homeless population will have even greater impact.

For shops, for companies, this helps them meet their Corporate Social Responsibility, and to be leaders in this area. And data gathered through the card can feed into government policy and interventions.

For consumers – those buying the card – they can see the difference their donation has made. And with that lets look at our website… Which includes various areas including a “Change Wall”. When you buy that ChangeCard you get a receipt that you can scan and add that to your social media profile, to show and share your contribution. And we’ll have some graphing and maps to encourage an element of competitive giving between areas.

The idea is to use the guys in the street to help them AND the wider homeless community at the same time.

Liam: And now over to Liam… We had 24 hours to build end to end… We have an API for our sales to interact with, we had an Android App point of sale app for buying, and also redeeming the card – and we have a demo video here… So a card is purchased… And then that goes through… The user logs into the website… and adds to their profile.

Pavel: We’d like to thank everyone at ProductForge for helping us get here. And chat with us and follow us on Twitter: @changecardpf.

Simon: We have a wee prize from our CEO of Tusi, a startup specialising in speedy text entry on smart devices, particularly smart watches!

Quick aside: I had the delight of being a mentor at ProductForge4 on Sunday and it’s awesome to see this team presenting their finalised pitch and to know it’s going forward with development! For more on ProductForge see: http://productforge.io/

Simon: And our next IoT Edinburgh event is on 30th November, on the future of drones – see you then!

And with that I’m calling it a night here too! 

 October 29, 2015  Posted by at 6:51 pm Uncategorized No Responses »
Oct 292015
Today I am at Central, in Edinburgh, for Access All Areas, a national conference organised by Culture Republic. You can find full details of the event here.  I will be blogging throughout the day, wifi permitting. And the usual caveats applying: this is a live blog so there may be some errors or omissions and I am very happy for comments, corrections, etc.
Janet Archer, Chief Executive of Creative Scotland
Our job is to provide artists and arts workers to provide insights to audiences and tools, and being at the centre of the network gives us a unique perspective. And this our first conference will enable us to share learning and experiences. Looking at patterns of behavior at arts venues, festivas etc. We are, subject to many of the same biases around accessibility to be addresses.

We need to ensure we are doing anything we can to ensure we challenge inequality in our own approach. The bias of opnion effects the work we do, the artists employed etc. We do face barriers but we still have much to learn. We benefitted from some eye opening training preparing for today.

We have contacted many artists, stakefolders, leaders, across the world. And there are many not here in person, watching the livestream. We have packed the programmed with talented and opinionated set of speakers. We want to talk not only about who your audiences are, but also who they might be.

If you change one thing about your practice when you return to work, we’ll have done our job.

Kirsty Walk

I’m very happy to have been asked to take part today. Cultural engagement enriches lives. Everyone here today are absolutely committed to changing the engagement in Scotland. I’ve seen how iemersion in the arts changes people, giving a voice, and dignity. And all of you here can deliver that give the right passion and tools Todau isn’t about takjuf of problems, but talking about answers. 

David Goodhart, Director of the Demos Integration Hub and a former director of Demos.
I rather stumbled into the world of diversity rather by mistake 10 years ago when I wrote an essay for the magazine I was editing at the time, Prospect. That led to more writing, conferences, and I wrote a book on the topic as a result. I set up a website at integrationhub.net. This is an attempt to be hard headed and realistic about diversity in modern Britain. I was inspired by Trevor Phillips who was committed to diversity all of his life. His background was in science and he believed in numbers, and it is important for us to understand the data in this area.
So I have set up this website, and it inevitably has an element of how different groups are doing… Integration in a liberal society is hard to define and a very disputed area – it is unclear how we can tell that we have an adequately integrated society. And that is not just about ethnic integration. It is also tricky to understand what integration means, and how it matters – we all speak differently, we can’t all live parallel lives or converge on a single lifestyle set. But it’s much easier to understand what the opposite looks like. And we have seen significant recent advances in openness in British society. A wider choice of schools, a reduction in symbols to rally around, these things can lead to increasingly separate or divergent experiences. One of the great policy questions of our time is just how much separation is compatible with an open and healthy mixed society.
But why should we worry about integration at all? Well there is such a thing as society. A recent conference on refugees where people were talking about global demographies – talking about youth bulges in the Balkans vs aging populations in Northern Europe… At that people were suggesting we just more one set of people to a new place but actually society is not just about random people in a place, it is about family, culture, etc.
So, what is happening with ethnic integration? Well England and Wales are more diverse than Scotland for instance, since Scotland only has 4% ethnic minorities. But if you are looking at England and Wales, and including white ethnic minorities, we have about 23% ethnic minorities. The majority of minority British consider themselves British and speak English. I think 1 in 8 households include more than one ethnicity. There are clear success stories for Chinese, Indian Hindu, and Indian Sikh communities for instance in terms of educational achievement, progression to universities etc. And there have been cultural shifts in attitudes.
On the negative side there is more mixing, but more amongst minorities themselves. A worrying trend recently is that the white British have become more separate from minorities. An expert analysis of wards found that 42% of visible ethnic minority Brits live in a ward where white British are the minority, and I don’t think that’s a positive development. And we have challenges around shorter term commuting minorities who also choose to be more separate.
But none of this properly speaks to the lived experience… [And here David effectively talks about code switching…]. So, what do we do about this? I have some suggestions for our discussion here.
Julia Middleton, Author of Cultural Intelligence – CQ: the Competitive Edge for Leaders Crossing Borders
On a daily basis you have to imagine, create and perform culture. It seems to me that you give us an ability to feel that we belong to something, and when you are exceptional you give us an opportunity to understand our own culture and the fact that it is multiple…
I don’t know about you but if I am asked where I come from it is a complex thing… There are so many factors. But it seems to me that you give us cultural insight. And I think all I do is reflect on culture. I’m passionate about the idea of cultural intelligence. Some people thrive on culture and crossing cultures, with the dangers arising when we don’t engage with other cultures. We find culture more fragmented than before, so we need more people who can cross those boundaries and bring us together. The internet enables so much, but many of us use it to seek out others like us. Do you follow people who agree with you on Twitter? Or do you engage and reflect on the experience of engaging with those you hate or disagree with?
Diversity is crucial – can you imagine any problem that will be resolved by homogeniety. I’m with the beatniks that new ideas will only arise from discord.
We used to have an idea of IQ, and then of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). The problem with EQ was people would say “I’m good with people”, omitting the “like me” part of this. And it is crucial to engage with poeple who are not like us. The future will be about cultural intelligence, of engaging people in crossing cultures.
When I travel around the world people have been so excited about how different sectors and partners came together for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, they want to understand how that was done… But what about after that? Does that continue? The definition of the word partnership – the sublimation in pursuit of funding!
You have people from across the world studying in Edinburgh, and what do they do when they get here? They meet others like them and leave with a poorer knowledge of Edinburgh than they had before. And that’s our fault – my son was a student and he wasn’t talking to his Chinese student down the hall – what an opportunity to learn from cultures from across the world!
So Cultural Intelligence is about behaviours, skills, capabilities, values, beliefs, identity, spirit. You are you and that’s a core thing… But there are so many things you can flex on, and this is where Cultural Intelligence comes. There are some people who are all core and no flex, and won’t adapt to others. Then some people will flex greatly – saying anything to achieve their goals. But Cultural Intelligence lies on that line between core and flex – and you move that line and you move it only with great consideration.
So, for instance, I was doing some work in Jeddah and was thinking about how I would dress and how much I would cover myself… For me I decided that what I wear is my area of flex. I decided to cover up. But when others here that they critique the fact that women who cover themselves there, don’t change their practice here… But what I wear is in my flex, for those women what they wear is part of their core. It is different and illustrates this idea of what is core, and what is flex…
That idea of your core, that changes over time… As we get older I think many of us start to see our core expanding – that others should think like you. But the more you unpick this stuff… People assue you get cultural intelligence by revealing yourself and learning from that. But the most difficult culture to unpick is your own… Whether it’s views based on prejudice or judgement or where you have biases – and we all have those. What you understand of the word and what gets in the way of your ability to move beyond your core and flex where you should… Sometimes you have to learn to live with your biases, and move past them, to flex. It’s a journey that fascinates me… all of us have our own way of connecting up the world and have insights into your sector that will have huge value to share with the world.

