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UAL Research Online

Future-Proofing the Gloop – Part 1

Windle, Amanda (2014) Future-Proofing the Gloop – Part 1. Native.

Type of Research: Article
Creators: Windle, Amanda

Project Insight for Native, the magazine from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts:

Considering the end phase of an R&D project early on became a key decision point in the research design. I spent time considering the evaluative phase right from the start in more detail particularly with Tim Burley, artsdepot’s project lead. I would like to take credit for instigating this thinking but I must admit this was prompted by Tandi Williams at Nesta through her analysis of the financial aspect of our evaluation phase of our data strategy. To do this I went beyond our team to enlist more allies. These allies were the digital R&D peers that were at various stages of their own R&D projects.

As a researcher specialising in the social understanding of new technologies the financial aspects of an evaluative process is not my forte but I embrace the challenges that R&D affords me – to venture beyond my comfort zones. Yet with new challenges various concerns come to mind, like what happens if the whole aspect of financial evaluation falls through the cracks of our project roles and duties? This concern came about because I was aware that we were to be equally reflected in the contractual distribution of IP and licensing. This was a decision I fervently supported as the designated ‘legal contracts manager’ of the project – another ‘hat’ I unexpectedly took on. With this in mind, this text should be read as an insight into sharing ‘hats’ (roles) rather than individually trying on and collecting new ‘hats’.

My other concerns with the evaluation phase of our project were connected to project management issues, the reality that this aspect of the R&D project will take place when most of the resources are at their lowest, when there is less time and less budget. So, it seemed this aspect needed to be thought about and spread across the project phases. Working out when is the right time to start these future-proofing discussions became just as important as asking the questions at all. A part of the financial aspect of our evaluation was to let innovation measures emerge through the research process. This is a way of limiting the risk I am engaging with by firstly acknowledging my lack of experience, whilst partaking in just enough risk-taking (which is in this instance dabbling with future-proofing). Risk taking I feel is a main ingredient of the ‘innovation’ gloop of R&D.

I wondered how we might consider the financial longevity of the project beyond the building and testing phases; and how we might consider future-proofing innovation, a phrase that seemed familiar to me but always beyond my own comprehension. ‘Future-proofing’ is a phrase that’s definition is by defacto just out of reach. It is an ambition of chasing certain success.

I began looking at the written reports of the first generation of digital R&D projects which show a variety of approaches to considering ‘future-proofing’ but I didn’t feel that I found the right fit for our project. Most probably because what I was after was dialogue, conversation and a two-way collaborative debate.

I would argue that thinking around ‘future-proofing’ throughout the project has enabled me to think in both the short and long term. Small bursts of time will be allocated to think collaboratively on ‘future-proofing the gloop, which can be sustained in intervals throughout the entire length of the project. Evaluation will not just arise but will be an emergent-phase.

The first short burst of thinking came about by engaging debate from the Nesta Digital R&D community through one of the learning events. Here are the top five points from that session along followed by further questions:

Launch early and make the most of the launch: This could be a soft launch prior to testing, which gives more time for evaluation and design iterations.

Collaboratively project manage: Include all team members in key sprint meetings to encourage collaboration. This is a way of sharing both investment and risk. This can mean valuing research as a part of the agile process through all stages rather than regarding this expertise as contributions-in-kind but as an opportunity cost.

Default to transparency: This refers to sharing data and processes with all stakeholders and the R&D community at large.

Create principles to measure financial success alongside other evaluative methods: This relates to both for-profit and not-for-profit R&D.

Define the business model by the process not just by the numbers: This means finding ways to share learning along the way.

Three more questions that cropped up for commercially driven projects:

If the R&D project aims to be commercially-driven then is this considered in the design and subsequent stages of the project?

How do we do free? From freemium to monetising – what is the commerciality of doing free and at what cost?

What if any standard metrics are to be used to measure commercial success?

Official Website: http://artsdigitalrnd.org.uk/insights/future-proofing-the-gloop-part-1/
Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: R&D
Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Digital R&D Fund for the Arts
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Communication
Date: 8 August 2014
Funders: Nesta, Arts and Humanities Research Council, National Lottery through the Arts Council England
Related Websites: http://artsdigitalrnd.org.uk/features/3-research-methods-to-give-rd-the-best-chance-of-success/
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Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2014 16:33
Last Modified: 02 Oct 2014 16:33
Item ID: 7571
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/7571

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