Throughout the pandemic we have tried to get by and make sense of it by looking for new ways to do things. Through innovating on digital technologies we have pivoted our working styles, participated remotely, connected better even though we are apart and told stories to relate to one another. Considering the wealth of valuable information on offer through XpoNorth’s 2021 conference programme sessions, especially in those concerned with digital innovation, one theme resonates strongly: humanity.
We might think of digital innovation as being about enabling technology, processes and tools, creativity and efficiency. And of course it encompasses these things, but human interaction, connection and belonging is wonderfully present in XpoNorth’s rich catalogue of fascinating discussions.
In “Driving Change — Innovation, Technology and New Customer Experiences” shared passions, ethical motivations and people’s desire to connect are discussed by Elena Corchero (Director of Emerging Technology at NewsCorp), Katy Boungard (Designing Content for Voice AI & Digital), Michael Rueger (Vice President, Investments, Star America Infrastructure Partners), Liz Rosenthal (VR Programmer at Venice Film Festival) and Tim Wright (Director & Consultant at twintangibles and XpoNorth Digital Sector Specialist). They examine how consumer demand opened opportunities for further fusing gaming and exercise, virtual reality was used effectively to pivot festival exhibitions online and using wearable tech in live entertainment.
In “Working The Crowd” Ad Pollé (Senior UGC Projects Co-ordinator, Europeana), Emil Bielski (Managing Director, UK at Croud), Dylan Berry (Founder, SmashHaus) and Epi Ludvik (Founder of BOLD Awards & Crowdsourcing Week) explore models for unlocking human potential through crowdsourcing ideas, effort, creativity and skills to digitise cultural heritage collections through gamification-incentivised information hacks, removing the licensing middle men between film production companies and music makers and an agency that offers a diverse range of specialist skills to global brands — all through harnessing the collective power of the crowd.
Storytelling is at the heart of what it is to be human, agree Dr. Ed Hoffman (NASA's Chief Knowledge Officer), David Edwards (Founder & CSO at Sensory Cloud) and Jessica Fox (Director, Author & XpoNorth Screen & Broadcast Sector Specialist) in “Expert on Expert: The Future of Work is Stories” which taps into the emotional connection we have with storytelling, how telling stories can engage disengaged people, how that translates into working practices, especially online and in what way the Three Little Pigs can serve as a business development allegory.
When it comes to presenting stories on stage, dramatising narrative and sharing folk songs, in “Digital Shared Experiences” Lisa Schwartz (Festival Director, Philadelphia Folk Festival), Sarah Ellis (Director of Digital Development, Royal Shakespeare Company), Tony Currie (Digital Producer, Scottish Ballet) and Dougal Perman (XpoNorth Digital Sector Specialist & Director and Producer at Inner Ear) investigate ways to step aside from online meetings and find the best ways to connect with audiences, whether that is through imaginative interactive experiences, providing a privileged look behind the scenes, envisaging the festival experience in novel ways digitally and playing with new ways for people to network.
Online communities provide wonderful opportunities to connect with like-minded people all over the world, but what about rooting ourselves somewhere and finding our sense of place? What are the sensitive, stable and sustainable ways of working with unique places to open them up to people without compromising what makes them special? Murray Ferguson (Director of Planning and Rural Development at Cairngorms National Park), Dennis Holm (The University of the Faroe Islands), Jean-Philippe L. Messier (Director, Manicouagan Regional County Municipality, Quebec) and Raoul Curtis-Machin (Operations Manager, Culloden Battlefield) discuss answers to these questions as they ask “Who possesses this landscape? — The man who bought it or I who am possessed by it? (Norman McCaig)”. During the pandemic place and space became more desirable than proximity to the action. We proved that we can work anywhere and we found ways to demonstrate value and exemplify the reasons that people, young people especially, may choose to stay in remote locations.
In pre-pandemic times, XpoNorth provided an excellent opportunity to feast on new information, learn about emerging technologies, spot trends and connect with people from far and wide. It adapted as the pandemic progressed and continues to present an evolving catalogue of content that draws from the creative industries and cultural economy, champions fresh thinking and showcases digital innovation in a way that is personable, relatable and touches our humanity.
Dougal Perman (Director and Producer at Inner Ear & XpoNorth Digital Sector Specialist)
Dougal Perman is XpoNorth's Digital Sector Specialist.
Our free 'Sector Support Programme' is for creative and cultural businesses based in the Highlands and Islands. It provides direct access to the Highlands and Islands network and works to support and connect practitioners across the creative industry in the region.
Find out more and apply here.