The Relay was a project comprising six original episodes of digital content created and developed by local artists with mentorship and guidance from our team, then produced and disseminated every two weeks, over three intensive months. Part celebration of the Vancouver arts community and part provocation for exploring new transmedia devices and techniques, The Relay featured thirteen artists experimenting with and modelling new approaches to audience engagement. The project divided the 13 participating artists into smaller groups. Each group was supported in developing strategies to integrate a different kind of interactive and immersive technology into their process and episode before passing it along to the next group for further development, hence, the “relay”.
The Digital Storytelling Team provided support through digital dramaturgy, providing hardware, and integrated knowledge sharing within the community as an inseparable component of the creative process involving as many artists as possible.
Given the challenges presented by COVID-19, The Relay was conceived of and realized as a completely digital experience. It engaged a wide range of audiences and artists and modelled digital experimentation and creation at a time when most theatres and performing art institutions had shuttered their doors and were scrambling to reimagine their existence in a purely virtual space.
Process Design and Key Outcomes
The Relay project helped the Digital Storytelling Team to achieve the following core targets:
Develop a project that necessitated digital collaboration and knowledge sharing as essential components of development and presentation of content
Engage artists who are leaders or key figures of the local arts community, allowing them to share out their acquired knowledge and skills
Design and implement a process that requires participating artists to work outside of their areas of expertise thereby developing new transmedia skill sets and knowledge that will be impactful to their own work, organizations and by extension the sector as a whole
Foster a process where audience integration and interaction is built into the development of the work and not only as a marketing
Develop techniques to leverage data analytics and online multi-platform integration to guide development processes and further increase insights in audience engagement and demographics
Experiment with approaches aimed at targeting new audiences that may not be traditionally considered as “theatre-going audiences”
One of our key considerations revolved around providing a platform that would allow for the widest reach for audience engagement on multiple platforms (using a custom website in addition to Youtube, Vimeo and Facebook), while being flexible enough to facilitate the spirit of innovative exploration that artists were encouraged to take on.
Our custom website served as the home where all the individual interactive components would come together including our:
Live multi-platform chat function that allowed audiences watching the live episodes on multiple platforms to feel as part of a connected community that was in dialogue with the interactive elements of the piece as well as each other
Use of 360 degree video and spatial audio techniques where form, medium, and presentation were participatory. In creating content for 360 video, spectators’ navigation was formally and narratively central to the realization of the story
Virtual and game-engine components, which were developed by the Digital Storytelling Team in dialogue with the artists, to complement and expand upon their filmed story-worlds
The Relay, focused on creating uniquely participatory experiences for the artists creating the episodes and the audiences alike. The artists had to push the boundaries of their knowledge base and disciplinary expertise to learn new tools for digital storytelling and engaging with digital audiences.
For more information about the project and to watch The Relay, please check out this link.