NEoN Digital Arts Archive

People in an auditorium


Three new research collaboration projects

In 2021, we completed our ReGrowing Digital Arts commissions project with Dr Michael Pierre Johnson from the Innovation School at the Glasgow School of Art. These three commissions were Rethinking Symposia as Systems by Nathan Jones, Guide to Best Practice in Digital Arts Commissions by Bilyana Palankasova, and Manifesto for Digital Arts Work Placements by Beatrix Livesey-Stephens, (text version here) (short version here), which were presented at the ReGrowing Digital Arts Webinar Showcase in August 2020. We hope that these commissions will be aids to foster ethics and drive within a new, more accessible framework for digital arts.

Despite the difficulties of the last few years, and the reduced programme of digitals arts activities, NEoN has been collaborating with Dr Michael Pierre Johnson from The Glasgow School of Art’s Innovation School as part of his AHRC-funded Innovation Leadership Fellowship in the creative and digital economy, The Value of Creative Growth. His research focused on applying a Creative Growth Model through design-led approaches to better understand, support and evaluate creative enterprise at the sole trader and microenterprise (1-5 people) level, based on the networks of people, organisations, resources and assets they work with.

Having worked with Michael in the past, NEoNs director, Donna Holford-Lovell knew the value of design-led understanding, saying that “this was an opportunity to really look at the way we work, what value we are creating and how we can adapt in a rapidly changing world. The arts are under so much pressure just to survive, with new insights and tools we hope to be better equipped to cope with change and instability.”

Pre-pandemic, the original plan was for Michael to work with NEoN to develop evidence-based approaches to evaluating outreach in making digital skills, arts and creative careers accessible to everyone. Since the Covid-19 disruption, the opportunity was seen to use the collaboration to support and evaluate NEoN’s adaptation and re-emergence going forward. We’ve been doing this by gathering reflections from artists, collaborators and volunteers who contributed to some of NEoN’s past projects and successes, using the research project’s Creative Growth Model as a framework for evaluation. This evaluative review has focused on three key areas that NEoN believes can shape its model of practice going forward: student and graduate work placements; Pop-Up digital arts with external partners; and the annual festival’s provision of public art, symposia and podcasts.

Having collected and reviewed reflections and insights from interns, volunteers, artists and staff, a development programme for NEoN was then co-designed based on key goals for their future growth with digital arts in Dundee and beyond. Three short digital arts projects delivered between March and May 2021 tested the development opportunities identified, such as a manifesto for best practice in digital arts work placements, developing an exemplary digital arts commission for international festivals, and reimagining the digital arts symposium.

Having an evaluation process from the start maximised learning for NEoN that will be showcased for the wider digital arts community to ensure everyone who supports digital arts can engage with what comes next, as well as through research articles and reports as part of Michael’s The Value of Creative Growth Fellowship.