Our MuseIT project was conceived as participatory, collaborative and inclusive. The services that project partners are planning to produce should be created not only for the user audiences, but also together with them. Our project is interested in two types of audiences: people with disabilities who may feel constrained in their cultural experiences by limitations of present technologies, and members of the cultural institutions who are trying to overcome these limitations in their activities.
It is notoriously difficult to achieve participation of target audiences in any research and development projects as it is time consuming and quite expensive to organize such participation. In this case, quite a lot of effort was planned into the project from the very beginning and participatory workshops are envisioned as part of work in each part of the project. As our project is quite at the start, we began organizing workshops that will help us to understand the needs of our audiences and collect the ideas about how they experience and see the cultural consumption and creative activities online.
The first participatory ideation workshop of the MuseIT project took place on the 30th of January, 2023 in Paris, quite near the Pompidou Centre in the headquarters of IRCAM (French institute dedicated to the research of music and sound), which has kindly agreed to accommodate several of the meetings organized by our energetic project colleagues Corinne and Maud from the MCA (Michael Culture).
We have attracted 18 participants to the workshop through advertising the workshop on the project’s website: eight of them participating in the physical meeting and ten online. The participants with disabilities mainly were attending online, while the physical meeting attracted mainly the members of cultural institutions.
The introductory part included presentation of the MuseIT and its aims as well as two demonstrations of the technologies that the partners of the project are already employing in their work: ShareMusic has demonstrated a wonderful co-creation of musicians online, including the ones with disability. Actronika has demonstrated its haptic technologies that to some seemed like a miracle. After this common introduction, three groups were created, one working online and two getting into different rooms to engage in off-line workshop activities. Each group was followed by several observers and the online group was also followed by many project partners.
There were five questions set for the participants to discuss about and suggest interesting solutions that already exist or that can be found by MuseIT in the future. They could choose their own pace of discussion and the groups on-site were limited to two issues each to think and interact about. As usual, the time is too short and as soon as the discussion gets really interesting it comes to an end. Nevertheless, there were some interesting ideas that the project partners managed to pick up.
The discussions have helped us to discover an interesting set of existing ways to increase the experience of cultural objects, artefacts and interactions not only for people with disabilities, but also for others interested in multi-sensory experiences. The participants have learned that it is not easy to start regarding “norms” of perception from an entirely different perspective, because the existing ones are pervading our life-time habits and societal culture. The online participants have lifted the importance of digital technology as their window to the world and identified the means and ways to overcome the existing limitations. Most of them were eager not only to follow the project in the future, but also to become co-researchers and co-designers in the future.
This discussion also has made us think about our starting point for interaction with our co-researchers, the language we use and the messages we communicate to them.
The first workshop has also highlighted that it would be good to allocate more time to the workshops and to think through how the online workshops could be run with more opportunities of interaction between the participants themselves, not only with the moderators.
© Photo credits: Michael Culture Association