Centre for Applied Research of the Faculty on Digital Media & Creative Industries

Stimulating engagement and inclusion with a human touch

Project Going Hybrid resets connection between the cultural sector and their audiences

23 Jan 2024 11:27 | Centre for Applied Research FDMCI

The cultural sector struggled to generate and maintain audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, making the importance of developing engaging hybrid events all the more obvious. Researchers from the Research Group Institute of Network Cultures (INC) have been in a two year long collaborative effort with hackers and designers to explore innovative solutions to tackle these cultural issues for different types of cultural institutions. Creating new hybrid methods and tools to generate a more inclusive and engaged audience. Including the continuation and financing of one of their tools, EtherPort.

Project Going Hybrids concluded its project on the creation of more engaging and inclusive hybrid events for the cultural sector after two years of extensive research and development. They didn't just come up with new methods and tools to get the audience more engaged, in collaboration with external project partners, they also threw opened digital doors for a more inclusive audience and how to capture the human touch in preserving memories.

Resetting the cultural domain digitally

The research was divided into three main areas: live streaming, publication, and archiving. In the live streaming domain, the project sought ways to make live events more participatory, combating the passivity often associated with traditional live streams and the shorter attention span of audiences. There was just one condition for each area, new forms of one and the same cultural event had to complement each other instead of the classic – often written- repeat method.

Transforming Live Streaming Dynamics

The live steaming group of the research project developed elements for online audiences to influence the live stream itself. Audiences could control the camera using chat commands to foster a stronger sense of inclusion. “Another one was the smell diffuser. Because we are usually watching whatever is happening in the space. But what if it could be the other way around? So, the people at home could control by using the chat how the space smelled even though they're not there,” Carolina Pinto, researcher at INC, explains.

Redefining Publication

The publication group worked on the creation of EtherPort, a collaborative publishing tool designed to offer a fresh approach to reportages of cultural events. This tool was built by the research group INC using the hybrid publishing tool Ethertoff, developed by Open-Source Publishing collective in Brussels. EtherPort allows multiple contributors to write, add images, links, and videos, with the added capability of designing the publication within the tool itself. The unique feature of navigating content through tags offers readers a more interactive and engaging experience, departing from traditional linear reading. Which approved to be a necessary gap as the tool will be continued and financed by the Impact fund.

Do you have a hard time imagining what a Hybrid event can look like? Take a look at ‘the Hmm’, INC’s first book-livestream and its digital publication on EtherPort!

Human archival touches

The Living Archives group collaborated with MU Hybrid Art House to create Mumories, a living archive celebrating 25 years of the art house. This humanly platform allows individuals to share their memories, transforming the archive into a human, collective experience. The aim is to build an active and present archive, different from conventional digital archives focused on facts and procedures.

Importance of opening digital doors

A more indirect, but a just as important result, during this research project is that hybridity opens access for audiences that are otherwise excluded from cultural events. “It makes it accessible to a lot of people from other communities, people that are hindered to participate due to a disability or not having the time because they have children. But it also important for those that experience economic difficulties, “ Carolina arguments while addressing that it is of societal importance to continue to invest and research the development and implementation of hybrid events.

Continuation of a cultural upgrade

The conclusion of Project Going Hybrids marks a significant milestone in the quest for more inclusive and engaging hybrid events. Accessibility, interaction, and activation emerged as key elements for hybridity. Leaving an impactful toolkit in the realms of live streaming, publication, and archiving of cultural organizations. Proving that the project's innovative spirit encourages a need for cultural change and a continued exploration at the intersection of technology, culture, and audience engagement.