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Inspiring digital creativity in young people with TTS.Digital

TTS.Digital was a funding programme designed to inspire digital creativity in young people. It supported a series of projects led by young people and working with a collaboration of arts organisations with technology partners. Part of Time to Shine - Scotland's National Youth Arts Strategy - it was delivered in two phases. With a full evaluation of the project just published, Allan Berry, TTS Digital Coordinator, reflects back on the programme and shares his thoughts on what we've learned.

TALC - iPad and historic building

How was TTS.Digital developed?

One of the stated outcomes of the original Time to Shine strategy was the creation of a ‘digital playground’, designed to encourage young people to think imaginatively and challenge Creative Scotland to think differently. The intent was to develop a single platform.

The project was developed throughout 2014, and was designed with input from digital creative professionals, arts organisations and young people. The feeling from these stakeholders was that an online platform might be too limiting. They felt that a digital programme should take a partnership approach to building skills, knowledge and capacity, rather than add to the already crowded market of online platforms. The ‘digital playground’ was subsequently re-profiled to accommodate the TTS.Digital open funding process.

It was agreed that projects:

  • needed to combine online and offline components;
  • should be about a programme of work, not primarily about a new platform or new software;
  • needed some physical rather than exclusively digital facilitation;
  • should be about empowering young people to identify quality, be creative with curation, to be discerning and inventive with the existing and ever evolving tools and platforms already online; and
  • should be about providing a platform for the creative digital work of young people.

A two-phase TTS.Digital funding programme was established and allocated a budget of £450,000 from the wider TTS implementation budget.

TTS.Digital embraced an open, experimental method, encouraging projects to explore new technology, art forms and methodologies.- Allan Berry, TTS Digital Coordinator

Phase One

Phase One provided ten projects with up to £5,000 to run experimental digital activity with young people over three months in summer 2015. Projects were encouraged to take risks, try new technology, develop new ways of working and to be led by young people.

TALC - models

Phase One was deliberately run as a series of small projects with no fixed outcomes, to encourage risk taking and experimentation. Projects were informed that it was ‘ok to fail’ and there was no obligation to produce a finished piece of work or performance. The only requirements were that projects were run as a collaborative effort between arts, technology and youth organisations, and that projects shared their learning with others, through Creative Scotland.

The projects were:

  • A (digital) visit from Boswell and Johnson (Templar Arts and Leisure Centre) - Young people created a graphic novel using the historic journeys of Boswell and Johnson as a creative starting point. Awarded £4,850
  • Unruly (Dundee Contemporary Arts) - Young people and their parents learned to animate using accessible animation software. Awarded £5,000
  • Digital Dudes (Hoda productions) - Children with autism filmed themselves skiing and created a ski inspired animation. Awarded £5,000
  • Future Publishing House (Electric Bookshop) - Young people merged digital art and publishing as they worked towards completing a specified brief. Awarded £5,000
  • The Hidden Ward Trail (Artlink Central) - Young people in a hospital children’s ward were introduced to animation and new digital technology. Awarded £5,000
  • Digital Reels (Wildbird) - Young people merged traditional fiddle playing with digital technology. Awarded £5,000
  • Movie Mashup (Glasgow Film) - Young people re-wrote scenes from a film using computer code. Awarded £5,000
  • Digital Connections (Youth Highland) - Young people from rurally isolated areas engaged with the community using a range of creative technologies. Awarded £5,000
  • Crafting Digital (MAKLab) - Workshops introducing young people to digital craft and design - This project was unable to engage with young people within the required timescales, so the planned activities did not take place. Underspend from this project was reallocated into Phase Two.

In August 2015, the various Phase One projects presented their progress at an event in Dundee:

Phase Two

Phase Two provided six projects with £50,000 to £100,000, to run larger creative technology projects between November 2015 and November 2016.

These projects followed the same core principles as Phase One, with regard to collaboration, experimentation and youth empowerment. The projects worked towards one or more specific outcomes and were expected to produce a final showcase of completed work, an event or performance.

