John Whall from Derby QUAD is the digital participation lead for ArtWorks Alliance. Below he gives the latest update on developments and you can read his blog from March 2018 giving the background to the work here.  


The Digital Participation Expedition launch


The East Midlands Participatory Art Forum (EMPAF) approach to questions surrounding ‘What is digital participation?’ is a series of exploratory participatory events we’ve called the Digital Participation Expedition. The first event was held at QUAD in July, with future events to be held at EMPAF partner venues. The final proposed event will take place in Lincoln to coincide with Frequency Festival in October 2019.


The launch event included discussion and workshops around the topics of Interactions and Interfaces, Hands on with Digital and Digital Co-creation and was open to all audiences with an interest in digital, arts and culture and education. The event was designed to be as participatory as possible, with digitally participatory feedback tools used to capture qualitative and quantitate feedback.


Generally, the feeling was the Expedition launch event fulfilled all of its objectives, and more. It was a refreshingly honest and ‘critical’ look at ourselves in the participatory sector (ie it wasn’t self congratulatory). There was a very nice and positive atmosphere to the event, and this could have partly been to its ‘accessible’ nature – which meant that everybody, no matter what your level of digital confidence, still felt included and could learn and be inspired.


The event did touch on the darker and negative sides of ‘digital’ and one of its strongestoutcomes were the multiple conversations and debates it sparked. It was felt the opening lines were perfect to set the tone ‘I don’t know what my job title means', where ‘digital’ is now being added to job titles in arts and culture.


The event gave a strong message that ultimately we should be calling this ‘participation digital’ because the ‘participation’ element was the key to it all. There were questions raised too, for example, when does/can the digital part become a barrier?


Digital feedback methods: Everwall and Kahoot!


There were two main ‘digitally participatory’ feedback and evaluation tools used at the event, Everwall and Kahoot!


  • Everwall is a live Twitter ‘wall’ that collates Twitter conversation around a set hashtag - #digitalparticipationis. It was used to record contextual summative feedback and to encourage participatory conversation at the event and online.


  • Kahoot! is an online game-based learning and trivia platform that can also be used as a digital feedback form, which is completed by all participants at the same time in the form of a ‘quiz’, using smart phones and a web browser (displayed on a projected screen).  


Participants found Kahoot! enjoyable to participate in, although it could be argued that answers were pre-programmed and therefore did not offer much choice or freedom of expression. This is to be explored further.


With Everwall using a hashtag to collate images, comments and summative feedback from the event, it becomes a strong participatory/co-created evaluation tool when used in connection to Twitter Moments. The current Moment can be found here


We’ll continue to use both these methods at future events and the evaluative process for the Expedition will look at how the combination of these tools can provide meaningful feedback and evaluation to digital participation.


The event also inspired a participant to create a Vlog of their experience, which helped to contextualise the event from a participant perspective.


Other key findings from the event


There was much discussion about how much ‘choice’ digital can really offer, compared with other art forms, if you are not able to code or re-programme the technology yourself.


From the feedback, it was clear that artists and smaller companies felt some kind of guide to resources, funding and support would be useful.


Kahoot! provided some interesting insights into who the participants were, their expectations and needs. Highlights from this include:


  • A high percentage of participants had mid-high digital confidence prior to attending the event (64.9%), with a large increase in digital confidence at the end (58.3%), with key participants indicating this increase being Artists/Facilitators and Young People
  • A significant number of participants were inspired to use more digital in their practice (80.5%)
  • Surprisingly, Young People were mostly interested in support for identifying suitable funding (50%)


Additionally, the event had a Twitter reach of 222,800: however, it’s unclear how much external online interaction was attracted during this time.


Next steps


From this initial event, future Expedition activity will look at:


  • Where the power lies and whether digital participation offers an ‘illusion of choice’?
  • Exploring the ‘art’ within digital participation
  • How participatory is ‘digital’? – the barriers, limitations and skills of facilitators/artists