And now Kirsty Walk is introducing Fiona Hyslop… 

Fiona Hyslop, MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe & External Affairs
When Kirsty had us talk to the people around us I met someone I actually met at an event in Paris just last week, and here we meet again at a national conference – and I think that says a lot about this country and how we work.
I’ve been asked to set out the Scottish Government’s strategic priorities, the agenda of partnership, and what we are doing nationally and how it effects the culture sector. We are focused on a more open and diverse Scotland.
A stronger sustainable economy, stronger and fairer Scotland, protection our public services and connecting communities. It is important that we as a sector develop new partnerships and ways to engage. The Scottish festivals are a big part of that with a real community focus. Edinburgh’s position as a “world festival city” continues to attract national and international audiences and contribute £260M to the Scottish economy. The Glasgow Commonwealth Games culture programme evaulation report demonstrated success of the ambitions to celebrate culture in Scotland, attracting more than 2.1 m participations.
The Scottish government is committed to tackling equalities in Scotland and make Scotland a stronger, fairer, more inclusive society. Cultural heritage is an opportunity to be challenged and stimulated by culture, and that’s part of why health and wellbeing is one of the measures we use.
Scotland has high cultural engagement with around 9 in 10 engaging in cultural engagements in 2014. Our young people are key to think under the umbrella of Time to Shine and by various institutions. We don’t want anyone’s background to be a barrier and support the opening of national cultural records, and museums. The National Young People Advisory Group play a key role in shaping delivery.
We have seen a blooming of brass bands in the country, because of investment in young people’s bands, overcoming barriers and inequalities in areas that have seen deprivation or the loss of industry. We have also seen cash back for culture activities again enabling communities to engage in culture and overcome substantial difficulties, pushing proceeds of crime back to support the effected communities.
We are also protexting and reforming public services and strengthening communities whether urban or rural. And we launched our strategy for cultural heritage, “Our Place in Time”, last year. We also continue to work with local authorities and COSLAS to find ways to address joint challenges to protect our culture in tough financial times.
We want Scotland to be a fairer place and will have a social justice action plan to build a fairer Scotland, culture has to be part of that, I don’t want culture’s voice to be silent as we talk about a fairer Scotland. There is a website, fairer.scot and we encourage comments and input there. We have austerity measures and spending review due this autumn and it will have an impact but I’m invested in cultural heritage in Scotland and I want to continue to nurture our artists and cultural life and create further opportunity and experience for participation by communities, recognising the central role of culture in Scotland. We need to embrace and make use of changes and challenges and work together to show leadership going forward. And it is also about spirit, who we are, celebration, expression, and the joy that arts and culture resides in.
Q) How do you ensure grassroots engagement in strategies
A) For a fairer Scotland that website fairer.scot is open to all. But on an ongoing basis our cabinet goes around the country every month and we get questions from across the country. I don’t get as many questions as I’d like about culture, but there are opportunities there, and we get to see some of those cultural projects in action.
Q) Every area of government if under financial pressure, so how do you ensure protection for culture?
A) We work in partnership, but the cashback work was in collaboration with the justice minister and I work with colleagues across government.
And now the panel session… 
Q) Thinking about that core and flex… diversity isn’t just about background but also income… How do we do that?
A – Julia) It is about delivering to those we don’t agreement. I thought that the minister was impressive in terms of explaining how the culture budget fits with other areas… Sometimes the arts sector can have the same barrier as the NGO sector I am part of… Our own passion can get in the way.. Can end up dismissing the views of those who do not agree with us. We can be so passionate about our subject, our rightness, we can dissuade others from joining us. Sometimes we have to switch down the passion to make space for others to engage with us and talk to us.
Q) What about settling into a culture
A – David) I thought it was interesting that the minister talked of brass bands – can’t get more core than this. I think the last election was so much about voting for core cultural values, the SNP in Scotland, UKIP in England. The parties associated with multiculturalism, the Lib Dems took a kicking…
A – Julia) My core is many cultures though…
Kirsty) And those brass bands aren’t necessarily
Julia) I now have a daughter in law is from Bangalore and that is shaping and changing my core…
Q) Hurrah for Fiona Hyslop, the only person today to speak about Scotland today. We have had two privately educated speakers from London – one with borderline racist views… So, my question is to the conference organiser, how can you have a conference on diversity in Scotland with two speakers who do not know about the context here.
Kirsty) This is a conference that welcomes people no matter where they come from across the world, but it is a valid question.
A – Julia) I have never been to a private school in my life, and I am passionate about Scotland, And I think that it is a tragedy that just because I am English you made that assumption!
A – David) I am not as familiar with culture in Scotland, but I am familiar with allegations of racism… We have a history of discrimination and a social history that makes these conversations emotional and difficult. But there are patterns of ethnic outcomes that we should be able to talk about confidently.
Q) I liked the idea of core and flex, but I wanted to ask about a specific practical issues. One of the specific issues we face is the erosion of local authority arts, and that matters because of the grass roots. We have quite an archaic set up for arts funding, often around performances of an evening, or visual arts in a specific context. That’s our core. But the flex, getting out there but not on our terms, is a huge challenge and has always been a huge challenge. So how do apply that Cultural Intelligence context to that practical space.
A – Julia) With huge pain. The world over there is a struggle away from old models, and towards new models. I happen to love chaos, as from that you can often find new ideas and solutions.
Kirsty) The whole thing here is about partnerships and some organisations are resistant to partnerships with the private sector. I wonder if we have to expect companies to do more to support the arts.
A – Julia) I’m obsessed with the end result and if the end result is young people in Scotland gaining a better understanding of the arts and culture, and their wellbeing, that is worth doing.
LAB ONE – New Partnerships for Wider Engagement
This is described in the programme as: New business models and programmes, innovation, adding value and increasing connectivity.
Kerry Micheal, Artistic Director – Stratford East
I started at Stratford East in Marketing. I’m a Greek Cypriot and started my role marketing a Mike Leigh production about Greek people, and my job was to run around postering for it… And I’m a marketer at heart.
Stratford East is one of the poorest but also most diverse communities in London. We have a community that is 17% White British, 70% non British. 180 languages are spoken. 28% of adults engage in the arts. And against all of that we played to 86% capacity in our 460 seat theatre, and we specialise in new work, engaging with our audiences. As artistic director I look for the sweet spot between a good show that connects with a vibrant diverse audience. The more diverse the audience, the better that work has to be. Hamlet played to 400 kids with audiences is great, a version that plays to blue rinse WI members is great, but a Hamlet that can play to the diversity of both those audiences is better, that is excellence. An auditorium full of white faces is too easy so we have to leave room for new audiences.. In the old days cultural diversity was the phrase but now we look more widely in terms of class, gender, age. Government funders have failed on the culture diversity debate and are fudging this new debate.
My personal background is second generation Greek Cypriot… The terms used to label us can be tricky.. I was too different to be white, not confident enough to be Cypriot… And we have seen terms move across… We have Black and Minority Ethnic… But there are two A’s there. There’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic… And why is Black top billed? In my community black is not minority anymore! We are now people of colour. Martin Luther King used a term in 1963 that unites racial groups for equality not hierarchy. The term minority is being disenfranchised. In London 40% of the population are non white and that is growing, particularly as we have more and more mixed race families. So no more BAME-ing please…
Some of you would say they do diverse productions… But in our brochures we see lots of white disabled
Our cultural leaders are smart intelligent people and are good problem solving… So why don’t they make, find, support and encourage more diverse work. Is it because deep down they don’t like the work? Are they afraid to say so? Do they worry people won’t show up? We have to progress critical debate on what is good, and what is not. And why some pieces of information are important in collective history. If we had more diverse people writing and rating cultural work, then we would see that drive towards making the work. Next time you see an award ceremony count the number of non white faces you see collecting awards!
One of the things we did recently was to do an Open Stage project, opening up our stage to our audience… We had events, and asked them for what they want. We were sure we’d see themes… But actually we saw really different interests. Most of our audience wanted co-creation, to feel closer to us. So, we set up the Stratford East Singers.. For anyone to join and engage with that. And a year and a half later they’ve been on Gareth Malone’s show – and through to the finals. We did that activity, set that singing group in motion, to be inclusive, to work with our audience.
Another example is home theatre which came through work in Brazil – making a bespoke piece of work for the home. We did this in London and Birmingham. In London we had 30 one-person pieces and we did 10 in east London and 10 in other areas… We did half of those with homes already engaged in the arts, half for those who’d never gone to the theatre. And those new pieces of work happened on the same night (and you can see all of those pieces on our website this Saturday). That was a really interesting project. The statement of intention is huge. We got 20 new stories about our city and sensed th etemperature of our city The show lasted 20 minutes – the hosts get the show for free but then we ask thenm to provide refreshments aftewards. And that meant we had conversations – we trained our staff to be part of these and bring that back to us. And we’ll do that agian in 2016 with 10 countries across the globe .
Our building is our biggest asset. Things that have nothing to do with theatre take place in our theatre, and that’s brilliant for civic engagement, a great way to engage people.
Panel Session
The panellists are:
  • Janet Archer, Creative Scotland, @JanetArcher1
  • Tanya Raabe-Webber, Visual Artist, @tanyaraabe
  • Claire Cunningham, Performing Artist, @ClaireCprojects
  • Annie George, Writer and Director, @mrsanniegeorge
  • Kerry Michael, Theatre Royal Stratford, @Kerry_TRSE
  • Johnny McKnight, Random Accomplice, @randomaccomplic
  • Dr Maria Balshaw, the Whitworth Gallery, @mbalshaw
Q) Do you think that that statement of intent
A – Kerry) We all needed a statement of intent for what the Olympics meant for us, as we thought about that development in the area.
A – Maria, Whitworth) All of those of us that receive public funding have an active responsibility to engage with the public in the cities and the areas of the country we work in. It is part of the artistic mission of the organisation. So you need to think about what your institution means to the community – you seek out people who wish to engage. The responsibility and advantage of that is that you connect to people who may not think that the arts is for them, and let them see what that means for them. YOu have to open your doors, and that’s more than a simple physical thing. We had two sets of doors at the Whitworth, and we used to only open one of those, engaging one set of audiences… I was talking to someone about democracy in the arts and the importance of buildings, how we operate them, and the works we produce in them to engaging different types of people.
A – Johnny) Someone early said passion can get wearing… I don’t agree… Myself and my colleague started a theatre company as we didn’t think that, as a gay man, and as a woman, we’d get lost in the mix… In 12 things nothing has changed in a way… Your work started with your passion and you have to reach out from there… I don’t think we’ve actually solved any of these inequalities, and we have to use our passion to fight that…
Q – Kirsty W) But you don’t care who your audience is, as long as they come…
A – Johnny) I have worked with people who said that “your performance is dodgy”  they grew up in the 60s and were more liberal than me… It’s conservative talk for the sake of conservative…
Q – Kirsty W) In terms of deepening diversity, how do you do that…
A- Claire) There is something about getting out there… As an artist I can be in my bubble and I rely on partnerships, on my producer and promoter… And as I progress in my career I am more aware of my box, and how to get out of it. Last year I did work on how different religious faiths regard disability… And meeting attitudes of “well no deaf person asked for signing” or “no wheelchair users are coming in” – well they won’t without that support… There is an idea of the inclusion agenda, of getting people through the door… But how do you make people know that they can come, and take part in the first place…
Q – Kirsty W) I am interested in this idea of box ticking… How does Creative Scotland encourage diversity?
A – Janet Archer) It is important to open up the conversation, and we encourage artists to think more broadly in terms of who they perform and engage with. We have to be imaginative in working with communities. And passion is a huge part of fuelling that… And to understand how others see the world. On a practical work we’ve literally removed some of the box ticking: our small project funding has huge flexibility, and Time to Shine – which we heard about earlier – engages those with a totally different take on culture.
A – Annie George) Box ticking does happen, and there can be tokenism. I’m one of these minorities… I normally say I’m black…. And we can spend so much timing trying to label people that we are afraid to actually have the conversations. I’m just finishing a tour and as far as I am aware that’s the first national tour for an Indian artist for 25 years…
Q – Kirsty) You spoke of the last 25 years being barren for Indian performers… Is there something that can be done differently…
A – Annie George) I find that I’ve done shows in large and small theatres… I’ve had some of them expecting those shows to play just to ethnic minorities, not their mailing list of 23,000 people… You have to have conversations, to make it clear that everyone is invited.  You don’t have a party without inviting poeple…
A – Janet) That 4% has doubles in recent years and diversity will shift in Scotland. We are a welcoming country i think ad we have dialogue with 180 organisations we support and diversity and inclusion is part of that conversation with an equality action plan. Your audience is not just for an Indian audience but for all…
A – Annie) All the work I’ve done… I’ve been developed and trained… With this production I’m expected to develop an audience, what about the marketing… Why do I have to get black people into my show and why it is my responsibility.
A – Kerry) The elephant in the room is we don’t know how to assess diverse work… People cannot translate that to their own self… We have to have a critical debate about culture which is poor and we have to open up the conversations. And the flip side is that o one says that play that a black person was in was not good, we need the muscle for that debate too.
A – Tanya) I have worked for 7 years with Project Ability in Glasgow. I am kind of interested to see what we haven’t or have got… Some learning disabled artists or representation of that to celebrate the culture of learning disability as are forms. My work has been digitised for a National Disability Art Collection and Archive funded by the Big Lottery… And interested in what that will do, for future generations.
Q – audience) I want to speak up for signs… Of being visibly welcoming…
Q – audience) We’ve had a number of permanently funded organisations and that portfolio, it has been noted, has
A – Janet) Maggie Maxwell, who leads this area, and I are discussing this and I would like to open the door and bring more conversation from people that are not in this area. I was at an Indian Cultural Festival on Calton Hill last week, with 600 people in a tent. We have to engage with those groups and spaces as robustly as other organisations.
Q – Kirsty) And how diverse was that audience there?
A – Janet) I was rather in the minority there… But there was a mix of backgrounds and it was a good day. Perhaps more could have been done to market it more widely, but it was a community event.
A – Maria) It must look easy to find diverse audiences in Manchester – where we have a very diverse population, second only to London. But if we think of Alex Putts and his festival is for international artists and performers and he describes performers from across the world as he would anyone else, not referencing where they come from. For us our collections are chock full of Indian textiles so why wouldn’t we show exciting work from some of the best artists in India, exciting new work in China…
Q – Kirsty)
A – Johnny) Is is incredibly easy to do… We keep retelling the same story… I write a lot of pantos and usually it is 6 men to 2 women… And I decided to switch up the balance as more women go to drama schools so your cast is better. And I made the love story between two lassies… And it was playing to Catholic primary schools so I was nervous about how that would go down, but it went down well!
Q – Kirsty) Are we self-censoring?
A – Johnny) I think we are and we have to be braver…
A – Kerry) I think we’ve had 50 years of culture and diverse work… We have to get out of 1 or 3 years funding instead having 10 year plans and funding, the stability to change and expand what we do…
A – Janet) I’l have a word with Fiona Hyslop… But it does follow political cycles… There are some organisations in England have longer funding cycles…
Comment – Kirsty) But there are issues there too for other organisations….
Q – audience) I think we should talk about difference, rather than equality… I think if we can get that starting point different… as Kerry said…. So you say to Fiona Hyslop is what we are gong to do… We are in a place where potential is assaulted from every angle so we have to celebrate and recognise difference.
A – Janet) I agree. Our plan is “Unlocking Potential and Creating Ambition”is about that conversations, about understanding for humans to connect. I think one thing we don’t talk about is class. I was brought up in Japan and Brazil and when I moved here I was shocked to see the boxes we put people in… We have to unlock those barriers and that is never part of that debate.
Comment – Kirsty) Some companies are addressing this in their productions..
Q – audience) In terms of access and digital access… Tanya you talked about your work being digitised. When you put work out there it makes it more globally accessible… But does it help in terms of generating revenue and sustaining you?
A – Tanya) It is global exposure, and the more people access your work, the more invitations you get to speak, to collaborate, to work in partnership elsewhere… I’ve had invitations from Australia, working in partnership in New York in San Francisco… It works to an extent but it doesn’t really get across the sense of the work and the artist… So I’m about to embark on live portrait sittings taking place globally. I wanted to do it in Scotland, but couldn’t as Arts Council England wouldn’t allow me to put in a bid to do that work in Scotland! But I will do that work, with Project Ability, in January in Glasgow.
Q – Kirsty) Kerry you talked about putting work online… Do enough of us make enough of putting work online around performance?
A – Kerry) It’s not a money earner. But it is a statement of intent… It’s like the welcome signs… It’s about reaching outwards…
A – Johnny) There is a danger of engaging only online… We publicised on social media, online etc. We got an audience, we got a younger audience… But we usually have an older audience too and that excluded them… We can fixate too much online.
A – Maria) There is a whole tranche of work that we developed through social media… and is a different audience… But many of the friends of the Whitworth are over 60 and many still love paper, it’s about different needs and channels for different audiences…
A – Tanya) Digitising the work is a first step… But you can’t engage with a painting digitally in the same way, you need to see it, but it is a starting point…
Q – Kirsty) Much of what we’ve talked about is government funding… And is that conservatism seems to be shaping work, so how do we engage with big funders?
A – Kerry) But in many places those big funders, in the USA say, come with a price tag, with their own agendas of how their funding is used… We have a range of funding sources but if we only go to private funders we let the government, and society off the hook.
Q – audience) I manage an arts venue and one of the shows we have is the Lady Boys of Bankok… That is diverse but also light entertainment and I’ve been asked if we’ll carry on with that. Now that work engages people, and will subsidise other productions… And there is sometimes an innate conservatism there about more commercial productions, but that has to be part of what we do… In terms of how we tackle this… We should just “do”. We programme for the public and they, and each other, need to prod each other…
Comment) We are discussing diversity here… In a room of mainly middle class, middle aged, central belt audience… Not economically diverse – because of the admission price –
Comment) I would caution against being too focused on audiences as there are 1000s of people doing creativity across the land t kitchen tables which is inherent to what we are… Those of us who are publicly funded we must engage with grass roots, allowing arts to flourish and for participation to take place at every level.
Comment) I am from Wales and on a bursary place btw. I wanted to talk about technology not only for performance/as a place for work but also to support work, their accessibility… for disabled audiences, for language support, to welcome and support all people.
Comment) Many of us come into the arts to evade the box ticking due to economics, class, ethnicity or gender… We have to allow escape and transcendence.
Kirsty) A final 30 seconds from each panellist.
Johnny) The key to diversity needs to come from us and the idea of the banks taking over makes me boke on the floor. It has come from us.
Kirsty) I got read by a journalist as a middle class arts director… But at 17 I’d never been to a museum… It matters that we change access to all of the arts… Transcending categories is so important, and the arts gives us a means to challenge that.
Tanya) I think that, when talking about working with disabled artists, understand that there are different cultures, if you are going to work with a cultural identity group you have to engage with that cultural.
Annie) You have to open the doors… Have people in all the time… Change your staffing, change your boards… And give people ownership. There is no point in saying “here is the art that we will present to you”. It is criminal, and people are paying, through the public purse, for this. You have to be open to everyone.
Claire) Bringing people in is absolutely essential but integration and inclusion is not the same thing. And we have to ensure that this isn’t tied up with ideas of assimilation into what is normative – and largely dictated by white middle class men . There is creative advantage of difference which are less boring with art from lived out experience, rather than from middle class white British people.
Kerry) Lets celebrate it. We have moved on in the last 20 years. You have to also value popular work, to recognise what matters to audiences.
Janet) Scotland as seen in this room may not look so diverse but it is diverse and we just have to keep on having those conversations.
And after a wee break for lunch, we are back with Kirstie Walk introducing our next speaker… 
Maria Belshaw, Whitworth Gallery 
I am conspicuously not Scottish, as you can hear, but I do live some of my time in Bute – and I’m delighted to see colleagues from Bute here.
I’ve been asked to talk about working with audience, artists for diversity and equality. I was given several quotes which focuse on diversity as being about power, equality, and social justice, and ensuring that subsidy ensures that the arts meet the needs of the community. And I’m going to talk about our experience at the Whitworth, which recently won Museum of the Year, and I’ll be talking about the changes we’ve made.
When I arrived 10 years ago we had 80,000 visitors a year. Then we had 180,000 when we closed for refurbishment… and since refurbishing and reopening we’ve served 400,000 visitors per year. The level of change here represents a much greater chance about this organisation being relevant to the community. There used to be a foreboding Victorian entrance… Fine if you know how to cross that threshold, you might think you will be charged, you might be put off by thinking that it’s part of the University (which it is). And our back view of the Whitworth was a wall really. It said “go away” to the public. We have transformed the space, it’s huge and open, for visitors to do whatever they need us to do. It is usually hugely busy, particularly following the reoperning. We showed difficult contemporary work, digital works, we gave over some of our new grand spaces to the families that live around the gallery to make art in our galleries. In the evenings we gave the space to entertainment – a local grind band on the Saturday, a specially commissioned classical work responding to the works on the Sunday. And we took advantage of our University connection – we had the co-discoverer of graphine take graphite from a William Blake work, then used breathing on the graphine, triggering charge, to trigger a meteor shower chereographed by Cornelia Parker in the park, creating a Blakian sky… This could only happen in Manchester… And we had Blake songs playing, whilst projections of our works showed outside…
We have young people curating for us… We ran a project asking our audiences what the Whitworth meant for us – one of our youger visitors said “the Whitworth is a place people come to learn to be wonderful”.
But this stuff doesn’t just happen. This is about ongoing work, about years of progress to this point. The everyday helps show this – we have a snapshot here which captures access in such diverse ways – from visitors with walking frames and wheelchairs to our deaf staff member and her explainer leading a tour… We live in our audience space and scaffold their ability to enjoy what we do…
So, I want to talk about what has happens to get to this place… We used to have 80,000 visitors and despite being in a hugely diverse area of Manchester, we had a very undiverse audience in terms of race, class, etc… So we had the challenge to reach out. So, I have a picture of Iranian wrestlers. About 5 years ago we arranged a show with the British Museum of Persian objects, and we wanted to show work by an Iranian artist, Cosimo ?, whose work is too controversial to display in Iran. Added to that we have one of the biggest Iranian communities outside of the country… We had these activities that culminated in an Iranian new year celebration, with wrestling! And a member of that community commented that it was just like Iran – everyone was eating and people of all classes mixing together…
We had an indian artist come in, using a tent from Goa as a canvas for a live charcoal drawing… This is weird live art that you’d usually only see in hipster spaces… But we’d done months of work with the area around us, Manchester’s curry mile. One man, who’d moved to Manchester from Goa and had stayed because he couldn’t afford the fare back, kept returning
We had to close for 14 months for the refurbishment. And during that time we based some of our staff in care homes, as one group that rarely visits is older single men, usually because their partners have died. So we had them curate some of those works. Similarly we have young people curating works. This means our civic leaders value the Whitworth – engaging older isolate people, engaging with families, helping children to learn. And doing big high profile exhibitions – a big China exhibition whilst Manchester airport was bidding for a route to China – was really clever. It’s about thinking creatively here. About making the Whitworth a space for the city and for the people that know about the arts and those who don’t. In 1932 Whitworth Director Margaret Pilkington stated that she thought that a successful gallery is one where people feel welcome.
I was also asked about the kind of leadership required to make this sort of change… And actually it’s about modelling the behavior and culture for the organisation, being connected, partnering with other organisations and being a force for social justice and change within our city.
LAB 2: New Technologies for Online Engagement
  • Dianne Greig, Culture Republic
  • Antonia Lee-Bapty, Euan’s Guide
  • Jo McLean, The Touring Network