Sense Scotland

Phase Two of TTS.Digital involved close joint working with members of Youth Arts Voice Scotland (YAVS), a national youth advisory group for the TTS strategy.  Members of YAVS were involved in devising the intended outcomes for Phase Two projects and were on the funding panel for Phase Two applications.

As one of the YAVS said: “We were kind of making history as the first young people to sit on a Creative Scotland funding panel.”

YAVS members were given training and support to effectively analyse the applications and their views were given equal weight alongside the Creative Scotland staff on the panel.

TALC - on laptops

The Phase Two projects were:

  • Unlock Digital (Hot Chocolate Trust) - An open opportunity for young people to use creative technology through workshops, events and a residential. Awarded £69,260
  • Sensatronic Lab (Sense Scotland) - Using technology to make music making accessible, particularly for young people with physical and/or sensory impairments. Awarded £99,590
  • Sparks, drifts and rain (Templar Arts and Leisure Centre) - Introducing young people in rural areas to cross art form digital arts activity that acknowledges heritage and landscape. Awarded £50,000
  • livescore (Imaginate) - Digital arts workshops with young people, building towards a final performance that will be livestreamed internationally. Awarded £65,793
  • Teenagers and Toddlers (West Lothian Council) - Teenagers creating an app for toddlers, using ideas, sound and art created by nursery children. Awarded £57,190
  • Cmd_v.2 (Shaper Caper) - Cross art form workshops for young people, integrating movement/dance with creative technology. Awarded £59,611

More details of all of these projects can be found in the full evaluation.

Hot Chocolate Trust

Lessons learned

TTS.Digital focused on experimentation, risk taking, collaboration and youth empowerment.  The programme encouraged people and organisations to be experimental, not just in the creative technologies they engaged with, but also in how they engaged with one another and young people.

For most projects, digital technology was an integral part of the arts activity. Young people created work that brought together analogue and digital techniques. This was achieved through projects making apps, games, films or animation.

TALC - projection

One arts deliverer said: “As an artist who is naturally excited by analogue materials I have found it fascinating, challenging and very creative to explore in a new way with a digital artist.  To be able to enhance a young person’s sensory experience of the work and to expand their ideas by adding new ‘layers’ of digital interaction is really quite special.”

Overall, TTS.Digital embraced an open, experimental method.  This encouraged projects to explore new technology, art forms and methodologies without being too concerned about meeting pre-set timelines or milestones.

TALC - Kinetic Beasties

A number of lessons have been learned from TTS.Digital:

Two-phase approach

This was particularly successful. It offered flexibility to both funders and recipients.  Projects had the flexibility to experiment and fail, as well as to develop on successes and learn from mistakes.

Encouraging participation in new activities

Activity in arts and technology was new to many young people that were involved in TTS.Digital.  Project deliverers worked to encourage young people to try something new and out of their comfort zone.  Instead of categorising activities, they took a youth work approach and allowed young people to define it for themselves.

The Evolution of ‘Digital Playground’

The TTS.Digital team recognises that the early ambition for a website-based digital playground has not been fulfilled as originally intended, due to feedback from young people and industry professionals. The general concept of a tangible, single digital playground was replaced with the TTS.Digital funding programme, which represented the idea and ethos of a digital playground, in a different format. This process of listening to and learning from the experts, including young people, has been useful in guiding Creative Scotland to provide a programme of activity that is relevant and accessible.

Sense Scotland - Sensatronic Lab

What’s Next?

TTS.Digital has successfully piloted a two-phase approach to creative technology provision for young people. Stakeholders felt positive that the approach used by TTS.Digital would be taken forward in the future, and hopefully built into new or existing funding streams. Creative Edinburgh, supported by Creative Scotland, has already launched the Curiosity Awards and Light Bytes programme, which was developed using learning from TTS.Digital, but does not have a specific youth focus.

If funding for young people and creative technology is available, stakeholders felt that it should be used in a similar way as TTS.Digital, and would build on the successes and lessons learned.

TALC - Kinetic Insects

Read the full evaluation of the TTS.Digital programme, produced by Research Scotland between February 2016 to September 2016.