Geeks open gateways for the arts

06 May 2010

The Australia Council for the Arts has matched tech-savvy geeks with nine selected arts organisations to help them explore a new world of digital possibilities.

Geeks will share their passion for solving technological problems in creative environments, helping arts workers be better equipped to work in digital spaces. The Geek in Residence program offers intensive professional development for artists and organisations in their home environment.

This is not about having someone to provide IT support, or populate Facebook for six months, says Fee Plumley, Manager of the Australia Councils Digital Program. Its about increasing the skills and confidence of the people behind the arts organisations and then watching new ideas flow.

Of course well see some web development, taking the companies into the Web 2.0 realm. But, for example, well also see one of the geeks dusting off a 60 year archive of orchestral recordings digitising it, repurposing it and bringing it off the shelf and back to life.  Another will be working on electronic data interchange for literary publishers, another on an ambitious cross-platform project combining live and online performances.

 Whats important is that theyre not just going to build something and walk out. Its a collaborative process, and the impact of their work will be felt well after the geek has left the building.

The call for Geeks attracted around 120 applications, all of whom were praised by the selection panel.

It was extremely difficult to narrow the field down says Fee. We ended up shortlisting three geeks per host so that the hosts themselves could get a real sense of the right fit for their needs. Country Arts South Australia was so impressed by their shortlist that theyve taken on all three!

Brisbane based host, University Press Queensland is attracted to digital opportunities by the flood of emerging writers keen to develop their profile in the new media space. Their geek will be on the front line of this work, setting up new systems to deliver published work digitally via iPhones and the iPad, but also looking at integrating digital technologies with the physical bookshop.

Two placements are in Tasmania, where the first stage of the National Broadband Network will roll out next month. This provides an opportunity to push the boundaries with high speed broadband and for the arts sector to demonstrate whats possible with this new infrastructure.

Kathy Keele, CEO of the Australia Council says The National Broadband Network will change the way we make and share artistic practice, not only across the country but across the world. So well be watching the Tasmanian geeks closely because theyre working on things that we simply havent yet seen in this country. Their actions now will establish models of digital usage soon to be reflected throughout the arts industry and beyond. Theyll also show us what kind of investment is needed, not just in infrastructure but in training for artists, organisations and users.

The nine teams have begun work and each will share their outcomes as they go, via the program blog - http://www.artsdigitalera.com providing useful lessons for the broader sector.

Geeks have been placed at: Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Country Arts SA, IAD Press in Alice Springs, Salamanca Arts Centre, Shopfront in Sydney, Sydney Dance Company, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, University of Queensland Press and West Space Inc in Melbourne.

Media contact: Cameron Woods, 02 9215 9030, 0412 686 548   c.woods@australiacouncil.gov.au


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