Julie McGarry, Culture Republic is introducing our session and our speakers:

Diane Greig, Culture Republic – background in social sciences research, business and marketing and she works a lot on integrated digital marketing.

Antonia Lee-Bapty, Euan’s Guide – Antonia is passionate about digital and work’s at Euan’s Guide, the award winning disabled access website.

Jo McLean, The Touring Network – background as a performing musician. Working on performing arts and crafts.. Background in developing and producing signature events. Now working as a consultant at national and international level, and commissioning works.

Diane Greig

I’ll be setting the context for the next two speakers… I’ll give a mix of examples for how technologies that enable information to be created, stored or shared in digital form… I won’t talk about labeling of particular characteristics etc.

Digital marketing is so much more than social media. So technology through the lens of digital marketing, so areas like CRM, Social Media, Analytics, Emerging Technology, Content Marketing etc. For an organisation analytics would probably be at the centre.

We are seeing increasing expectations… For instance Starbucks has reimagined their Covent Garden store – with new techniques for coffee snobs… Orders and payment via iPad, apps to pre-order coffees.. The public is more and more engaging with new technologies and new ways for customer experiences.

John Lewis have a Labs initiative which encourages development new ideas. For instance the Localz/lmarks app which uses iBeacons to alert a passing shopper to pick up an order, and alerts the store to prepare it… The point here is that they are really focused on their customers – though it works for audiences able to access smartphone apps etc.

On the flipside a recent report from Ipsos MORI for GO ON UK find that 23% of UK adults lack basic online skills. In Scotland specifically 19% lack basic skills. And when we think about mobile signals there are huge gaps in rural areas in Scotland – big gaps though that we have to be aware of. And in Dumfries there is high percentage – 33% – do not have internet access. The reason cited is that people don’t know how, need help and support.

Ofcom Comms Market Report August 2015 show that for the first time smartphones overtake laptops as device internet users say is most important for connecting to the internet. 34% of Scotland have 4G access.

In that same report we see that 12-15 year olds using social media include 24% using Snapchat more than 10 times a day…

Culture Republic – we have access to tons of social media presences via our system, Sheldon. Websites are 59% on desktop, 17% on tablet, 25% on mobile. And social media more dominated by mobile devices. And that is increasing…

Looking at how people are using technology in culture… Here’s a wee bit of projection mapping… Which overlys emotions or actions on statues… The Fine Arts Museum in Lyon invited an artist to do this.

I don’t know if you have heard of the I’m @ app which has social logins and uses iBeacons to feed information, content, etc to explore arts ad culture – and tracks that user as they move around venues.

We track loads of arts organisations social media and Visual Arts have a brilliant Content Marketing content.

Activcancas uses augmented reality to engage visitors in galleries – via flyers but also in galleries…

47% of arts organisations websites are not mobile optimised… When we see that stat on devices used to access the internet that’s really a provocation!

Antonia Lee-Bapty

We are an organisation on disability access… Euan is a local chap, who you’ll see about. He and his sister had the idea of the site to review anywhere – fun stuff but also post office, supermarket, shops, etc. The idea is for the guide to empower disabled people to get out and about – because that information just wasn’t available.

This isn’t just for wheelchair users, but for all disabled people. And we have been going for 2 years, and we cover many cities but focused on Edinburgh and the UK. We are all about physical access, but also digital access of course matters so we test our site on a whole range of accessibility devices.

Now our reviews come from users – and we’ve recently added a way for others to approve that review, or disagree, or say that they visited a venue because of a review.

The venue listings give you a chance to close the circle, an opportunity for you guys to shout about the work you are doing… Why do this? Well to promote your facilities; tell people what you have got; and tell people what you haven’t got – set appropriate expectations. If you take one thing away: Ask disabiled visitors what they want, and Inform your disabled visitors of what you’ve got.

A good listing has photos – lots! Details of events especially accessible events. Access statements. And a good listing encourages reviews.

Outcomes in these first two years have included a raised awareness from venues of accessibility, they’ve had an opportunity to showcase accessibility and realize commercial possibility of that, and build on feedback. And for our reviewers they get their voice hear, take up a challenge, make some changes, and we’re seeing offline communities form as well.

And we’ve been lucky in receiving endorsements from Ian Rankin, Stephen Hawking, and J.K. Rowling.

We are an ambitious start ups, launching new releases every month… And we have cool gamification coming up in the next 12 months.

We have Disabled Access Day 2016 coming up – a great date to throw open your doors, show what you do, find out what they think… See what we do.

Our aspirations is to make accessibility mainstream, and not just best practice. 

Jo – The Touring Network

I’m going to talk a bit about the Touring Network. We exist to ensure that there is a rich culture of rural touring for arts throughout the Highlands and Islands. It began in the 1960s but it formalized in 1998, as PAN – the Promoters Arts Network – and we became the Touring Network more recently to include performers as well as promoting. Our current venues cover half the landmass of Scotland and we represent 60 promoters and usually around 700 events of all types across the year. We enable companies to put on events, we can support some performances in some under served communities, and help ensure events are accessible to all.

Small venues have a maximum of 200 people, with venues ranging from purpose built high end facilities with accommodation, to small village halls… So venue information is crucial to running these events.

We do work digitally but we also do a lot of face to face promoter networking meetings, and an annual gathering. This year the theme is Audience Development.

Our digital work… We created a subsidiary project called Innovation Lab for digital, design and data for the Touring Sector. We have several areas… Tourbook is to stimulate activity in touring, to support performers, to build a community round touring… It’s kind of like a dating website for events. So, as a performer you login and write about your show… The venues can then search for that show, and they understand their audience and needs. Currently only open to members of the network in the Highlands and Islands…

But we have a new version coming… This will be open to a wider network across the whole of Scotland… It will have a searchable database for performers and promotors… Various improvements and developments will go live. And in either this or the next version will be on sustainable touring – understanding the emissions and carbon cost of touring. We trialled that with the company, but we also surveyed our audience, their transport, the wider purpose of their trip… When pulled together that gives us a rich picture of the emissions per show. And also recommendations for offsetting… But also what the impact of a more modern vehicle, lower weight of kit, etc.

So, the development of this platform and other projects, have potential for others and the wider sector in Scotland and worldwide.


Q: Is Creative Carbon Scotland involved?

A – Jo) Yes, we presented at their “50 shades of Green”


Q) Can I ask the panel generally, is there one thing you wouldn’t do without that have the most impact for your audiences…

A – Jo) Tourbook for us… But there is more to do with that…

A – Antonia) Twitter for us – for engaging reviewers, venues, etc. We have a social media and was one of the first people we hired.

A – Diane) Actually understanding your audience is so fundamental, and so many people find that hard to do… Most people don’t have time… Understanding data is the base stuff… That’s so important and it’s what is missing. From a social science perspective I can be dispassionate about product, and that can be helpful. Audiences can often reflect the artistic director’s vision…

Comment) Check if your website is mobile friendly seems important.

A – Diane) One artist, started to understanding her audience, then using that for targeted Facebook ads and increased audience by 1000% and that’s empowered her to be able to buy new equipment etc.


Q) Talking about the stats… It’s again understanding the user… Having tried to make apps, integrating audio for partially sighted… Have you had experience of doing that for a fairly visual interface?

A – Antonia) We take audio reviews… But we did have a young person’s charity who wanted to take part, and they do video reviews… Same technology though.


Q) In terms of iBeacons… If you can programme a smartpone to access data in a form that’s suitable.

A – Antonia) Actually Barclays is doing good work with iBeacons and apps to flag accessibility needs to their staff in store – lots on their website.


Q) How, as a technology specialist, do we engage with this sector…

A – Diane) It’s difficult but

Purple7 – the I’m @ app – engage with them, with Tate , Liverpool etc. Talk to them…

A – Jo) Also lots of workshopping and events to do that. Cultural Enterprise…

A – Diane) Potentially working with 10 museums and galleries around iBeacons… So you could put a pitch in…


Q) How about older audiences and technologies… Are there any technologies that work better with older audiences…

A – Diane) Social media has an impact, Facebook works well… Different organisations have different demographics… Lots of festivals have lots of older people engaged. Twitter can be useful… I see these all as distribution channels with different purposes…

A – Antonia) The mobile accessibility of websites is crucial too.

A – Julie) Don’t ignore the traditional distribution channels too.


LAB 2: New Approaches for Community Engagement

Sarah Drummond, Snook

I work at Snook and when I say I am a designer people ask me if I make dresses, do I design websites… Actually what we do is service design and what that means is seeing what you do through the eyes of your users, your audience. And designing for that experience. Understanding the end to end experience.

We had some designers working with the Culture Hack Scotland Geeks In Residence project for the Tattoo… The idea was to use apps to show things throughout the show, and that meant understanding the full process, from buying tickets, to downloading the apps, to engaging in that experience.

I love my job and a lot of what we do – and others are talking about today – are talking about co-creation, co-design, co-production… To engage them in every stage of the service…

Do any of us use Uber? It has it’s issues but as a user the experience is easy – I use it to book a taxi and know when they will come, how much it will cost. And the guy that’s the face of Uber in Glasgow is working with taxi drivers to make a manual, which is great.

We work with customers to make services happen… We worked with an organisation who had amazing caves under their building and didn’t know how to make a service, an experience from that. We worked with them for very basic making and prototyping ideas and solutions, to try things out and see what they doing. Similarly we are working with the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham to try stuff out in public – seeing if things work, or if it doesn’t.

It’s fine to say that we should prototype ideas, to bring things together… But how do we make these spaces? We are working on the project Culture Aberdeen to bring citizens together. We are also working on a project called Dearest Scotland – for writing to the future of Scotland – an opportunity for customers of the country, essentially, to get their voices heard.

Q) How do you deal with these types of ideas, and that not all will work?

A) You have to kind of focus on the positive, things that work. But you also have to let others define the problem first, and to respond to that, rather than

Amanda Broan – Marketing Services Manager, Glasgow Life

I’m going to talk a bit about Glasgow Life. We are a charity and have 2700 staff, with over 8 million visitors to our events and venues last year. We are a really big organisation. And we have projects that each have their own systems, and it was hard to pull data from those systems… So we have resolved that by pulling that data together through a CRM. So that we could gather customer records/history, clean data, get single customer view, but also be able to use that data to segment our audience and informed our future marketing and programming activity.

Our CRM is Market Developer and every night we feed in data from other systems, with customer record, history, data protection permissions, equalities information (anonyised). We don’t bring in any financial records. And we keep our data for the last 2 years. So that allows us to see all the touch points we have with our customers, how they engage, what they are doing, who is highly engaged, and how we can learn from other areas. Some of our venues, such as museums, are free to access. So we have created a form for staff to collect customer data.

Right now we have 582K records in the system – loads more to come as we bring in our libraries information. 52% permission by emails, 64% permission by mail – likely to go down as a percentage when sports and libraries data comes in.

What we’ve learned is that at the front line our data capture can sometimes be quite poor. Pushing back data to management systems is not straightforward – and we’re working on that. There is a nervousness from staff/management system suppliers. Staff processing large queues, inputting customer data can be difficult – so we are trying to get them to capture summary/brief data where possible. Market Developer is a complex system – so a lot to do to get up to speed. And once the data is in, it’s crucial to clean the data regularly so we are looking at reviewing it every 6 months.

So, when data comes in we review it, we clean it, and then we add to records. That’s quite a big commitment going forwards. The other thing we are very aware of is data safety, so we ensure staff only access what they need. All staff have to do a mandatory data security course. We can have users from read only to super users. All data via secure FTP. All portable devices are encrypted. Ad doc data removed from LAN. No financial information transmitted. Secure data centre and back up centre in the UK. By the end of our financial year (March) we should have all of our systems included.

Q) How are you using this data so far, in terms of programing of customer experience…

A) We’re using it for emails, for SMS… But at the data collection stage and making it usable. But what we want to do is ensure we are commuicating customers how they want us to – so if they want email, only email; if they want social media, use that… But we want deeper information on what they want and need. At the moment we are doing 3-4K emails a month, a significant number.

Artlink Edinburgh & Lothians – Jan-Bert van den Berg, Adrienne Chalmers

Jan-Bert: I’m going to talk about art, how it is made and how it is shared. As an artist, producer, presenter… working with a defined audience of visually impaired people, then how do I have that inform my work. It is simple… You have to listen and to talk to folk but that has taken me ages to do… To develop work with the audience in mind. And that’s challenging, you get views and demands that vary and it is your job as an artist to make sense of those views and needs.

Adrienne: We’ve been doing work with The Poor Boy Theatre at Greyfriars last year. They had been doing a lot of work on how to engage with those with visual impairments… They gave us noises, atmosphere, smells, food at the pub later too! But we worked with Poor Boy with a group of visually impaired people who are used to attending the theatre, and to work with them on drama, including Arthur Miller, in a way to make it easier to access and engage with for visually impaired audiences. That enabled them to understand what was possible, but also for the visually impaired audience to understand what is possible, works well, etc.

