‘The Rooms’ Sitting Room Session – When to say no to an idea

November 16, 2015 by

I was asked to speak about our REACT-funded project for 5 minutes as part of the Sitting Room Sessions at the Private View of REACT’s excellent ‘The Rooms’ festival in early November 2015.

Here is the text of the talk (minus the live asides of course, which made it a bit less dry!):

“I’m going to leave it actually.

Yes, its a great idea.
Yes, it seems there would be a market for it. The Funeral industry would be the most obvious place to start.
Yes, no-ones doing it yet, well they’ve started trying in a way, but their attempts are pretty poor quality, most people would agree with that.
Yes, I think there would be quite a lot of avenues to pursue in terms of start-up support and finance.

So, yes, I thought of it, I looked into the feasibility of it, I’ve got ideas about how it could work, what it could look like, who the partners and customers might be. I’ve even worked with people to explore exactly how we could produce it.

But I’m going to leave it there. I’m not going to take it forward.

These aren’t words I use a lot.
In fact, it took me a while to make the decision.
At first it definitely felt like a failure.
But now I know it was the best decision.
A positive exit from the project.
Better to say a considered no, than struggle on with something against your better judgement out of some kind of misplaced sense of duty, until it grinds to a bitter and messy halt. (a bit of melodrama there… did I mention I’m a theatre maker…)

In the Spring of 2014, with REACT Feasibility funding, I undertook research into the feasibility of building a software engine that automatically creates a video life story from an individual’s social media content. The project was called Protagonist.

Protagonist was an attempt to make sense of our vast stashes of personal data online in a human, emotional, narrative way. Using their own social media content, we wanted to create a short film memoir of an individual – with the output feeling meaningful and personalised. And we wanted to see if we could create this using an automated process.

Our ambition was that the Protagonist service would be a commercial, stand-alone, direct-to-consumer product.

I found that the construction of narrative from online data poses an extremely complex computing problem. Who knew?! Well I didn’t. As someone from an arts background its sometimes tricky to guess which seemingly impossible problems can be solved relatively simply by technology (or already have been) and which are actually basically impossible.

This particular area of algorithmically generated video is only just starting to be explored (with very limited success) by digital giants such as Google and Facebook.

So here’s why I’m saying no to this idea:

It would be very difficult to compete in this marketplace currently, if Google & Facebook with all their resources are struggling to make anything worth watching;
I’m a theatre maker, not a software engineer;
Life is short: I don’t want to spend at least the next 3 years setting up a software start-up, that won’t use my skills well;
I’ve got other ideas for other projects I want to make, so I’m going to use my skills and energy where they’ll be making the most impact, and get on with making those.

You can see what we’re up to at www.theotherwayworks.co.uk
I’m Katie Day, and I’m Artistic Director of The Other Way Works.
We’re a Birmingham-based theatre company making playful theatre that immerses our audiences in the story.”

Bandstand featured as one of “10 digital arts projects we love” by Sync

November 22, 2013 by

We were very excited to find out that our Bandstand project has been selected by Sync as one of their recent “10 digital arts projects we love”.

They said:

“it’s a beautiful way of finding new ways to read these historic spaces through digital technology.”

You can read the full article here.

We are in rather excellent company, with other highlighted projects including Hello Lamp Post and the V&A’s recent Memory Palace Exhibition.

Join Us – We are recruiting Board Members

November 28, 2011 by

The Other Way Works is currently recruiting Non-Executive (voluntary) Directors to join its Board of Directors.

This is a great opportunity for your skills and experience to make a real difference to the development of an energetic and distinctive not-for-profit arts organisation. We’re looking for people with a passion for theatre, the arts, and innovation, who will help steer, support and advocate for the company.

Click here for further info

Talking it up

November 2, 2011 by

Katie will be popping up at a couple of different events in the next few weeks.

We’ve been selected to present our Bandstand project as part of the Ideas Summit at the ISAN Biennial Conference in Glasgow on 16th November. Its a chance to let national outdoor programmers know about our plans for the project, and opportunities for them to get involved in co-commissioning new content for the platform.

She’ll also be at the Hello Culture Conference in Birmingham on 17th November on the Mobile, Location and Games panel.  The one day event will explore how the cultural sector can exploit digital technology.

Avon and Me

November 21, 2009 by

We’d love to hear any personal stories or memories about Avon Cosmetics for our web project AVON AND ME.

Add them to our website avonandme.co.uk

Avon Calling in London this Saturday

November 19, 2009 by

We’ll be performing Avon Calling at Camden People’s Theatre in London THIS Saturday (21 November).

Tickets can be reserved for the London show by emailing boxoffice@cptheatre.co.uk

More info here.

In the meantime, please add any personal stories or memories about Avon Cosmetics to our website avonandme.co.uk … ding dong! Avon Calling!

Black Tonic featured in ‘What to see this week’

November 15, 2008 by

Black Tonic continues in Manchester until Sunday 30th November.  We are totally SOLD OUT, but if you’re prepared to hang around in the hotel lobby at 7, 8 or 9pm, let us know you’re waiting and we might be able to squeeze you in if there’s a no-show….
Tickets through Contact Theatre
Sponsored by The Place Hotel, Manchester 

The Place

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Encounters 2007

November 26, 2007 by

The Other Way Works are taking part in a week of workshops at mac this week. The week explores ‘encounter’ performance – performance for an audience of one, or intimate or interactive performance.  As you can see, lots of names for this small field of performance, and lots of ways of going about it.  Breathe are also taking part, as well as a selection of other practitioners, and the whole week is being facilitated by Amanda from Stan’s Cafe.  It’s really refreshing to have time to play around with ideas, to discuss this kind of practice with other artists who make this kind of thing themselves, and to work practically with new people.  There’s a sharing of ideas and a chance to discuss things on Friday, drop us an email if you’d like to come along.

The Other Way Works at the V&A

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Our production I am Waiting is featured in the exhibition Collaborators: UK Design For Performance 2003-2007, which opened at the V&A in London on 21st November.

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Green light for ‘Hotel’ Project

November 8, 2007 by

All those hours spend drafting funding applications have not been in vain… Funding from the Arts Council (GFA) and Birmingham City Council (International Development Scheme) has now been secured, meaning we can start work on our new performance project codenamed ‘Hotel’ (the clue’s in the name).  This is great news, and we can’t wait to get started.

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