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Digital Culture Award Winner Case Study: DaDa

A bearded person wearing a patterned jumper leans forward in a virtual space.
Image Credit: DaDa

DaDa is an innovative arts organisation that delivers festivals and other cultural events to promote high quality disability, Deaf and neurodiverse art from unique cultural perspectives. It also creates opportunities for disabled, Deaf and neurodiverse people to access culture and creativity, including training and a young people’s programme.

DaDa won the Digital Transformation category in the 2023 Digital Culture Awards for their Holograms research and development project.

The winning project

DaDa’s Holograms research and development (R&D) project aimed to improve accessibility for Deaf audiences in alternative theatre formats, such as immersive theatre, non-traditional seating arrangements, and digital theatre. These formats are historically challenging to make accessible, and the cost can be prohibitive for small arts organisations. With funding from The Space, DaDa undertook research to explore whether innovative technologies like volumetric motion capture, projection mapping, and augmented reality could make these formats accessible to Deaf audiences, and remain budget friendly.

DaDa Holograms R&D – Video Explanation of all Three Phases

They created and road-tested BSL interpretation applications across three phases, each focusing on a different theatre style, demonstrating that:

  • Immersive theatre could use a phone-based app to create a lens to see the immersive experience through.
  • A small theatre production could present BSL interpretation as a table-top hologram for an audience to view in their home.
  • A hologram interpreter could be projected onto any surface, allowing for more flexibility for audience seating choices.

This project showed DaDa’s impressive commitment to embedding upskilling and knowledge-sharing into their commissioning and producing frameworks. DaDa staff, collaborators and partners received training to better understand the needs of Deaf audiences and augmented reality, and how to incorporate this type of work into programming. Project findings were shared with collaborating artists and presented at an industry day for theatres, arts organisations, and producers.

DaDa’s innovative and thoughtful approach to research and ideation, through to design and delivery has created not only a transformative digital product, but a human centred, transformative experience for audiences.

Liam Darbon, Digital Transformation Judge

The DaDa Holograms R&D project has the potential to revolutionise the way Deaf audiences experience live theatre and has transformed the way DaDa commissions and produces their work. Its findings demonstrate the potential of technology to promote the importance of inclusivity in cultural experiences, and positions DaDa as pioneering digital trailblazers in the field.

3 photos show the process of the DaDa holograms R&D project. From left to right: Pic 1 shows 2 people rehearsing in a theatre space. One is reading from the script and the other is interpreting it into BSL. Pic 2 shows the interpreter on their own in the same space, being filmed. We see the recording on a laptop screen in the forefront. Pic 3 shows the actor to the right and a hologram of the interpreter to the left. They are performing and are watched by a small audience.
Image credit: DaDa

Let’s hear what DaDa Executive Producer, Joe Strickland, has to say about the potential technology has to create a more equitable and inclusive creative sector.

What have you learned?

That using technology to try and overcome accessibility issues doesn’t have to cost a huge amount, and a lo-fi approach that could be afforded by any level of theatre company or arts organisation can be very effective. Money doesn’t have to be a barrier to creative, ambitious, access.

Would you have done anything differently?

We would have run more examples of the augmented reality solutions for different types of cultural presentation. We managed to make creative access solutions for immersive/promenade theatre, but never got to test them in other settings, like museums and galleries or audio tours. We created on demand tabletop AR theatre but never got to try live streaming it. We tried projected BSL performers in person but only in one location and without any extended creative elements. There’s much more to investigate and uncover about this area of creative access.

Has the project impacted your strategy or ambitions?

That this project was only possible because organisations like DaDa truly understand the value of digital work in the arts. It doesn’t have to just be about creative digital facsimiles of your in person cultural output, but realising that the new realm has brand new opportunities for overcoming problems that have persisted throughout time for in-person cultural performance or exhibitions.

Whilst many organisations are yet to deliver on their lockdown promises of digital access to their cultural output, DaDa and The Space – both funders of this project – remain steadfast in their belief in the opposition of this consensus. These beliefs are desperately important for ensuring a varied and inclusive digital cultural landscape.

Video case study interview with Joe Strickland

What’s next on your digital journey?

Who knows, the world is our oyster at the moment. The one thing I know for certain is that DaDa has a huge amount of learning about digital culture and access and I’d love to keep being able to pass that on to other organisations and creatives to make sure more people making artwork are doing so in ambitious, creative, and accessible ways.

About the Digital Transformation category

The Digital Transformation category celebrates an organisation’s successful integration of digital technology into processes, systems, or other organisational structures resulting in measurable growth in efficiency and digital skills or maturity. DaDa won the category in the 2023 Digital Culture Awards for their entry Holograms research and development project.

2023 Digital Culture Award Winners

Meet and be inspired by more of the brilliant Winners in the 2023 Digital Culture Awards. The nine categories celebrate innovation in areas including digital content creation and distribution, online audience engagement, digital income development strategies, data-led decision-making and overall commitment to digital skills development and capacity building.

Want to kick off your own digital transformation project?

The Digital Culture Network can help! Our digital experts can provide free 1-2-1 support to all creative and cultural individuals and organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help with a specific issue or would just like to chat about your digital ambitions, please get in touch.

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