Click on the links opposite for essential DIY tips to get your project started.

Teaming Up

All the recipes that you see in our Cookbook were team productions. Pervasive Media projects need unusual combinations of people because they combine creative content with cutting-edge computer science. . Teams can come together for one project, perhaps brought together on a sandbox to build an idea, or they may stay together long-term and consist of collectives of collaborators who trust each other’s diverse sets of expertise.

To work in this emergent area you have to understand what kind of a team you are going to need and how to manage it. In this section we are going to discuss the essential functions your team will need to deliver the project. The names you assign to these functions will differ from one context to another; as an experimental field Pervasive Media has not yet fixed the names of production roles.

Creative projects need a creative driver, a team leader who has the vision to push the project through. This person could be a Technologist, a Designer, an Artist, a Director or a Creative Producer; they have to be invested in the project and unswervingly committed to its delivery. This new interdisciplinary production space offers new opportunities for Creative Producers who are committed to the strong idea at the heart of the project and understand the technical possibilities. The Creative Producer can protect the project’s vision; this means making judgement calls, rejecting some options in favour of others, preventing ‘mission creep’ where contributors keep adding features till the project becomes unwieldy. Above all Creative Producers have to be resilient enough to keep all the functions of funding, resources, clients, technology and content in balance. The Creative Producer must also have an eye for detail and the skills to make everyone feel like a valued and respected part of the team. The core team will combine these functions with those of the Creative Technologist and the Creative Content providers.

The Creative Technologist is that rare hybrid who can talk code as well as art; they need to be able to design and build bespoke platforms to deliver the creative vision. Creative Technologists are the key to design processes that enable mediated experiences to be delivered in new ways. This will involve designing, coding, building and testing; they will be able to advise on the best technologies to use to deliver the project. There are nearly always a range of solutions on offer (see Surreptitious Soundplay method) each with their own affordances and limitations. The Creative Technologist in your team will be able to advise on the best routes to take. Of course it may be that you already have some of these skills elsewhere in your team – whilst Stand and Stare worked with the Pervasive Media Studio’s Dan Williams to produce the first iteration of Theatre Jukebox they already knew the Q-Lab software and had the technical knowledge to learn After Effects in order to complete the project. On the other hand the Creative Technologist Tim Kindberg was the driver of ‘Heads’ with the coding knowledge to find and adapt existing face recognition software; as the co-developer of the creative vision on the project he was also able to bring Flash, Java, and shell scripting capabilities to connect all the project’s elements together. Where would you find these wizards of the technological imagination?
University Computer Science, Engineering and Product Design departments all have people with these skills, corporate research labs may be interested in innovative collaborations, the Hackspace Foundation and Dorkbot networks are all likely first points of contact.

The main body of the Creative Content in your project is likely to be made inside your core team; this content could be design, writing, dance, performance, history, brand information, gaming, music. In our recipes the leadership of the project has often been by the main creative content provider (eg Duncan Speakman in Our Broken Voice and Laura Kriefman of Guerilla Dance Project’s Surreptitious Soundplay) However content can also come from historical researchers (eg Curzon Memories), writers (Tweeture) or users (Fortnight). In many ways the content is a more conventional function of media production. However what is essential to the new processes at hand is that content and delivery are not dealt with in isolation. For the experience design to be successful they both have to work in concert. In practice this means iterative design cycles where the experience is tested again and again until the delivery of content is balanced with the limitations of the user, the context and the technology.

In addition to this core team our recipes draw upon all kinds of ancillary skills. Chief amongst them is production management; keeping the project to schedule and making sure that the bills get paid. All kinds of other abilities will be needed as you go through your production: musicians, graphic designers, interaction experts, volunteer co-ordinators, game designers, 3D Printers, carpenters and coders. Each of these inputs will need negotiation and each of them may change the project.

However, the most frequently cited people needed to develop and refine a project are an audience to test the work on. It is almost impossible to design any interactive artefact without user testing. Producers have many different methods for collecting this feedback (observation, video, questionnaire, focus group) but at whatever level you involve them, your user group should be considered a key element in your production team. They are, after all, your potential advocates, promoters and (paying) audience.