Jan-Bert: We engage with a broad range of people and we want our work to be informed… But we do this on small scale so how do we do that on a bigger scale? Have a dialogue around them. To see the work and examine it, seeing what it contributes and how. For me there is huge potential in seeing the work being informed at every level we do. And it is bloody simple: it’s about listening and engaging and we are all in the business of creating work that is good, which touches us and is important.


Q) I have in one ear that this is easy… But also remembering an experience of going to a playwriting workshop in the midlands that wasn’t succeeding in getting asian writers in… I was just wondering if there are any good communication practices or models to look to, so that that idea of listening and engaging really works.

A – Jan-Bert) We work with care workers, social workers, but first and foremost we work with the people we want to reach in that audience. But you have to acknowledge that every particular moment has it’s own community and audience… And you have to work to make that happen. Now that sounds awful in a way… Pulling everything together to be appreciated by everyone… But that’s not it… You pool people, you find what you want out of that, and you stick to that. You won’t please everyone… But you can talk that through or work that through with them, so they understand why you make those decisions as well. And it’s understanding the context, how that is informed, and working with that without fearing mistakes…

A – Sarah) That was a great answer. There is an organisation, Lankelly Chase, bringing together organisations and users with multiple complex needs, working mostly in England and Wales, who are a foundation funding works, and we are part of a project called the “Promoting Change Network”. They are running residential projects, bringing 150 people together. Those who have and have not been part of the events. With commissioners, organisations using services, and service users/those with lived experience of their support. You’ll be familiar with Open Space methodologies – they’ve been tried before but that hasn’t provoked debates as much as might be useful. So this event will provoke debate, to look forward in a positive way. And to ensure all in the room is treated as an equal – so even if you don’t agree, you take something useful away for you…  There are so many methods and models but… I like the model of the Design Studio, of critiquing and collaborating – the aesthetic of the space for sharing and engaging.

Q) How is your CRM project being supported?

A – Amanda, Glasgow Life) It is a self-funded project, and the additional income generated should offset that.

Sarah) A question for the audience – what are you doing that is new in terms of approaches?

Audience member) We actually used Open Space as a format, looking at the scale those work at. But also understanding what the differences are across a region, and how needs vary… I decided to go geographically and choose someone in a post code and engage with them.

Audience member) For us the idea of prototyping quickly, failing, moving on… is very different and not well supported by the statutory funders. So I think it’s about that. And about relinquishing the need for control, to be open to partnership, to innovation… To be innovative in who you are and how innovative you can be in your own approach… But sometimes it’s hard.

Sarah) Someone asked a question in a recent event of “what’s hard about doing this” – well it’s about this traditional approach, it’s quite contrary to that. We have to look at the barriers to doing that and understanding those… I don’t believe anyone can complete a funding form and know there won’t be any mistakes… We all make mistakes. We have to embrace those, understand that, and embed it in organisations, funding models, etc. Nobody can always get it right.

And with that the session draws to a close…

Kirsty Walk is now introducing our final session, and asking attendees at the various labs for their highpoints, the Partnerships session mentions “threshold” and citizenships being important; the new ways to do Community Engagement spoke of being open to engaging, of listening and trying things out; new Insights spoke of major regional variations in Scotland, requirements of EDI plans for Creative Scotland and toolkits to help with that, and also collaboration with organisations, diversity of activities with elderly generation needs lots involved; Had an excellent session on technologies and tools, each asked for most essential tool and the overriding element was that if you don’t understand your audience, the tools and technologies aren’t the issue, discussion of budget (or lack of) and role of paid social, tools for older people, connectivity in rural areas (and lack thereof). 

Panel Discussion: Changing mindsets
How do we shape the cultural landscape of the future?
What resources equip us to tackle the complex challenges of creating art that is inclusive, accessible and diverse in every way?

Featuring Jill Miller of Glasgow Life, Leonie Bell of Creative Scotland, Dr. Maria Balshaw of the Whitworth and Jackie Killeen of the Big Lottery Fund, also Julie Tait (CE) from Culture Republic.

Leonie: I oversee five art forms and creative learning which includes the ring fenced funding that the cabinet secretary spoke about earlier. We fund through open project funding, and have day to day contact and invite advice, post application advice. Funding is core but we also see ourselves as an organisation for developing the sector, and pushing influence beyond those we commonly speak to.

Jill: We deliver directly in the city and rarely do that on our own, mostly with partners and stakeholders. We work with the commercial sector, the cultural sector, and the private sector. But fundamentally its about local people  – the artists, the community. We have to listen to our local communities, to develop our services and programmes that are well suited to our audiences. You can’t just take your work to your audience, you have to ensure your work is accessible in terms of what you do, not just where you are doing it.

Jackie: My sector is broader than the cultural community, we are here for culture and community, to make life better for people in need. Culture is a big part of that and we see it as a resource and asset. Day to day we try to make sure we find, fund, support and learn across communities in Scotland.

Julie: Our team are researchers and marketers and that’s represented in their strategies for engagement. Sometimes I feel a lot of the people making decisions have to get out more in front of people and hear the challenges faced and also looking at the broadest range. The data is the reality, the end result, what happens when people pay for a ticket or cross a threshold.

Kirstie: Is there a lack of ambition Jill?

Jill: The funding conversation and capacity there is a major issue and I think we’ve seen some of these conversations taking place for years and years… We have to see things getting better, make some of these things work. The ambition is there but we have to see action, not just conversations.

Kirstie: Outreach is a social good perhaps but maybe there a way to make engagement happen would be to look at boards, and to ensure there is representation on boards.

Leonie: There is something quite formulaic about boards, that there is someone from the organisation, your accountant.. But are you representing the social not just the governance aspect of what your board is for. We have to ask this ourselves, but also do this as well… We exist under the Government requirements so our board is 50% women and actually quotas are OK, when we want to make a real change.

Jackie: As was said this morning, you need some discord to get to good decisions. Increasingly the work we are supporting is valued by, and is valuable for the community the work is for. That’s been a shift to ensure that the community truly benefits. Having people on the board is one way, but not if it’s tokenistic. YOu need to be intentionally more open, more inviting, more welcoming and accessible, as Maria from the Whitworth talked about. We have a programme called Young Start. That was for projects run by or engaging with young people… Lots of great examples of where that is happening now.

Kirstie: New Insights particularly talked about how arts organisations should be working and collaborating more…

Jill: It’s how we collaborate and learn from each other. We are loking at it from a negative position and there are some brilliant examples in Scotland. Conversations around intent, and openness. And the recognition of the gap between the intention to reach and engage “looked after children” and actually delivering that is huge… So you have to think about the partners who can bridge that gap. The board thing is a particular thing but there are other ways…

Kirstie: Fiona Hyslop made it clear that she has to fight her corner for funding… When Creative Scotland are doing funding, are you looking for organisations to work together?

Leonie: The ten year thing is a really heavy burden for funders. But to pick up on what Jill said, most in this space are doing great stuff already. We don’t know what is happening in the future finanically but we are, as an organisation, looking at the economic impact of the arts, but also the social justice impact of them. We all work in partnership all the time, but there are models of cooperation around e.g. utility bills, location, etc. which may be useful going forward.


Q from online audience) Reflecting on one of the labs section, there is an interesting discussion of partnerships taking place – how can we enable small businesses, partnerships, one man bands, etc. to address that.

Jill: It’s back to communication really, and thinking also about where we can get involved, and when we can’t. Sometimes being a big organisation makes you better place to facilitate rather than be a full partner. But you need real points of contact so that people know how to engage, who to speak to. And providing frameworks for managing and supporting them.

Jackie: Speaking to others and meeting for the first time is so valuable. We should be a catalyst to make connections, opportunities to talk, especially for smaller organisations.

Julie: We can also undertake Cultural mapping to understand the marketplace, who is already out there, what they do,. Arts is an ecology with organisations of all sizes, and interconnections and networks aren’t always clear, although we do see it as our role to bring people together in this way.

Q audience) My question is about measuring audiences, not just numbers or diversity, but the impact and value of that engagement. If we challenge economic rationale, what is the evidence we need and how do we do that.

Leonie) I think it is essentially back to stories, of the different something has made as an individual or the community. Jill and I worked together on the Commonwealth Games to tell that story of your audience and peer experience and professional arts and cultural experience and it was an interesting piece of work to learn from. Those numbers sometimes matter, but stories really do matter – we are comfortable with that but we need to get better at telling stories to others too.

Julie) One aspect here also is technology and understanding a person’s context, their friends and family, their network.

Jackie) Sometimes the things we ask or look for in monitoring reports, as a funder, is not the stuff that mattered most… And that doesn’t always get reported. And we need to think about how we can capture that to, to be flexible enough to let that come out…

Kirstie) So you might need to remodel what you’re looking for.

Jackie) We missed the point – for example we did work with Kilmarnock reoffenders and had missed what had happened in the community to support those people returning to them…

Kirstie) As a result of today, what will you take away to build on or refocus on?

Jill) I think language is a challenge, even for those working in this area full time. We had lots of examples of how people were labelled or grouped and what has come through for me is the social justice aspect of that… And the complicatedness underneath that which is helpful. It’s about long term planning and making sure we make a difference.

Leonie: The concept of equality in relation to diverse people, and work we spoke about.. I think that there is a lack of confidence about talking about equality in everything we do. We also have to deal with thinking beyond Council and political timings and boundaries – we do think ahead, to the next generation, but that is still hard to do and we need to do that. Fiona Hyslop drew evidence around ring fenced funding but they don’t exist along… you have to have something before, around them, and following up to make those useful.

Jackie) Even though things are challenging at the moment, you are some of the most creative people and if you don’t know how to overcome those challenges nobody does! We have to keep challenging ourselves to be ambitious and talented, to keep on the curve, not behind it. We have slightly more regularity to our funding… And we’ve been asking ourselves about that… We do have grants that grow over time, enabling that natural life cycle of development.

Julie) For me more than ever before, the opportunity to come together and meet each other… We are all facing the same strategic issues – there is a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge working together which will have even greater impact when we bring those together.

Kirstie) Thank you to everyone today for your participation, your tweets – I’d hoped to read some of the juicy ones – and for those watching online. And I think we have an amazing creative community in this country and that is work celebrating for every effort you are making.

Julie) Thank you to all of our speakers and participants today for some fantastic talks and engagement today. I also have to thank our sign language team, our live note takers, our web team, and the webcasting team from Glowcast. And to the Culture Republic team who have put today’s event. The next steps: the session recording will be available to view online soon. And the Culture Republic sessions on population profiles on disability is coming up, then on ethnnicity,  race, older audiences etc. And our new podcast series speaks about how you are reaching out and sharing what you know… And there is training coming up soon from specialists in disability in the arts. And finally today we’ll have some performance from Indepen-dance who are a new young dance company – so we can see not only talk about the arts today!

And with that I’m wrapping up this blog to enjoy the dance, a very quick drink and networking, but then I’m off to the Internet of Things Meet Up on Maker Cultures, which I’ll also be blogging here. 


Oct 202015
Digital Footprint campaign logo

I am involved in organising, and very much looking forward to, two events this week which I think will be of interest to Edinburgh-based readers of this blog. Both are taking place on Thursday and I’ll try to either liveblog or summarise them here.

If you are are based at Edinburgh University do consider booking these events or sharing the details with your colleagues or contacts at the University. If you are based further afield you might still be interested in taking a look at these and following up some of the links etc.

Firstly we have the fourth seminar of the new(ish) University of Edinburgh Crowd Sourcing and Citizen Science network:

Citizen Science and the Mass Media

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 12 – 1.30 pm, Paterson’s Land 1.21, Old Moray House, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh.

“This session will be an opportunity to look at how media and communications can be used to promote a CSCS project and to engage and develop the community around a project.

The kinds of issues that we hope will be covered will include aspects such as understanding the purpose and audience for your project; gaining exposure from a project; communicating these types of projects effectively; engaging the press; expectation management;  practical issues such as timing, use of interviewees and quotes, etc.

We will have two guest presenters, Dave Kilbey from Natural Apptitude Ltd, and Ally Tibbitt from STV, followed by plenty of time for questions and discussion. The session will be chaired by Nicola Osborne (EDINA), drawing on her experience working on the COBWEB project.”

I am really excited about this session as both Dave and Ally have really interesting backgrounds: Dave runs his own app company and has worked on a range of high profile projects so has some great insights into what makes a project appealing to the media, what makes the difference to that project’s success, etc; Ally works as STV and has a background in journalism but also in community engagement, particularly around social and environmental projects. I think the combination will make for an excellent lunchtime session. UoE staff and students can register for the event via Eventbright, here.

On the same day we have our Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme seminar for the Managing Your Digital Footprints project:

Social media, students and digital footprints (PTAS research findings)

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 2 – 3.30pm, IAD Resources Room, 7 Bristo Square, George Square, Edinburgh.

“This short information and interactive session will present findings from the PTAS Digital Footprint research http://edin.ac/1d1qY4K

In order to understand how students are curating their digital presence, key findings from two student surveys (1457 responses) as well as data from 16 in-depth interviews with six students will be presented. This unique dataset provides an opportunity for us to critically reflect on the changing internet landscape and take stock of how students are currently using social media; how they are presenting themselves online; and what challenges they face, such as cyberbullying, viewing inappropriate content or whether they have the digital skills to successfully navigate in online spaces.

The session will also introduce the next phase of the Digital Footprint research: social media in a learning & teaching context.  There will be an opportunity to discuss e-professionalism and social media guidelines for inclusion in handbooks/VLEs, as well as other areas.”

I am also really excited about this event, at which Louise Connelly, Sian Bayne, and I will be talking about the early findings from our Managing Your Digital Footprints project, and some of the outputs from the research and campaign (find these at: www.ed.ac.uk/iad/digitalfootprint).

Although this event is open to University staff and students only (register via the Online Bookings system, here), we are disseminating this work at a variety of events, publications etc. Our recent ECSM 2015 paper is the best overview of the work to date but expect to see more here in the near future about how we are taking forward this work. Do also get in touch with Louise or I if you have any questions about the project or would be interested in hearing more about the project, some of the associated training, or the research findings as they emerge.

Oct 192015

I am delighted to see that my University of Edinburgh colleagues in Learning, Teaching and Web Services, working in collaboration with the Careers Service and the Institute for Academic Development, are piloting a new “Edinburgh Award (Digital Ambassadors“, to encourage and recognise the digital best practices of students at the University.

The Edinburgh Award, which recognises student excellence in activities beyond the core curriculum, is part of a University-wide employability initiative. The Awards were piloted back in 2011/12 and are now a mainstream concept at the University, with students able to gain awards for their contribution across a wide variety of activities, from volunteering and student societies through to peer support and mentoring. The new Digital Ambassadors award being piloted this winter will specifically be addressing excellence in digital literacy and practice through evidence of hands on contribution and activities – across areas such as social media, coding, etc., participation in personal development sessions and short form reflective writing on their experience.

