The Invisible Hand Revealed!

Back in the days of yore (last year) I attended a workshop run by the digital art collective, Blast Theory. This week they released their report, which fills in all the gaps from my two posts worth of notes taken at the event. Seriously, they took better notes that I did – the document even reminds me of stuff I said. (Playing devils advocate, I’d asked why profiling should be considered a bad thing, if it meant people get better service from corporations – and I get the sort of jeans that make me look good. And its all in the report, though some of the typos suggest they used some sort of on-line transcription service.)

Of course, over the last couple of weeks, as I’ve been further developing the responsive interpretation experiment I’d like to do, I’ve realized that it is in its own small way, all about visitor profiling. And surveillance of course. When the National Trust were thinking of funding the experiment, I was considering trying it out at Grey’s Court, which as the childhood home of Ian Fleming, seems particularly appropriate for exploring the the idea of spying. I hadn’t got so far then as to explore what the story might be, but as I’ve developed the idea for other funding proposals I’ve thought more and more about making the surveillance aspect of the experiment central to the story too.

Part of the reason I want to run the experiment is to test how visitors feel about having their movements around the site monitored. I’ve been thinking how the revelation of that monitoring packs quite an emotional punch, and suggests a story, or at least a “B-plot” around a mystery wherein the players are cast as spies, or spycatchers, investigating the site, and where the final kernel is the revelation that as the watchmen, they are actually the watched. This has been a necessity of trying to create a generic experiment, which can run at any site that the funding requires, but I like the idea of using it to create a James Bond theme at Greys Court, or finding the spy stories in other cultural heritage sites… like Sutton House’s Wolf Hall connections.

The infuriating thing about this search for funding, is the amount I need isn’t actually that much. Well, its more than a little of course, otherwise I’d fund it myself. But at about £14,000 it’s a bit-player in the world of funding. I can scale it up of course, to get closer the sort of money being offered by many funders, but that seems disingenuous in a way.

The Invisible Hand workshop was inspired by Blast Theory’s research for Karen, “the app that psychologically profiles you as you play.” They went to Kickstarter to bring in the last £15k they’d needed. But that was for an already prototyped concept, and they only just hot their target so, what with Kickstarter’s take, the need for rewards for backers, and the reputation which I haven’t got, I don’t think that’s a method I could use…

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