Playful people

I’ve been exploring play today, and came across and number of interesting organisations, some of whom have done work which I’ve seen and asked myself “who’s behind that?”

For example, the Agency of Coney is a collective (?) behind Historic Royal Palaces’ House of Cards, at Kensington Palace. HRP have struggled for years to bring the spark of life to these rooms, left-over state apartments “round the back” of a still-in-use Royal residence. I put together a for-one-night only experimental event there myself,scarily almost twenty years ago! I made a spontaneous visit in the summer, after I’d been to The Museum of Brands for work.

I enjoyed myself in the House of Cards. The once empty rooms were filled with all sorts of objets trouvés, peepshows and ephemera, that told a story I knew from my days own days at HRP, a story which started with the Glorious Revolution of 1688. I had great fun exploring, but left with mixed feelings. My visit had coincided with a large number of ladies of certain age, and one moment of eavesdropping haunts me – a woman rising up from a peephole saying “It’s just a room, there’s nothing there.” I wondered then whether I was only enjoying it because of the knowledge I’d brought with me, not because of the success of the storytelling.

I’d also been frustrated by discovering, part-way round, a card game that I didn’t quite understand how to play. The frustration was my own – I consider myself a player of games, and I felt I could have worked it out, if I’d given myself a longer visit, but my schedule didn’t give me enough time to get my head around it. And of course, if I’d planned my visit better, I might have discovered in advance the on-line introduction to the game which I think would have helped me enjoy it more.

Whatever the success of the game and its impact on old lady visitors, House of Cards is a brave installation and a very welcome addition to the Royal Apartments at Kensington. I’ll need to add Coney to my list of people to talk to…

Image of installation in the Queen's Apartments at Kensington Palace
The first room in the Queen’s Apartments introduces visitors to the story of William and Mary

Day two

Today I joined Southampton’s Web Science DTC students and Digital Economy USG colleagues for four lunchtime presentations. The one I was immediately drawn to was headstream. Julius Duncan told us about how they arrived at the Social Brands 100 report, monitoring a companies website, blogs, and social networking presence, to see how much of the output was of value to followers, how well they reponded to followers, how much video and photos they link to (worth far more to followers than boring of status updates it seems) etc etc. The talk was about process not results, so I had to go online to to see that Innocent was the top social brand, which isn’t surprising – They are one of the few “brands” in my facebook, giving me value with their funny posts, and selling through me to my social circle (though I discovered this weekend that it annoys my sister).

As Julius was talking,  I wondered if the National Trust had thought of working with them? According to this blog post, yes. But this sort of stuff in interesting at a national, or international scale – I’m interested in how any one cultural heritage site, with a smaller, more local following, can leverage the social.