I am really excited to see how this pilot goes since the Award builds upon, and works with, Managing Your Digital Footprint (now mainstream across the University). It also addresses a real growing need for broader graduate skills around digital literacy, and the need to evidence those skills properly. As someone who has been involved in recruiting staff I know that it can be complex assessing what a candidate has taken from, e.g. running their own blog: for some people it may be a matter of developing content strategy, monitoring progress towards appropriate goals, developing their writing style, etc., but for others it may be a very basic understanding of how to edit and share a post. The Digital Ambassador Edinburgh Award requires students to present a portfolio evidencing “the student’s contribution to online and technology excellence” which has taken place during the Award process which will, I think, prove to be an invaluable asset to the students themselves when it comes to presenting their skills and experience to employers.

You can find out much more about the award, the work involved, and how contribution is assessed over on the Your Digital Edge: Edinburgh Award page. Current University of Edinburgh students at all levels, whether online distance learners or campus-based for their courses, are invited to register their interest by 3rd November 2015.

The Edinburgh Award is part of the “Your Digital Edge” offering to students: an online hub and community supporting opportunities for, and participation in, digital literacy activities and for academic outcomes, employability and lifelong learning. Lots more on this initiative on the Your Digital Edge website, or you can follow @DigitalEduni on Twitter or Facebook.


Oct 132015
Michael Dewar, Data Scientist at The New York Times, presenting at the Data Science for Media Summit held by the Alan Turing Institute and University of Edinburgh, 14th October 2015..

Today I am at the “Data Science for Media Summit” hosted by The Alan Turing Institute & University of Edinburgh and taking place at the Informatics Forum in Edinburgh. This promises to be an event exploring data science opportunities within the media sector and the attendees are already proving to be a diverse mix of media, researchers, and others interesting in media collaborations. I’ll be liveblogging all day – the usual caveats apply – but you can also follow the tweets on #TuringSummit.

Introduction – Steve Renals, Informatics

I’m very happy to welcome you all to this data science for media summit, and I just wanted to explain that idea of a “summit”. This is one of a series of events from the Alan Turing Institute, taking place across the UK, to spark new ideas, new collaborations, and build connections. So researchers understanding areas of interest for the media industry. And the media industry understanding what’s possible in research. This is a big week for data science in Edinburgh, as we also have our doctoral training centre so you’ll also see displays in the forum from our doctoral students.

So, I’d now like to handover to Howard Covington, Chair, Alan Turing Institute

Introduction to the Alan Turing Institute (ATI) – Howard Covington, Chair, ATI

To introduce ATI I’m just going to cut to out mission, to make the UK the world leader in data science and data systems.

ATI came about from a government announcement in March 2014, then bidding process leading to universities chosen in Jan 2015, joint venture agreement between the partners (Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, UCL, Warwick) in March 2015, and Andrew Blake, the institute’s director takes up his post this week. He was before now the head of research for Microsoft R&D in the UK.

Those partners already have about 600 data scientists working for them and we expect ATI to be an organisation of around 700 data scientists as students etc. come in. And the idea of the data summits – there are about 10 around the UK – for you to tell us your concerns, your interests. We are also hosting academic research sessions for them to propose their ideas. 

Now, I’ve worked in a few start ups in my time and this is going at pretty much as fast a pace as you can go.

We will be building our own building, behind the British Library opposite the Frances Crick building. There will be space at that HQ for 150 peaople. There is £67m of committed funding for the first 5 years – companies and organisations with a deep interest who are committing time and resources to the institute. And we will have our own building in due course.

The Institute sits in a wider ecosystem that includes: Lloyds Register – our first partner who sees huge amounts of data coming from sensors on large structures; GCHQ – working with them on the open stuff they do, and using their knowledge in keeping data safe and secure; EPSRC – a shareholder and partner in the work. We also expect other partners coming in from various areas, including the media.

So, how will we go forward with the Institute? Well we want to do both theory and impact. So we want major theoretical advances, but we will devote time equally to practical impactful work. Maths and Computer Science are both core, but we want to be a broad organisation across the full range of data science, reflecting that we are a national centre. But we will have to take a specific interest in particular interest. There will be an ecosystem of partners. And we will have a huge training programme with around 40 PhD students per year, and we want those people to go out into the world to take data sciences forward.

Now, the main task of our new director, is working out our science and innovation strategy. He’s starting by understanding where our talents and expertise already sit across our partners. We are also looking at the needs of our strategic partners, and then the needs emerging from the data summits, and the academic workshops. We should then soon have our strategy in place. But this will be additive over time.

When you ask someone what data science is that definition is ever changing and variable. So I have a slide here that breaks the rules of slide presentations really, in that it’s very busy… But data science is very busy. So we will be looking at work in this space, and going into more depth, for instance on financial sector credit scoring; predictive models in precision agriculture; etc. Undercutting all of these is similarities that cross many fields. Things like security and privacy is one such area – we can only go as far as it is appropriate to go with people’s data, and issue both for ATI and for individuals.

I don’t know if you think that’s exciting, but I think it’s remarkably exciting!

We have about 10 employees now, we’ll have about 150 this time next year, and I hope we’ll have opportunity to work with all of you on what is just about the most exciting project going on in the UK at the moment.

And now to our first speaker…

New York Times Labs – Keynote from Mike Dewar, Data Scientist

I’m going to talk a bit about values, and about the importance of understanding the context of what it is we do. And how we embed what we think is important into the code that we write, the systems that we design and the work that we do.

Now, the last time I was in Edinburgh was in 2009 I was doing a Post Doc working on modelling biological data, based on video of flies. There was loads of data, mix of disciplines, and we were market focused – the project became a data analytics company. And, like much other data science, it was really rather invasive – I knew huge amounts about the sex life of fruit flies, far more than one should need too! We were predicting behaviours, understanding correlations between environment and behaviour. I’

I now work at the New York Times R&D and our task is to look 3-5 years ahead of current NYT practice. We have several technologists there, but also colleagues who are really designers. That has forced me up a bit… I am a classically trained engineer – to go out into the world, find the problem, and then solve it by finding some solution, some algorithm to minimise the cost function. But it turns out in media, where we see decreasing ad revenue, and increasing subscription, that we need to do more than minimise the cost function… That basically leads to click bait. So I’m going to talk about three values that I think we should be thinking about, and projects within that area. So, I shall start with Trust…


It can be easy to forget that much of what we do in journalism is essentially surveillance, so it is crucial that we do our work in a trustworthy way.

So the first thing I want to talk about is a tool called Curriculum, a Chrome browser plug in that observes everything I read online at work. Then it takes chunk of text, aggregates with what others are reading, and projects that onto a screen in the office. So, firstly, the negative… I am very aware I’m being observed – it’s very invasive – and that layer of privacy is gone, that shapes what I do (and it ruins Christmas!). But it also shares what everyone is doing, a sense of what collectively we are working on… It is built in such a way as to make it inherently trustworthy in four ways: it’s open source so I can see the code that controls this project; it is fantastically clearly written and clearly architected so reading the code is actually easy, it’s well commented, I’m able to read it; it respects existing boundaries on the web – it does not read https (so my email is fine) and respects incognito mode; and also I know how to turn it off – also very important.

In contrary to that I want to talk about Editor. This is a text editor like any others… Except whatever you type is sent to a series of micro services which looks for similarity, looking for NYT keyword corpos, and then sends that back to the editor – enabling a tight mark up of their text. The issue is that the writer is used to writing alone, then send to production. Here we are asking the writer to share their work in progress and send it to central AI services at the NYT, so making that trustworthy is a huge challenge, and we need to work out how best to do this.


Data scientists have a tendency towards the complex. I’m no different – show me a new tool and I’ll want to play with it and I enjoy a new toy. And we love complex algorithms, especially if we spent years learning about those in grad school. And those can render any data illegible.

So we have [NAME?] an infinite scrolling browser – when you scroll you can continue on. And at the end of each article an algorithm offers 3 different recommendation strands… It’s like a choose your own adventure experience. So we have three recommended articles, based on very simple recommendation engine, which renders them legible. These are “style graph” – things that are similar in style; “collaborative filter” – readers like you also read; “topic graph” – similar in topic. These are all based on the nodes and edges of the connections between articles. They are simple legible concepts, and easy to run so we can use them across the whole NYT corpus. They are understandable to deal with so has a much better chance of resonating with our colleagues.

As a counter point we were tasked with looking at Behavioural Segmentation – to see how we can build different products for them. Typically segmentation is done with demography. We were interested, instead, on using just the data we had, the behavioural data. We arranged all of our pageviews into sessions (arrive at a page through to leave the site). So, for each session we representated the data as a transition matrix to understand the probability of moving from one page to the next… So we can perform clustering of behaviours… So looking at this we can see that there are some clusters that we already know about… We have the “one and dones” – read one article then move on. We found the “homepage watcher” who sit on the homepage and use that as a launching point. The rest though the NYT didn’t have names for… So we now have the “homepage bouncer” – going back and forth from the front page; and the “section page starter” as well, for instance.

This is a simple caymeans (?) model and clustering, very simple but they are dynamic, and effective. However, this is very very radical at NYT, amongst non data scientist. It’s hard to make it resonate to drive any behaviour or design in the building. We have a lot of work to do to make this legible and meaningful for our colleagues.

The final section I want to talk about is Live…


In news we have to be live, we have to work in the timescales of seconds to a minute. In the lab that has been expressed as streams of data – never ending sequences of data arriving at our machines as quickly as possible.

So, one of our projects, Delta, produces a live visualisation of every single page views of the NYT – a pixel for person starting on the globe, then pushing outwards, If you’ve visited the NYT in the last year or so, you’ve generated a pixel on the globe in the lab. We use this to visualise the work of the lab. We think the fact that this is live is very visceral. We always start with the globe… But then we show a second view, using the same pixels in the context of sections, of the structure of the NYT content itself. And that can be explored with an XBox controller. Being live makes it relevant and timely, to understand current interests and content. It ties people to the audience, and encourages other parts of the NYT to build some of these live experiences… But one of the tricky things of that is that it is hard to use live streams of data, hence…

Streamtools, a tool for managing livestreams of data. It should be reminscent of Similink or LabView etc. [when chatting to Mike earlier I suggested it was a superpimped, realtime Yahoo Pipes and he seemed to agree with that description too]. It’s now on it’s third incarnation and you can come and explore a demo throughout today.

Now, I’ve been a data scientist and involved when we bring our systems to the table we need to be aware that what we build embodies our own values. And I think that for data science in media we should be building trustworthy systems, tools which are legible to others, and those that are live.

Find out more at nytlabs.com.


Q1) I wanted to ask about expectations. In a new field it can be hard to manage expectations. What are your users expectations for your group and how do you manage that?

A1) The expectations in R&D, in which we have one data scientist and a bunch of designers. We make speculative futures, build prototypes, bring them to NYT, to the present, to help them make decisions about the future. In terms of data science in general at NYT… Sometimes things look magic and look lovely but we don’t understand how they work, in other places it’s much simpler, e.g. counting algorithms. But there’s no risk of a data science winter, we’re being encouraged to do more.

Q2) NYT is a paper of record, how do you manage risk?

A2) Our work is informed by a very well worded privacy statement that we respect and build our work on. But the other areas of ethics etc. is still to be looked at.

Q3) Much of what you are doing is very interactive and much of data science is about processing large sets of data… So can you give any tips for someone working with Terrabytes of data for working with designers?

A3) I think a data scientist essentially is creating a palate of colours for your designer to work with. And forcing you to explain that to the designer is useful, and enables those colours to be used. And we encourage that there isn’t just one solution, we need to try many. That can be painful as a data scientist as some of your algorithms won’t get used, but, that gives some great space to experiment and find new solutions.

Data Journalism Panel Session moderated by Frank O’Donnell, Managing Editor of The Scotsman, Edinburgh Evening News and Scotland on Sunday

We’re going to start with some ideas of what data journalism is

Crina Boros, Data Journalist, Greenpeace

I am a precision journalist.  and I have just joined Greenpeace having worked at Thomson Reuters, BBC Newsnight etc. And I am not a data scientist, or a journalist. I am a pre-journalist working with data. At Greenpeace data is being used for investigate journalism purposes, areas no longer or rarely picked up by mainstream media, to find conflicts of interest, and to establish facts and figures for use in journalism, in campaigning. And it is a way to protect human sources and enable journalists in their work. I have, in my role, both used data that exists, created data when it does not exist. And I’ve sometimes worked with data that was never supposed to see the light of data.

Evan Hensleigh, Visual Data Journalist, The Economist

I was originally a designer and therefore came into information visualisation and data journalism by a fairly convoluted route. At the Economist we’ve been running since the 1890s and we like to say that we’ve been doing data science since we started. We were founded at the time of the Corn Laws in opposition to those proposals, and visualised the impact of those laws as part of that.

The way we now tend to use data is to illustrate a story we are already working on. For instance working on articles on migration in Europe, and looking at fortifications and border walls that have been built over the last 20 to 30 years lets you see the trends over time – really bringing to life the bigger story. It’s one thing to report current changes, but to see that in context is powerful.

Another way that we use data is to investigate changes – a colleague was looking at changes in ridership on the Tube, and the rise of the rush hour – and then use that to trigger new articles.

Rachel Schutt, Chief Data Scientist, Newscorp

I am not a journalist but I am the Chief Data Scientist at Newscorp, and I’m based in New York. My background is a PhD in statistics, and I used to work at Google in R&D and algorithms. And I became fascinated by data science so started teaching an introductory course at Columbia, and wrote a book on this topic. And what I now do at Newscorp is to use data as a strategic asset. So that’s about using data to generate value – around subscriptions, advertising etc. But we also have data journalism so I increasingly create opportunities for data scientists, engineers, journalists, and in many cases a designer so that they can build stories with data at the core.

We have both data scientists, but also data engineers  – so hybrid skills are around engineering, statistical analysis, etc. and sometimes individual’s skills cross those borders, sometimes it’s different people too. And we also have those working more in design and data visualisation. So, for instance, we are now getting data dumps – the Clinton emails, transcripts from Ferguson etc. – and we know those are coming so can build tools to explore those.

A quote I like is that data scientists should think like journalists (from DJ Patel) – in any industry. In Newscorp we also get to learn from journalists which is very exciting. But the idea is that you have to be investigative, be able to tell a story, to

Emily Bell says “all algorithms are editorial” – because value judgements are embedded in those algorithms, and you need to understand the initial decisions that go with that.

Jacqui Maher, Interactive Journalist, BBC News Labs
I was previously at the NYT, mainly at the Interactive News desk in the newsroom. An area crossing news, visualisation, data etc. – so much of what has already been said. And I would absolutely agree with Rachel about the big data dumps and looking for the story – the last dump of emails I had to work with were from Sarah Palin for instance.

