In our Interface webinar on Tuesday 9 June 2020, Dr Tom Flint, Public Engagement Lead for the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University, and Ruthanne Baxter, Museums Services Manager at the University of Edinburgh and Lead on Prescribe Culture Take 30 Together Virtual, explored using technology to engage audiences in cost-effective and creative ways. We explored engaging with audiences and adapting activities accordingly during Covid-19 lockdown, using digital technology to stimulate conversations with audiences and communities; inspiring visitors in virtual spaces and encouraging future connections, and the potential impact of these on health and well-being, as well as learning.
Watch the video: https://youtu.be/X8kbLiV9MZs
Covid-19 has often forced businesses and organisations to reimagine their usual activities and use imagination and creativity to adapt to engage with audiences and communities.
Here are ten takeaways from Ruthanne and Tom’s inspiring session.
- Low cost, simple technological solutions can still be effective. Big budgets are not always needed to create an impact or engage an audience effectively.
- Tailor content to your audience and make sure your engagement is meaningful and accessible when it needs to be. Responding to people may not be 9-5, so are you set up for this?
- Lockdown has meant that many, including students, children and young people, have lost their routine, so the idea of regular virtual visits at specific times, such as the Prescribe Culture Take 30 programme, helps people break out of their day to day for just 30 minutes, but offers powerful impact and support for people, tackling social isolation and loneliness.
- Providing access to heritage can help and support with mental health – social prescribing can be powerful! Heritage can help people in several ways:
- Combat isolation and offer positive social experiences, reinforce ties between people
- Expand people’s horizons and stimulate their minds
- Provide calming experiences which decrease anxiety levels
- Increase opportunities for finding meaning and offer new experiences which may be inspirational or meaningful
- Support development of identity and sense of self
- Create a sense of community and belonging; and help us develop empathy, compassion and open our minds
- Develop imaginative time travel thanks to collections and buildings and offer positive distractions from clinical environments
- Enhance communication between different communities and partners
- Virtual activities can help create connections and build communities. The Take 30 programme, held regularly, has helped build a sense of community, helping people to “e-meet”, with the hope that when they return to the outside world they may feel an element of friendship and social connection already. Virtual visits also allow people to access venues where they may not normally be able to visit easily in the real world, there are no geographical barriers. From Innerpeffray Library in Perthshire, to Vancouver Art Gallery, Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute, to the Museum of Quatar, or flying over Jupiter Artland in Minecraft, virtual visits offer this accessibility. The virtual Jupiter Artland helps extend the attraction out to children outside of the physical venue while also bringing it to children in the real world.
- Getting feedback from your audience is crucial. Ongoing feedback helps ensure that your content is tailored and relevant and meets audience needs. Take 30 participants, joining online from Edinburgh, China, Africa and Canada, stressed the importance of meeting new people and learning new things, enjoying a break from their day and inspiration to visit the physical sites when they could travel again. Tom’s Jupiter Artland Minecraft on a server engaged children from Thailand and from Russia and the success of the Minecraft Easter Egg hunt expanded into a sculpture competition, engaging children in new ways.
- The impact of your activity can be far-reaching and have unexpected benefits. Survey results for Take 30 report that so far, 100% of those surveyed agree that the programme is supporting their mental health in lockdown, 100% would recommend it to others, particularly those struggling with mental health in lockdown, 100% were introduced to new places and intended to visit these places after lockdown. In addition, the Take 30 programme has allowed the University of Edinburgh to share the wealth and breadth of its own collections with its students, staff and business community, many of whom weren’t aware of its museums and collections. 40% of the participants joining the virtual programme visits were not previously aware of the University’s museums and collections.
- Storytelling remains powerful: your heritage story doesn’t have to be a museum or gallery, it could tell the story of the history of bread making or blacksmithing. If you believe it could offer 30 mins to help someone get away from their day, be entertaining and educational, it may be a valuable opportunity.
- Audience and co-design are key. For Tom Flint with Jupiter Artland, the focus is to create opportunities for learning for young people. As Tom asserts, there should always be a reason for your proposition to exist and this should guide what platform you should put it on to. If you are building something virtual for children, you should be building it with children.
- It is important to remember the reason to use technology and have an interesting story to tell through technology. A variety of digital assets in different formats and platforms means you can be more agile and respond quickly when having to adapt activities. Jupiter Artland assets include Minecraft on a server, an iphone app, an audio guide, an app which works in between the two spaces, 360 video. With several ways for interaction in one space, they can be rolled out and used in different situations; allowing organisations to respond quickly to change.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Interface can support your business, or you have an idea to develop an immersive experience and are looking to match with academic expertise, please contact us or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Read our case study about how Interface linked Jupiter Artland to Edinburgh Napier University for an innovative project.