Were you one of those children who took things apart just to understand what made them tick? The child who dismantled their dad’s radio, or the clock on the mantelpiece, to marvel at the dials and coils?
Are you still, somewhere deep down, an inveterate tinkerer? If so, Culture Hack is probably going to scratch an itch. An itch that rises to the surface every time you’re feeling the constraints of digital strategies. Every time you want to collaborate with others. Every time you’ve got the urge to explore the possibilities of what digital can do for the arts and cultural sectors.
When I first heard about Culture Hack back in 2011, it swept me straight back to being 15, sat on the floor of a friend’s house, hacking a multi-track recorder out of a reel-to-reel and a ghetto blaster, to work around not having access to a recording studio. The result sounded as though we’d recorded a few leagues beneath the sea, but we harmonised the hell out of those vocals and the excitement of having worked out a new solution to an old problem was infectious.
But that was it for then, an interest I never took any further. So, when I found out the lovely people at Caper – who run Culture Hack – have released a toolkit for anyone who wants to set up their own Hack, that itch started up again. Cue a day delving into the toolkit and investigating some of the possibilities for a Stranger Collective Culture Hack.
The aim of Culture Hack is to introduce digital thinking to the arts and to develop innovative digital prototypes. Based on the hack day model, it brings together cultural institutions, creatives and developers, to shape prototypes using the fascinating data held (but not necessarily used) by cultural organisations.
It’s fast-paced – hack days usually last 24-36 hours, in which developers, cultural organisations and creatives work together in the same room – and based around playful, experimental development, so you might not start with any particular goal in mind. It’s about being open to possibilities you might not have considered before, learning from people in different sectors, and using a range of skills to produce something useful (When should I visit Tate Modern? was the output of one culture hack), experimental (LRB’s Kafka’s Wound), inspiring and weird (Skinny’s Jeans – a pair of jeans that dance with increased cultural activity).
What might you hope to get out of it? Aside from developing some working prototypes to build on, it’s a great opportunity to network and to collaborate with people you might not often get the chance to get in the same room. You’ll learn from others, and get to indulge that playful, inquisitive, questioning spirit that’s at the back of your head saying ‘wouldn’t it be interesting if…’
The next step? Finding some ace developers and cultural partners with that same itch to scratch.
If all this has got your cogs whirring, take a look at Culture Hack, and the Hack Day manifesto to see if getting involved in a Stranger Collective Cultural Hack might be up your street. If you’re still interested, drop us a line at [email protected].