At the BBC my work lately has been on a concept called “Structured Journalism” – so when we report on a story we put together all these different entities in a very unstructured set of data as audio, video etc. Many data scientists will try to extract that structure back out of that corpus… So we are looking at how we might retain the structure that is in a journalist’s head, as they are writing the story. So digital tools that will help journalists during the investigative process. And ways to retain connections, structures etc. And then what can we do with that… What can make it more relevant to readers/viewers – context pieces, ways of adding context in a video (a tough challenge).

If you look at work going on elsewhere, for instance at the Washington Post working on IS, are looking at how to similarly add context, how they can leverage previous reporting without having to do that from scratch.


Q1 – FOD) At a time when we have to cut staff in media, in newspapers in particular, how do we justify investing in data science, or how do we use data science.

A1 – EH) Many of the people I know came out of design backgrounds. You can get pretty far just using available tools. There are a lot of useful tools out there that can help your work.

A1 – CB) I think this stuff is just journalism, and these are just another sets of tools. But there is a misunderstanding that you don’t press a button and get a story. You have to understand that it takes time,  there’s a reason that it is called precision journalism. And sometimes the issue is that the data is just not available.

A1 – RS) Part of the challenge is about traditional academic training and what is and isn’t included here.. But there are more academic programmes on data journalism. It’s a skillset issue. I’m not sure that, on a pay basis, whether data journalists should get paid more than other journalists…

A1 – FOD) I have to say in many newsrooms journalists are not that numerate. Give them statistics, even percentages and that can be a challenge. It’s almost a badge of honour as wordsmiths…

A1 – JM) I think most newsrooms have an issue of silos. You also touched on the whole “math is hard” thing. But to do data journalism you don’t need to be a data scientist. They don’t have to be an expert on maths, stats, visualisation etc. At my former employer I worked with Mike – who you’ve already heard from – who could enable me to cross that barrier. I didn’t need to understand the algorithms, but I had that support. You do see more journalist/designer/data scientists working together. I think eventually we’ll see all of those people as journalists though as you are just trying to tell the story using the available tools.

Q2) I wanted to ask about the ethics of data journalism. Do you think that to do data journalism there is a developing field of ethics in data journalism?

A1 – JM) I think that’s a really good question in journalism… But I don’t think that’s specific to data journalism. When I was working at NYT we were working on the Wikileaks data dumps, and there were huge ethical issues there and around the information that was included there in terms of names, in terms of risk. And in the end the methods you might take – whether blocking part of a document out – the technology mignt vary but the ethical issues are the same.

Q2 follow up FOD) And how were those ethical issues worked out?

A1 – JM) Having a good editor is also essential.

A1 – CB) When I was at Thomson Reuters I was involved in running womens rights surveys to collate data and when you do that you need to apply research ethics, with advice from those appropriately positioned to do that.

A1 – RS) There is an issue that traditionally journalists are trained in ethics but data scientists are not trained in ethics. We have policies in terms of data privacy… But much more to do. And it comes down to the person who is building a data model – ad you have to be aware of the possible impact and implications of that model. And risks also of things like the Filter Bubble (Pariser 2011).

Q3 – JO) One thing that came through listening to ? and Jackie, it’s become clear that journalism is a core part of journalism… You can’t get the story without the data. So, is there a competitive advantage to being able to extract that meaning from the data – is there a data science arms race here?

A3 – RS) I certainly look out to NYT and other papers I admire what they do, but of course the reality is messier than the final product… But there is some of this…

A3 – JM) I think that if you don’t engage with data then you aren’t keeping up with the field, you are doing yourself a professional misservice.

A3 – EH) There is a need to keep up. We are a relatively large group, but nothing like the scale of NYT… So we need to find ways to tell stories that they won’t tell, or to have a real sense of what an Economist data story looks like. Our team is about 12 or 14, that’s a pretty good side.

A3 – RS) Across all of our businesses there are 100s in data science roles, of whom only a dozen or so are on data journalism side.

A3 – JM) At the BBC there are about 40 or 50 people on the visual journalism team. But there are many more in data science in other roles, people at the World Service. But we have maybe a dozen people in the lab at any given moment.

Q4) I was struck by the comment about legibility, and a little bit related to transparancy in data. Data is already telling a story, there is an editorial dimension, and that is added to in the presentation of the data… And I wonder how you can do that to improve transparancy.

A4 – JM) There are many ways to do that… To show your process, to share your data (if appropriate). Many share code on GitHub. And there is a question there though – if someone finds something in the data set, what’s the feedback loop.

A4 – CB) In the past where I’ve worked we’ve shared a document on the step by step process used. I’m not a fan of sharing on GitHub, I think you need to hand hold the reader through the data story etc.

Q5) Given that journalims is about holding companies to account… In a world where, e.g. Google, are the new power brokers, who will hold them to account. I think data journalism needs a merge between journalism, data science, and designers… Sometimes that can be in one person… And what do you think about journalism playing a role in holding new power brokers to account.

A5 – EH) There is a lot of potential. These companies publish a lot of data and/or make their data available. There was some great work on 5:38 about Uber, based on a Freedom of Information request to essentially fact check Uber’s own statistics and reporting of activities.

Q6) Over the years we’ve (Robert Gordan Univerity) worked with journalists from various organisations. I’ve noticed that there is an issue, not yet raised, that journalists are always looking for a particular angle in data as they work with it… It can be hard to get an understanding from the data, rather than using the data to reinforce bias etc.

A6 – RS) If there is an issue of taking a data dump from e.g. Twitter to find a story… Well dealing with that bias does come back to training. But yes, there is a risk of journalists getting excited, wanting to tell a novel story, without being checked with colleagues, correcting analysis.

A6 – CB) I’ve certainly had colleagues wanting data to substantiate the story, but it should be the other way around…

Q6) If you, for example, take the Scottish Referendum and the General Election and you see journalists so used to watching their dashboard and getting real time feedback, they use them for the stories rather than doing any real statistical analysis.

A6 – CB) That’s part of the usefulness of reason for reading different papers and different reporters covering a topic – and you are expected to have an angle as a journalist.

A6 – EH) There’s nothing wrong with an angle or a hunch but you also need to use the expertise of colleagues and experts to check your own work and biases.

A6 – RS) There is a lot more to understand how the data has come about, and people often use the data set as a ground truth and that needs more thinking about. It’s somewhat taught in schools, but not enough.

A6 – JM) That makes me think of a data set called gdump(?), which captures media reporting and enables event detection etc. I’ve seen stories of a journalist looking at that data as a canonical source for all that has happened – and that’s a misunderstanding of how that data set has been collected. It’s close to a canonical source for reporting but that is different. So you certainly need to understand how the data has come about.

Comment – FOD) So, you are saying that we can think we are in the business of reporting fact rather than opinion but it isn’t that simple at all.

Q7) We have data science, is there scope for story science? A science and engineering of generating stories…

A7 – CB) I think we need a teamwork sort of approach to story telling… With coders, with analysts looking for the story… The reporters doing field reporting, and the data vis people making it all attractive and sexy. That’s an ideal scenario…

A7 – RS) There are companies doing automatic story generation – like Narrative Science etc. already, e.g. on Little League matches…

Q7 – comment) Is that good?

A7 – RS) Not necessarily… But it is happening…

A7 – JM) Maybe not, but it enables story telling at scale, and maybe that has some usefulness really.

Q8/Comment) There was a question about the ethics and the comment that nothing needed there, and the comment about legibility. And I think there is conflict there about

Statistical databases  – infer missing data from the data you have, to make valid inferences but could shock people because they are not actually in the data (e.g. salary prediction). This reminded me of issues such as source protection where you may not explicitly identify the source but that source could be inferred. So you need a complex understanding of statistics to understand that risk, and to do that practice appropriately.

A8 – CB) You do need to engage in social sciences, and to properly understand what you doing in terms of your statistical analysis, your P values etc. There is more training taking place but still more to do.

Q9 – FOD) I wanted to end by coming back to Howard’s introduction. How could ATI and Edinburgh help journalism?

A9 – JM) I think there are huge opportunities to help journalists make sense of large data sets. Whether that is tools for reporting or analysis. There is one, called Detector.io that lets you map reporting for instance that is shutting down and I don’t know why. There are some real opportunities for new tools.

A9 – RS) I think there are areas in terms of curriculum, on design, ethics, privacy, bias… Softer areas not always emphasised in conventional academic programmes but are at least as important as scientific and engineering sides.

A9 – EH) I think generating data from areas where we don’t have it. At the economist we look at China, Asia, Africa where data is either deliberately obscured or they don’t have the infrastructure to collect it. So tools to generate that would be brilliant.

A9 – CB) Understand what you are doing; push for data being available; and ask us and push is to be accountable, and it will open up…

Q10) What about the readers. You’ve been saying the journalists have to understand their stats… But what about the readers who know how to understand the difference between reading the Daily Mail and the Independent, say, but don’t have the data literacy to understand the data visualisation etc.

A10 – JM) It’s a data literacy problem in general…

A10 – EH) Data scientists have the skills to find the information and raise awareness

A10 – CB) I do see more analytical reporting in the US than in Europe. But data isn’t there to obscure anything. But you have to explain what you have done in clear language.

Comment – FOD) It was once the case that data was scarce, and reporting was very much on the ground and on foot. But we are no longer hunter gatherers in the same way… Data is abundant and we have to know how we can understand, process, and find the stories from that data. We don’t have clear ethical codes yet. And we need to have a better understanding of what is being produced. And most of the media most people consume is the local media – city and regional papers – and they can’t yet afford to get into data journalism in a big ways. Relevance is a really important quality. So my personal challenge to the ATI is: how do we make data journalism pay?

And we are back from lunch and some excellent demos… 

Ericsson, Broadcast & Media Services – Keynote from Steve Plunkett, CTO

Jon Oberlander is introducing Steve Plunkett who has a rich history of work in the media. 

I’m going to talk about data and audience research, and trends in audience data. We collect and aggregate and analyse lots of data and where many of the opportunities are…

24,000 R&D very much focused on telecoms. But within R&D there is a group of broadcast and media services, and I joined as part of a buy out of Red Bee Media. One part of these services are a metadata team who create synposes for EPGs across Europe (2700 channels). We are also the biggest subtitlers in Europe. And we also do media management – with many hundreds of thousands of hours of audio and tv and that’s also an asset we can analyse (the inventory as well as the programme). And we operate TV channels – all BBC, C4, C5, UKTV, France, Netherlands, and in US and our scheduling work is also a source of data. And we also run recommendation engines embedded in TV guides and systems.

Now, before I tak about the trends I want to talk about the audience. Part of the challenge is understanding who the audience is… And audiences change and the rate of change is accellerating. So I’ll show some trends in self-reported data from audiences on what they are watching. Before that a quote from Reed Hastings, Amazon: “TV had a great 50 year run, but now it’s time is over”. TV is still where most impact and viewing hours are but there are real changes now.

So, the Ericsson ConsumerLab Annual Report – participants across the world – 1000 consumers across 20 countries. In home interview based understanding their viewing context, what they are watching and what preferences are. Of course self reported behaviour isn’t the same as real data but we can compare and understand that.

So, the role of services varies between generations. The go-to services are very different between older generations and younger generation. For older viewers it’s linear TV, then DVR, then Play/catch-ip, then YouTube etc. For Younger Generations SVOD is top viewing services – that’s things like Netflix, Amazon Prime etc.

In terms of daily media habits we see again a real difference between use of scheduled linear TV vs. streamed and recorded TV. Younger people again much more likely to use streaming, older using scheduled much more. And we are seeing YouTube growing in importance – generally viewing over 3 hrs per day has increased hugely in the last 4 years, and it is used as a go to space to learn new things (e.g. how to fix the dishwasher).

In terms of news the importance of broadcast news increases with age – still much more important to older consumers. And programming wise 45% of streamed on demand viewing of long content is TV series. Many watch box sets for instance. As broadcasters we have to respect that pattern of use, not all are linear scheduled viewers. And you see this in trends of tweeting and peaks of tweaks of how quickly a newly released online series has been completed.

There is also a shift from fixed to mobile devices. TV Screens and desktop PCs have seen a reduction in viewing hours and use compared to mobile, tablet and laptop use. That’s a trend overtime. And that’s again following generational lines… Younger people more likely to use mobile. Now again, this is self-reported and can vary between countries. So in our broadcast planning understanding content – length of content, degree of investment in High Def etc. – should be informed by those changes. On mobile user generated content – including YouTube but also things like Periscope – still dominant.

In terms of discovering and remembering content it is still the case that friends, reviews, trailers etc. matter. But recommendation engines are important and viewers are satisfied with them. For last two years we’ve asked study group about those recommedation engines: their accuracy; their uncanniness and data and privacy concerns; and an issue of shared devices. So still much more to be done. The scale of Netflix’ library is such that recommendations are essential to help users navigate.

So, that was self-reported. What about data we create and collect?

We have subtitle coverage, often doing the blanket subtitle coverage for broadcasters. We used to use transcribers and transcription machines. We invested in respeaking technologies. And that’s what we use now and those respeakers clean up grammar etc and the technology is trained for their voice. That process of logging subtitles includes very specific timestamps… That gives us rich new data, and also creates a transcript that can sit alongside the subtitles and programme. But it can take 6-7 hours to do subtitling as a whole process, including colour coding speakers etc. And we are looking to see what else subtitlers could add – mood perhaps? etc. as part of this process.

We have a database of about 8.5 million records that include our programme summaries, images on an episode level, etc. And we are working on the system we use to manage this, to improve it.

I mentioned Media Management and we do things like automated transcription – it wouldn’t be good enough for use in broadcast but

Media RIM – 60 telecom operators use it for IPTV and collects very granular data from TV viewing – all collected with consent. Similar for OTT. And similar platforms for EPG. Search queries. Recommendations and whether acted upon. And we also have mobile network data – to understand drop off rates, what’s viewed for a particular item etc.

We are in the middle of the broadcaster and the audience, so our work feeds into broadcasters work. For insight like segmentation, commissioning, marketing, scheduling, sales… For personalisation – content recommendations, personalised channels that are unique to you, targeted advertising, search, content navigation, contextual awareness. One of the worst feedback comments we see is about delivery quality so when it comes to delivery quality we apply our data to network optimisation etc.

In terms of the challenges we face they include: consumer choice; data volumes – and growing fast so finding value matters; data diversity – very different in structure and form so complex task; expertise – there is a lack of skills embedded in these businesses to understand our data; timeliness – personal channels need fast decisions etc. real time processing is a challenge; privacy – one of the biggest ones here, and the industry needs to know how to do that and our feedback on recommendation engines is such that we need to explain where data is coming from, to make that trusted.

In terms of opportunities: we are seeing evolving technology; cloud resources are changing this fast; investment – huge in this area at the moment; consumer appetite for this stuff; and we are in an innovation white space right now – we are in early days…

And finally… An experimental application. We took Made in Chelsea and added a graph on the viewing plan that shows tweets and peaks… And provide as a navigation system based on tweets shared. And on the right hand side navigation by character and follow their journey. We created some semantic visualisation tools for e.g. happy, sad, funny moments. Navigation that focuses on the viewers interest.

