Coders and culture

Over the past few years there have been more and more funded projects that have tried to team up developers and cultural organisations. Australia Council for the Arts have run two versions of their Geek in Residence scheme since 2009. Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab recruited their own geek in residence in mid-2010.

Hack days (events where organisations provide data for developers to play with) have become more and more popular over the past couple of years with culture, more culture, history, music and Black Country Museums all tackled.  About a year ago, the first fully-capitalised Culture Hack Day took place in London, with follow-ups in Edinburgh, Cambridge, Leeds and Atlanta. There are probably more examples of this kind of thing.


Three more projects that aim to bring together developers and cultural organisations have been announced recently. Working from the littlest to the biggest…

culture and coders

The CultureCode Initiative is a series of free events in the North East taking place over Feb and March 2012. The idea is to match up cultural organisations/practitioners with software developers and creative technologists. They’ll do this via an introductory workshop and a meet and greet. Things will culminate with everyone working together at a hack day.

Happenstance is an R&D project that will fund residencies for designers, developers and digital producers at one of three arts organisations: Site GalleryLighthouse and Spike Island.

SYNC is the biggest of the three. A two-year programme for the cultural sector in Scotland with three main elements:

  • Culture Hack Scotland
  • A geeks in residence programme
  • An online magazine called SYNC Tank

Incidentally, NESTA have just launched a Scottish version of their Digital R&D Fund, along with AHRC and Creative Scotland.


I think more digitally-savvy cultural organisations are a good idea, for lots of reasons. If you’ve read this far then I’ll assume you don’t need me to list them for you.

At some point, what I’d like to see emerging from all this activity is:

  • Some way of tying together all these geographically-disparate projects, even if just very loosely, so these projects can feed off each other more than they currently do. Funding respects borders, there’s no reason why online activity needs to.
  • Some indication of what sort of value these workshops, networking events, R&D programmes and hack days provide to what sort of participant.
  • Related to the above, an idea of the merits/drawbacks of these initiatives as compared to other  ways of bringing digital capabilities into an organisation (such as hiring staff, paying an agency or consultant, asking your little cousin to lend a hand or taking a course/subscribing to a bunch of useful RSS feeds and learning everything yourself).

Come to think of it (and veering from the point only slightly), a more culturally-relevant version of LinkedGov’s doc on ‘The economic impact of open data’ would be good too.

My point is, I think all this activity is good and welcome and useful. It’d just be interesting to know how useful.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.

4 replies on “Coders and culture”

  1. Hi Chris for your good round-up.

    On your point about tying-things-up, on the organisational side as part of the team behing Sync, we are very much in regular dialogue with the people managing the other two programmes you mention. And on the more visible side of things, we (Sync) do very much have the intention of gleaning as much as we can from all activities for the benefit of our particular target group – ie cultural orgs in Scotland.

    As for the impact analysis – this is such an important question. Good and realistic evaluations are vital in this space and that’s why it’s great that programmes like Happenstance have academic evaluation partners.

  2. Hi Jane. It looks like an interesting archive, the thing would be to find a way to make that information publicly accessible. I wouldn’t know about that but have just tweeted something to see if there are any helpful souls out there who might help.

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