Aarhus, Denmark: Moderating SPOT Interactive Conference for SHAREPLAY and Interactive Denmark, May 2015

Third time in a row to moderate the SPOT Interactive conference. This year's theme 'Beyond Entertainment' with the specific aim of addressing “Is it possible to address everyday problems in our society using the skill set from within the creative digital sector? From the way we receive healthcare, education to interacting with public services and utilities?”. Shareplay gathered a number of international speakers, all of whom had experience of this emerging phenomena. The morning focused generally on exploring trends and perspectives, with the afternoon narrowing down onto specific case studies. This was my personal take on the day:

"Live Work Play Better". New York PSFK's Tim Ryan revealed some of the findings from a report published with the same name. He presented numerous examples of one-solution-fits-one-need type applications that are designed to enhance our daily lives. They revolve around three areas: Effectiveness & Productivity, Balance & Awareness and Growth & Personal Development. A great start particularly as it demonstrated how much we're relying on a second brain to keep track on how we live and keep us in check. Would seem that anyone developing in this field needs to have a bit of anthropology and sociology up their sleeve. There's a slideshare that summarizes their report. 

"Building Functional Storytelling" was presented by Uncle Grey's Lars Samuelsen. Through a couple of examples delivered by the company (ONLY clothing brand & Weber BBQ), Lars demonstrated how both clients and audiences were attracted to deeper, richer and more engaging content. The need for such sophistication and complexity was a reaction to the abundance <> scarcity paradigm, where as content becomes more readily available, attention was harder and harder to secure. Lars had noticed that the credit list for such work was now longer than before, suggesting a broader talent base is required. However budgets weren't necessarily increasing.

"Open and Agile Smart Cities". Looking to the audience as the ones to 'operate the levers' of the cities of the future, Martin Brynskov introduced us to the notion that some of the biggest clients to require effort from the creative sector will be those people that run the cities. The fact that the world's cities account for more than 80% of GDP should focus the attention of the creative looking new work. Another sweet spot was the space triangulated by 'society', 'art' and 'technology'. Martin, wears numerous hats including Associate Professor in Interaction Technologies at Aarhus University, chairing Connected Smart Cities and director of the Digital Design Lab. A great talk, broadening the opportunities for those assembled.

"Building the Clever City". Ross Atkin continued the theme of the smart city or in his words, the 'clever city'. He rejected the top own approach advocated by large networking companies with 'networking' ambitions. Ironically one of the most compelling points of the day which reinforced the role of the creative, came in the form of an advert from IBM for its smart city approach. The irony coming from the fact that the creatives producing the advert had reconnected IBM's top down approach with an interventionist approach to making cities better for people. With other examples showing his bottom-up approach, Ross delivered a manifesto. An inspirational talk, which showed how design needs to grab hold of one problem, find stakeholders who would benefit from the solution, both from a need and financial pov and getting on with it. The word 'partnerships' was mentioned many times, something that would be reiterated by others later in the day. My tag line for Ross would be "Sort out the crap in small ways".

"Creating a Game Changer for the Passenger Experience" was the first case to be presented after lunch. Aarhus' DesignIt's Frank Jepsen and Stine Skaarup introduced us to their company's approach to design thinking. They demonstrated how their holistic approach gave them the opportunity to compete (and beat) a number of architects who competed for the tender to deliver Brussels' Airlines new airport lounge. It would seem that thinking beyond simply the use of the lounge but to the whole passenger journey gave them the edge to clinch the deal. "Don't be limited in your ambition" they told us, whilst keeping their feet firmly on the ground.

"Crowd Sourcing a Cure for Cancer" gave London based Alex Hryniewicz a chance to show how television still recognizes its power to champion a cause by being the best place to create a call to action. Maverick TV used this position to center itself between a broadcaster, a charity and a interaction developer. Alex illustrated how Maverick's creative skills were used to turn the potentially dry and laborious task of processing cancer slides into an addictive game. What was remarkable was that when they were prevented from using their TV platform to drive the call to action, they turned to YouTube & Instagram as a way to drive an audience, particularly amongst a younger demographic.

"Bridging Game Development and Industrial Manufacturing". Following on the theme of gaming, Serious Games Interactive's Mikkel Lucas Overby showed how nine years of pushing the serious gameplay buttons had enabled him and his team to gain a large European grant and contract to deliver a simulation tool to help the car industry reduce costs and time to market. "Use gaming where appropriate" were Mikkel's words of advice to anyone wanting to develop something along similar lines. What was noticable was how Serious Games Interactive had branded their proposition (website, name, colours) to fit within the types of company's it was serving and away from it's own look and feel.

"Fun Learning - How the Digital Creative Industry Inspires Learning".  Vice President of Rovio Entertainment, Sanna Lukander told us how she had left education to follow her ambitions within the gaming sector by joining the makers of Angry Bird only to find herself utilizing the huge potential gaming had to offer the education sector. She remarked that it's important to get going now, rather than wait for the findings of any study which would create a five year lag between understanding digital's potential and its impact. She recognized that she had the potential to combine two great brands: Finnish Learning and Angry Birds.

The day finished with a panel session where Sanna, Alex, Tim and Ross joined the stage to address the central question of the day (see top). There appeared to be a consensus around the notion that the creative sector had a lot to offer the public and corporate sectors, in terms of storytelling, visualization and gaming. Find the right partners, think small, work from the bottom up, and be aware of what you do what you do and do it well. As a final shout out, Ross Atkin encouraged creatives to explore the MIT App Inventor

The event was organized by Shareplay and Interactive Denmark. Points of contact: Sebastian Holmgaard Christophersen & Kristian Krämer.


Paul Tyler