Audience Engagement Panel Session – Jon Oberlander (Moderator), University of Edinburgh

Jon is introducing his own interest in data science, in design informatics, and linguistics and data science, with a particular mention for LitLong, similarly a colleague in Politics is analysing the public interest in the UK and EU, but also reaction to political messages. And finally on the Harmonium project at the Edinburgh International Festival – using music and data on musical performers to create a new music and visualisation project, with 20k in person audience and researchers monitoring and researching that audience on the night too…

Pedro Cosa – Data Insights and Analytics Lead, Channel 4

I’m here to talk a bit about the story of Channel 4 and data. Channel 4 is a real pioneer in using data in the UK, and in Europe. You’ve all heard Steve’s presentation on changing trends – and these are very relevant for Channel 4 as we are a public service broadcasting but also because our audience is particularly young and affluent. They are changing their habits quickly and that matters from an audience and also an advertising issue for us. Senior management was really pushing for change in the channel. Our CEO has said publicly that data is the new oil of the TV industry and he has invested in data insights for Channel 4. The challenge is to capture as much data as possible, and feed that back to the business. So we used registration data from All4 (was 4OD) and to use that site you have to register. We have 13 million people registered that way and so that’s already capturing details on half our target audience in the UK. And that moves us from one to many, to one to one. And we can use that for targeted advertising, and that comes with a premium paid for advertisers, and to really personalise the experience. So that’s what we are doing at the moment.

Hew Bruce-Gardyne – Chief Technology Officer, TV Squared

We are a small company working on data analytics for use by advertisers, that in turn feed back into content. My personal background is as an engineer, the big data of that side of number crunching is where I come from. From where I am sitting audience engagement is a really interesting problem… If you see a really big engaging programme that seems to kill the advertising so replays, catch up and seeing opportunities there is, for us, gold dust.

Paul Gilooly – Director of Emerging Products, MTG (Modern Times Group)

MTG are a Scandinavian pan-European broadcaster, we have the main sports and Hollywood rights as well as major free to air channels in Scandinavian countries. And we run a thing called ViPlay which is an SVOD service like (and predating) Netflix. Nordics are interest as we have high speed internet, affluent viewers, markets where Apple TV is significant, disproportionately compared to the rest of Europe. So when I think of TV I think of subscribing audience, and Pay TV. And my concern is churn – and a amore engaged customer is more likely to stick around. So any way to increase engagement is of interest, and data is a key part of that. Just as Channel 4 are looking at authentication as a data starting point, so are we. And we also want to encourage behaviours like recommendations of products and sharing. And some behaviours to discourage. And data is also the tool to help you understand behaviours you want to discourage.

For us we want to increase transactions with viewers, to think more like a merchandiser, to improve personalisation… So back to the role of data – it is a way to give us a competitive advantage over competitors, can drive business models for different types of consumer. It’s a way to understand user experience, quality of user experience, and the building of personalised experiences. And the big challenge for me is that in the Nordics we compete with Netflix, with HBO (has direct to air offering there). But we are also competing with Microsoft, Google, etc. We are up against a whole new range of competitors who really understand data, and what you can do with data.

Steve Plunkett – CTO, Broadcast & Media Services, Ericsson

No intro… as we’ve just heard from you… 


Q1 – JO) Why are recommendations in this sector so poor compared to e.g. Amazon?

A1 – SP) The problem is different. Amazon has this huge inventory, and collective recommendation works well. Our content is very different. We have large content libraries, adn collective recommendation works differntly. We used to have human curators programming content, they introduced serendipity nad recommendation engines are less good at that. We’ve just embarked on a 12 month project with three broadcasters  to look at this. There is loads of research on public top 10s. One of the big issues is that if you get a bad recommendation it’s hard to say “I don’t like this” or “not now”, they just sit there and the feedback is poor… So important to solve. Netflix invested a great deal of money in recommendations. They invested $1 million for a recommender that would beat their own by 10% and that took a long time. Data science is aligned with that of course.

A1 – PC) Recommendations are core for us too. But TV recommendations are so much more complex than retail… You need to look at data analyse… You have to promote cleverly, to encourage discovery, to find new topics or areas of debate, things you want to surface in a relevant way. It’s an area C4 and also BBC looking to develop.

A1 – HBG) There is a real difference between retail and broadcast – about what you do but also about the range of content available… So even if you take a recommendation, it may not reflect true interest and buy in to a product. Adds a layer of complexity and cloudiness…

A1 – SP) Tracking recommendations in a multi device, multi platform space is a real challenge… Often a one way exchange. Closing loop between recommendation and action is hard…

Q2 – JO) Of course you could ask active questions… Or could be mining other streams… How noisy is that, how useful is that? Does it bridge a gap.

A2 – SP) TV has really taken off on Twitter, but there is disproportionate noise based on a particular audience and demographic. That’s a useful tool though… You can track engagement with a show, at a point of time within a show… But not neccassarily recommendations of that viewer at that time… But one of many data sets to use…

Q3 – JO) Are users engaging with your systems aware of how you use their data, are they comfortable with it?

A3 – PC) C4 we have made a clear D-Word promise – with a great video from Alan Carr that explains that data. You can understand how it is use, can delete your own data, can change your settings, and if you don’t use the platform for 2 years then we delete your data. Very clear way to tell the user that you are in control.

A3 – SP) We had a comment from someone in a study group who said they had been categorised by a big platform as a fan of 1980s supernatural horror and didn’t want to be categorised in that way, or for others to see this. So a real interest in transparancy there.

A3 – PG) We aren’t as far ahead as Channel 4, they are leading the way on data and data privacy.

Q4 – JO) Who is leading the way here?

A4 – PG) I think David Abrahms (C4) needs great credit here, CEO understands importance of data science and it’s role in the core business model. And that competitors for revenue are Facebook, Google and so forth.

Q5 – JO) So, trend is to video on demand… Is it also people watching more?

A5 – SP) It has increased but much more fragmented across broadcast, SVOD, UGC etc. and every type of media has to define its space. So YouTube etc. is eating into scheduled programming. For my 9 year old child the streaming video, YouTube etc. is her television. We are competing with a different set of producers.

A5 – PG) The issue isn’t that linear channels do not allow you to collect data. If you have to login to access content (i.e. Pay TV) then you can track all of that sort of data. So DR1, Danish TV channel and producer of The Killing etc. is recording a huge drop in linear viewing by young people, but linear still has a role for live events, sport etc.

A5 – HBG) We do see trends that are changing… Bingeathons are happening and that indicates not a shortness of attention but a genuine change. Watching a full box set is the very best audience engagement. But if you are at a kitchen table, on a device, that’s not what you’ll be watching… It will be short videos, YouTube etc.

To come back to the privacy piece I was at a conference talking about the push to ID cards and the large move to restrict what people can know about us… We may lose some of the benefits of what can be done. And on some data – e.g. Medical Informatics – there is real value that can be extracted there. We know that Google knows all about us… But if our TV knows all about us that’s somehow culturally different.

Q6) Privacy is very high, especially at younger age ranges, so what analysis have you done on that?

A6) Not a huge amount on that, but this is self-reported. But we know piracy drops down where catch up and longer catch up windows are available – if content can be viewed legitimately and it seems that it is when available.

Q6 – follow up) Piracy seems essentially like product failure, and how do you win back your viewers and consumers.

A6 – HBG) A while back I saw a YouTube clip of the user experience of pirated film versus DVD… In that case the pirated film was easier, versus the trailers, reminders not to pirate etc. on the DVD. That’s your product problem. But as we move to subscription channels etc. When you make it easy, that’s a lot better. If you try to put barriers up, people try to find a way around it….

A6 – PG) Sweden has a large piracy issue. The way you compete is to deliver a great product and user experience and couple that with content unique to your channel. So for instance premium sports for example – so pirate can’t meet all needs of consumer. But also be realistic with price point.

A6 – HBG) There is a subtle difference between what you consume – e.g. film versus TV. But from music we know that pirating in the music industry is not a threat – that those are also purchasing consumers. And when content creators work with that, and allow some of that to happen, that creates engagement that helps. Most successful brand owners let others play with their brand.

A6 – PC) Piracy is an issue… But we even use piracy data sources for data analysis. Using bit torrent to understand popularity of shows in other places, to predict how popular they will be in the UK.

Comment – JO) So, pirates are data producers?

A6 – PC) Yes, and for scheduling too.

Q7) How are you dealing with cross channel or cross platform data – to work with Google or Amazon say. I don’t see much of that with linear TV. Maybe a bit with SVOD. How are mainstream broadcasters challenging that?

A7 – PC) Cross platform can mean different things. It may be Video On Demand as well as broadcast on their TV. We can’t assume they are different, and should look to understand what the connections are there… We are so conscious and cautious of using third party data… But we can do some content matching – e.g. advertiser customer base, and much more personalised. A real link between publisher and advertiser.

Q7 follow up) Would customer know that is taking place?

A7 – PC) It is an option at sign up. Many say “yes” to that question.

A7 – PG) We still have a lot to do to track the consumer across platforms, so a viewer can pick up consuming content from one platform to another. This technology is pretty immature, an issue with recommendation engines too.

A7 – SP) We do have relationships with third party data companies that augment what we collect – different from what a broadcaster would do. For this it tends to be non identifiable… BUt you have to trust the analyst to have combined data appropriately. You have to understand their method and process, but usually they have to infer from data anyway as usually don’t have source.

Q8 – JO) We were talking about unreliable technologies and opportunities… So, where do you see wearable technologies perhaps?

A8 – SP) We did some work using facial recognition to understand the usefulness of recommendations. That was interesting but deploying that comes with a lot of privacy issues. And devices etc. also would raise those issues.

A8 – PC) We aren’t looking at that sort of data… But data like weather matters for this industry, local events, traffic information – as context for consumption etc. That is all being considered as context for analysis. But we also share our data science with creative colleagues – that, say, technology will tell you when content is performed/shown. There is a subjective human aspect that they want to see, to dissect elements of content so machine can really learn… So is there sex involved… Who is the director, who is the actress… So many things you can put in the system to find this stuff out. Forecasting really is important in this industry.

A8 – HBG) The human element is interesting. Serendipity is interesting. From neuroscientist point of view I always worry about the act of measure… We see all the time that you can see the same audience, same demographic, watching the same content and reacting totally differently at different times of day etc. And live vs catch up say. My fear, and a great challenge, is how to get a neuroscience experiment valid in that context.

Q9 – from me) What happens if the data is not there in terms of content, or recommendation engines – if the data you have tells you there is a need for something you don’t currently have available. Are you using data science to inform production or content creation, or for advertising?

A9 – SP) The research we are currently doing is looking at ways to get much better data from viewers – trying things like a Tinder-like playful interface to really get a better understanding of what users want. But we also, whenever there are searches etc. capture not only what is available on that platform but also what is in demand but not yet available, and also provding details of that search iss to commissioning teams to inform what they do.

A9 – PG) There are some interesting questions about what is most valuable… So. you see Amazon Prime deciding on vale of Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear team… And i think you will increasingly see purchasing based on data. And when it comesto commissioning we are looking to understand gaps in our portfolio.

A9 – PC) We are definitely interested in that. VOD is a proactive thing… YOu choose as a view… So we have an idea of micro genres that are specific to you… So we have say, Sex/Pervert corner; we have teenage american comedy; etc. and you can see how micro genres are panning out… And you can then telling commissioners what is happening on a video on demand side… BUt that’s different to commissioning for TV, and convincing that

A9 – HBG) I think that you’ve asked the single greatest question at a data science conference: what do you do if the data is not there. And sometimes you have to take a big leap to do something you can’t predict it… And that happens when you have to go beyond the possibilities of the data, and just get out there and do it.

A9 – SP) The concern is such that the data may start to reduce those leaps and big risks, and that could be a concern.

JO) And that’s a great point to finish on: that no matter how goos the data science we have to look beyond the data.

And after a break we are back… 

BBC – Keynote from Michael Satterthwaite, Senior Product Manager

I am senior project manager on a project called BBC Rewind. We have three projects looking at opportunities, especially around speech to text, from BBC Monitoring, BBC Rewind, and BBC News Labs. BBC Rewind is about maximising value from the BBC archive. But what does “value” mean? Well it can be about money, but I’m much more interested in the other options around value… Can we tell stories, can we use our content to improve people’s health… These are high level aims but we are working with the NHS, Dementia organisations, and running a hack event in Glasgow later this month with NHS, Dementia UK, Dementia Scotland etc. We are wondering if there is any way that we can make someone’s life better…

So, how valued is the BBC’s Archive? I’m told it’s immeasurable but what does that mean? We have content in a range of physical locations some managed by us, some by partners. But is that all valuable if it’s just locked away? What we’ve decided to do to ensure we do get value, is to see how we can extract that value.

So, my young niece, before she was 2 she’d worked out how to get into her mum’s ipad… And her dad works a lot in China, and has an iphone. In an important meeting he’d gotten loads of alerts… Turns out she’d worked out how to take photos of the ceiling and send them to him… How does this relate? Well my brother in law didn’t delete those pictures… And how many of us do delete our photos? [quick poll of the room: very very few delete/curate their digital images]

Storage has gotten so cheap that we have no need to delete. But at the BBC we used to record over content because of the costs of maintaining that content. That reflected the high price of storage – the episodes of Doctor Who taped over to use for other things. That’s a decision for an editor. But the price of storage has dropped so far that we can, in theory, keep everything from programmes to script and script notes, transcripts etc. Thats hard to look through now. Traditionally the solution is humans generating metadata about the content. But as we are now cash strapped and there is so much content… is that sustainable?

So, what about machines – and here’s my Early Learning Centre bit on Machine Learning… It involves a lot of pictures of pandas and a very confused room… to demonstrate a Panda and Not a Panda. When I do this presentation to colleagues in production they see shiny demos of software but don’t understand what the realistic expectations of that machine are. Humans are great at new things and intelligence, new problems and things like that…

Now part two of the demo… some complex maths… Computers are great at scale, at big problems. There is an Alan Turing quote here that seems pertinent, about it not being machine or humans, its finding ways for both to work together. And that means thinking about what machines are good at? Things like initial classification, scale, etc. What are humans good at? Things like classifying the most emotional moment in a talk. And we also need to think about how best we can use machines to complement humans.

But we also need to think about how good is good enough? If you are doing transcripts of an hour long programme, you want 100% or close enough and finish with humans. But if finding a moment in a piece of spoken word, you need to find the appropriate words for that search. That means your transcript might be very iffy but as long as it’s good enough to find those key entities. We can spend loads of time and money getting something perfect, when there is much more value in getting work to a level of good enough to do something useful and productive.

