RDM in the Performing Arts

24 April, 2013

Disciplinary variations notwithstanding, there is a widespread understanding among scientific researchers about what is meant by ‘research data’, and research funders and institutions have supported and enabled this via authoritative definitions. This is not necessarily the case in the visual and performing arts. The first task is often the translation of scientific research data management concepts into language meaningful to those working in arts disciplines. Recently the DCC has worked with the KAPTUR project, as part of its support for the Jisc Managing Research Data programme, and the University of Arts, London, as one of its institutional engagements, towards an acceptable and practical definition of research data for creative arts institutions. However to date we at the DCC have taken only a fleeting glance at the performing arts. Our only notable mention in this area is when Laura Molloy recently presented on RDM at the Performing Documents Conference, the culmintating public event of an AHRC funded project exploring the re-use of live art archives.

Earlier this month, in an effort to learn more and make contacts I attended ECLAP 2013, the 2nd International Conference on Information Technologies for Performing Arts, Media Access and Entertainment. It took place in the beautiful city of Porto, the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and home of the Instituto Politécnico do Porto (IPP), the largest polytechnic in Portugal, with over 18,500 students. IPP has 7 different faculties, the school of music and arts - Escola Superior de Música, Artes e Espectáculo (ESMAE) is one of the two original schools established when IPP was founded in 1985. The Teatro Helena Sá e Costa, ESMAE’s main theatre, provided a fitting location for a conference looking at IT innovation within the cultural heritage area, and the performing arts in particular.

Image: The beautiful façades of Porto

As an outsider to the ECLAP scene and a relative newcomer to the area of IT and performing arts I was unsure of what to expect from the conference but keen to learn more about the opportunities and challenges facing those working in this area, particularly from a Research Data Management (RDM) perspective.

ECLAP was co-funded by the European Union ICT Policy Support Programme, as part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, to create a social network and media access service for performing arts institutions across Europe. It has done this by establishing an e-library for performing arts and a best practice network of experts and services working in performing arts institutions in Europe. The e-library currently contains more than 100,000 content objects (images, videos, documents, audio files, ebooks, ePub documents, animations, slides, playlists, collections, 3D objects, braille music, annotations, etc.) from more than 30 European institutions. It is powered by a large semantic model which collects content from over 35 providers and manages metadata in 13 different languages. The eventual aim is to deliver over 400.000 objects that cover the “richness and value of the European performing arts heritage” to Europeana, the European Digital Library.

The 2013 conference was primarily an attempt to pull together those with knowledge of ECLAP activities and performing arts research practitioners into one space. The focus was on how technologies and innovations produced for digital libraries, media entertainment and education can be exploited in the field of performing arts and also a look at new innovations developed specifically for the performing arts.

Some of the key themes of interest were:

  • Tensions between archiving old work and creating new work (that utilises new ICT approaches). Much discussion in this area was around ‘where should the money go?’ Is it just about optimising what we already have or research for the future?
  • How do we digitally preserve the visual arts - is just about reproducibility or is it about much more? How can we capture audience interaction etc.?
  • Issues around terminology – do we fully understand what is meant by performance art, performing arts, dance, movement? How can we use IT to better describe the performing arts world? Can we use better metadata, more detailed ontologies, can we improve dance notation?
  • Cross discipline work – what can the performing arts learn from other disciplines? What innovation in this area can be applied to other areas?

There were many interesting sessions at ECLAP and I’ve written more about them for a forthcoming Ariadne article. In the future I think research data management will play a bigger part in conferences of this type and I hope the DCC will have a role to play.

All the talks at ECLAP were captured by Camtasia and should be available from the ECLAP site soon along with PDF versions of the slides and papers from the talks.


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arts, RDM