This brings me to BBC Rewind. The goal of this project is to maximise the value from the BBC Archives. We already have a lot of digitised content for lots of reasons – often to do with tape formats dying out and the need to build new proxies. And we are doing more digitising of selected parts of the BBC Archives. And we are using a mixture of innovative human and computer approaches to enrichment. And looking at new ways to use archives in our storytelling of audiences.

One idea we’ve tried is BBC Your Story which creates a biography based on your own life story, through BBC Archive content. It is incredibly successful as a prototype but we are looking at how we can put that into production, and make that more personalised.

We’ve also done some work on Timeline, and we wanted to try out semantic connections etc. but we don’t have all our content marked up as we would need so we did some hand mark up to try the idea out. My vision is that we want to reach a time when we can search for:

“Vladimir Putin unhappily shaking hands with Western Leaders in the rain at the G8, whilst expressing his happiness.” 

So we could break that into many parts requiring lots of complex mark up of content to locate suitable content.

At the moment BBC Rewind includes speech-to-text in English based on the Kaldi toolset – it’s maybe 45% accurate off the shelf – but that’s 45% more of the words than you had before, and a confidence value; Speech-to-text in the Welsh language; Voice identification; speaker segmentation – Speech recognition that identify speakers is nice, but we don’t need that just yet. And even if we did we don’t need that person to be named (a human can tag that easily) and then train algorithms off that; face recognition – is good but hard to scale, we’ve been doing some work with Oxford University in that area. And we get to context…. Brian Cox versus (Dr) Brian Cox can be disentangled with some basic contextual information.

Finally, we have an exciting announcement. We have BBC Monitoring – a great example of how we can use machines to help human beings in their monitoring media. So we will be creating tools to enable monitoring of media. In this project BBC are partnering with University of Edinburgh, UCL, Deutsche Welle and others in an EU funded Horizon 2020 project called SUMMA – this project has four workstreams and we are keen to make new partnerships

The BBC now runs tech hack events which resulted in new collaborations – including SUMMA – more hack events coming soon so contact Susanne Weber, Language Technology Producer in BBC News Labs. The first SUMMA hack event, will be end of next year and will focus on the automated monitoring of multi-media sources: audio-visual, text etc.

Lets try stuff faster and work out what works – and what doesn’t – more quickly!

Unlocking Value from Media Panel Session – Moderator: Simon King, University of Edinburgh

Our panel is…

Michael Satterthwaite – Senior Product Manager, BBC
Adam Farqhuar – Head of Digital Scholarship, British Library
Gary Kazantsev R&D Machine Learning Group, Bloomberg
Richard Callison – brightsolid (DC Thomson and Scottish Power joint initiative)

Q1 – SK) Lets start with that question of what value might be, if not financial?

A1 – GK) Market transparancy, business information – there are quantitative measures for some of these things. But a very hard problem in general.

A1 – AF) We do a lot of work on value in the UK, and economic impact, but we also did some work a few years back sharing digitised resources onto Flickr and that generated huge excitement and interest. That’s a great example of where you can create valuge by being open, rather than monetising early on.

A1 – MS) Understanding value is really interesting. Getty uses search to aid discovery and they have learned that you can use search to do that, to use the data you are capturing to ensure users access what they want and want to buy quickly. For us, with limited resources, the best way to understand value and impact is to try things out a bit, to see what works and what happens.

A1 – AF) Putting stuff out there without much metadata can give you some really great crowd data. With a million images we shared, our crowd identified maps from those materials. And that work was followed up with georeferencing those maps on the globe. So, even if you think there couldn’t possibly be enough of a community interested in doing this stuff, you can find that there really is that interest and who want to help…

A1 – MS) And you can use that to prioritise what you do next, what you digitise next, etc.

Q2 – SK) Which of the various formats of media are most difficult to do?

A2 – MS) Images are relatively straight forward but video is essentially 25 pictures per second… That’s a lot of content… That means sampling content else we’d crash even Amazon with the scale of work we have. And that sampling allows you to understand time, an aspect that makes video so tricky.

Q3 – SK) Is there a big difference between archive and current data…

A3 – RC) For me the value of content is often about extracting value from very local context, And it leads back to several things said earlier, about perhaps taking a leap of faith into areas the data doesn’t show, and which could be useful in the future… So we’ve done hand written data which was the only Census that was all handwritten – 32m rows of records on England and Wales and had to translate that to text… We just went offshore, the BPO outsourced… That was just a commercial project as we knew there was historical and genealogical interest… But not so many data sets like that around.

But working with the British Library we’ve done digitisation of newspapers both from originals and microfilm. OCR isn’t perfect but it gets it out there… The increase we have in multimedia online trigged by broadcast – Who Do You Think You Are? triggers huge interest in these services and we were in the right place at the right time to make that work.

A3 – GK) We are in an interesting position as Bloomberg creates it’s own data but we also ingest more than 1 million news documents in 30 languages from 120k sources. The Bloomberg newsroom started in 1990 and they had the foresight to collect clean clear digital data from the beginning of our work. That’s great for accessing, but extracting data is different… For some issues like semantic mark up and entity disambiguation… And huge issues of point in time correctness – named entities changing meanings over time. And unless someone encoded that into the information, then it is very difficult to disambiguate. And the value of this data, it’s role in trading etc., needs to be reliable.

I kind of don’t recognise Mike’s comments on video as there is object recognition available as an option… But I think we get more value out of text than most people, and we get real value from audience. Transcription and beyond… Entity recognition, dialogue structure, event extraction… A fairly long NLP pipeline there…

A3 – AF) The description of what you want to identify, those are very similar desires to those we want in the hunanities, and has additional benefit to journalists too. Is text search enough? Not really. They are an interesting way in… But text isn’t the best way to understand either historical images in a range of books, but also isn’t that useful in the context of the UK Web Archive and images in that. Much of what may be of interest is not the text, but perhaps better reduced to a series of shapes etc.

Q4) There has been a mention of crowd sourcing already and I was wondering about that experience, what worked and did not work, and thinking back to Mike’s presentation about what might work better?

A4 – AF) We found that smaller batches worked better… People love to see progress, like to have a sense of accomplishment. We found rewards were nice – we offered lunch with the head of maps at the British Library and that was important. Also mix it up – so not always the same super hard problems all the time

A4 – MS) I was going to give the BL example of your games machine… A mix of crowdsourcing and gamification.

A4 – AF) It’s very experimental but, as mentioned in the earlier panel session about the Tinder-like app. So we’ve worked with Adam Crimble to build an arcade game to do image classification and we are interested to see if people will use their time differently with this device. Will they classify images, help us build up our training sets. But the idea is that it’s engagement away from desktop or laptops…

A4 – RC) We have tried crowdsourcing for corrections. Our services tend to be subscriptions and Pay as You Go. But people still see value in contributing. And you can incentivise that stuff. And you see examples across the world where centrally or government websites are using crowd sourcing for transcription.

A4 – GK) You could argue that we were innovators in crowd sourcing at Bloomsberg, through blogs etc. And through tagging of entities. What we have learned from crowdsourcing is that it isn’t good for everything. But hard when specialist knowledge is needed, or specific languages needed – hard to get people to tag in Japanese. We aren’t opposed to paying for contribution but you have to set it up effectively. We found you have to define tasks very specifically for instance.

Q5) Talking about transposing to text implies that that is really possible. If we can’t do image descriptions effectively with text then what else should we be doing… I was wondering what the panel thought in terms of modalities of data…

A5 – MS) Whatever we do to mark up content is only as good as our current tools, understanding, modalities. And we’d want to go back and mark it up differently. In Google you can search for an image with an image… It’s changed over time… Now it uses text on the page to gather context and present that as well as the image back to you… If you can store a fingerprint to compare to others… We are doing visual searches. searches that are not text based. Some of these things already exist and they will get better and better. And the ability to scale and respond will be where the money is.

Q6) The discussion is quite interesting as at the moment it’s about value you define… But you could see the BBC as some form of commons… It could be useful for local value, for decision making, etc. where you are not in a positiion to declare the value… And there are lots of types of values out there, particularly in a global market.

A6 – MS) The BBC have various rules and regulations about publishing media, one of which is humans always have to check content and that is a real restriction on scale, particularly as we are looking to reduce staff. We ran an initiative called MCB with University of Edinburgh that opened some of the idea But ideally we would have every single minute of broadcast TV and radio into the public domain… But we don’t have the rights to everything… In many cases we acquired content before digital which means that you need to renegotiate content licenses etc. before digitising etc.

A6 – AF) Licenses can be an issue, privacy and data protection can be an issue. But we also have the challenge of how we meet user needs and actually listening to those needs. Someone we have to feel comfortable providing a lower level service, and may require higher skills (e.g. coding) to use… That can be something wonderful, not just super polished services required. But that has to be a service that is useful and valuable. But that’s super useful. And things will change in terms of what is useful, what is possible, etc.

A6 – GK) For us it’s an interesting question. Our users won’t say what they want, so you have to reverse engineer then do rapid product development… So we do what you (Micheal) suggest – building rapid prototypes to try ideas out. But this isn’t just a volatile time, but a volatile decade, more!

Q7) Can you tell us anything about how you manage the funnel for production, and how context is baked in in content creation process…

A7 – GK) There is a whole toolset for creating and encoding metadata, and doing so in a way meaningful to people beyond the organisation.. But I could talk about that for an hour so better to talk about this later I think.

Q8 – SK) How multilingual do you actually need to be in your work?

A8 – GK) We currently ingest content in 34 languages, but 10 languages cover the majority – but things changes quickly. Used to be 90% of content ingested was in English, now 70-80%. That’s a shift… We have not yet seen the case that suddenly lots of data that appears in a language where there was previously none. Instead we see particularly well resourced languages. Japanese is a large well resourced language and many resources in place, but very tricky from a computational perspective. And that can mean you still need humans.

A8 – MS) I probably have a different perspective on languages… We have BBC Research working in Africa with communities just going online for the first time. There are hundreds of new languages in Africa, but none will be a huge language… A few approaches… Can either translate directly, or you can convert into English, then translate from there. Some use speech to text – with Stephen Hawking type voice to provide continuity.

A8 – AF) Our collections cover all languages at all times… an increasingly difficult challenge.

Comment  – Susanne, BBC) I wanted to comment on speed of access to different language. All it takes is a catastrophe like an Ebola outbreak… Or disaster in Ukraine, or in Turkey… And you suddenly have the use case for ASR – machine translation. And you see audience expectations there.

A8 – MS) And you could put £1M into many languages and make little impact… But if you put that into one key language, e.g. Pashtu you might have more impact… We need to consider that in our funding and prioritisation.

A8 – GK) Yes, one disaster or event can make a big difference… If you provide the tools for them to access information and addt their own typing of their language… In the case of, say, Ebola you needed doctors speaking the language of the patient… But I’m not sure there is a technological solution. Similarly a case on the Amazon… Technology cannot always help here.

Q9) Do you have concerns that translations might be interpreted in different contexts and be misinterpreted? And the potential to get things massively wrong in another language. Do you have systems (human or machine) to deal with that?

A9 – AF) I won’t quite answer your question but a related thing… In some sense that’s the problem of data… Data becomes authoritative and unless we make it accessible, cite it, explain how it came about… Then it becomes authoritative. So we have large data collections being made available – BBC, BL etc. – and they can be examined in a huge set of new ways… They require different habits, tools, approaches than many of us are used to using, and different tools that e.g. academics in the humanities. And we need to emphasise the importance of proper citing, sharing, describing etc.

A9 – MS) I’d absolutely agree about transparency. Another of Susanne’s projects, Babel, is giving a rough translation that can then be amended. But an understanding of the context is so important.

A9 – GK) We had a query last week, in German, for something from Der Speigel… Got translated to The Mirror… But there is a news source called The Mirror… So translating makes sense… Except you need that outside data to be able to make sense of this stuff… It’s really an open question about where that should be and how you would do that.

Q10 – SK) So, a final question: What should ATI do in this space?

A10 – RC) For us we’d like to see what can be done on an SME level, and some product to go to market…

A10 – GK) I think that there are quite a lot of things that the ATI can do… I think there is a lot of stuff the industry won’t beat you too – the world is changing too rapidly for that. I think the University, the ATI should be better connected to industry – and I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

A10 – AF) As a national institution has a lot of data and content, but the question is how we can make sense of it… That large collection of data and content. The second issue is Skills – there is a lot to learn about data and working with large data collections. And thirdly there is convening… data and content, technologists, and researchers with questions to ask of the data and I think ATI can be really effective in bringing those people together.

A10 – MS) We were at an ideas hack day at the British Library a few weeks back and that was a great opportunity to get those people who create data, who research etc. and bringing it together. And I think ATI should be the holder of best practice to connect the holders of content, academia, etc. to work together to add value. For me trying to independently add value where it counts really makes a difference. For instance we are doing some Welsh speech to text work which is work I’m keen to share with others  in some way…

SK: Is there anything else that anyone here wants to add to the ATI to do list ?

Comment: I want to see us get so much better at multilingual support, the babelfish for all spoken languages ideally!


Closing Remarks – Steve Renals, Informatics, University of Edinburgh

I think today is something of a kick off for building relationships and we’ve seen some great opportunities today. And there will be more opportunity to do this over drinks as we finish for today.

And with that we are basically done, save for a request to hand in our badges in exchange for a mug – emblazoned with an Eduardo Paolazzi inspired by a biography of Alan Turing – in honour of Turing’s unusual attachment to his mug (which used to be chained to the radiator!).

Oct 062015
Jisc's #jisc50social branding

Today I am delighted to share the news that I have been included in Jisc’s 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media! I am also very pleased to see others on this list whose work I follow and admire, including Jennifer Jones and Sue Beckingham.

The list of 50 influencers forms a really useful array of snapshots of practice and mini case studies of how social media is being used across UK Higher Education and I’d recommend taking a look for inspiration and ideas. It would be lovely to also get more great people and social media best practice shared, so I would recommend sharing your own additions and tips to the hashtag, #jisc50social, as there is such a rich variety of use that a list of 50 people cannot, of course, capture that is taking place in the sector.

My write up in the Jisc list of influencers particularly talks about the Managing Your Digital Footprint work, which is progressing well. If you missed my posts from the European Conference on Social Media you can get a good sense of how the project is developing from my paper with project lead Louise Connelly, “Managing your digital footprint: possible implications for teaching and learning“. We are in an exciting phase of the project so do look out for new resources appearing on the project website very soon, and further research publications in the months to follow.

Finally, as the individuals who nominated me for this list did let me know that they would be putting me forward I would like to share my thanks to them for their support and enthusiasm. I feel honoured to have been regarded so highly by colleagues from the University of Edinburgh who are engaged in their own wonderful, creative, critical and playful use of social media in their day to day practice.

#codi15 update

Finally, and on a somewhat unrelated note, you may remember that I blogged earlier this summer about writing our Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas show, Back to the Statistical Future. The show took place on 26th August and I’m delighted to say that both a follow up blog post and a video recording of the full show are now available so, if you have an hour spare, do have a watch and let us know what you thought of it!