Friday, 07 May 2010 15:46

Australia Council embeds geeks within arts organisations


'Artist in residence' programs are commonplace these days. More innovative is the 'geek in residence' program being run by the Australia Council for the Arts to help provide arts organisations with technical expertise.

A program run by the Australia Council for the Arts has helped provide technical expertise to nine arts organisations around the country.

The idea isn't about providing generic tech support, but to match specific technical skills with the needs of the host organisation.

"Of course we'll see some web development, taking the companies into the Web 2.0 realm," said Fee Plumley, manager of the Council's digital program.

"But, for example, we'll also see one of the geeks dusting off a 60 year archive of orchestral recordings - digitising it, repurposing it and bringing it off the shelf and back to life. Another will be working on electronic data interchange for literary publishers, another on an ambitious cross-platform project combining live and online performances," added Plumley.

Other projects involves the use of QR codes in books and book displays, and publishing to iPhones and iPads.

Why is Tasmania getting more than its share of geeks? Find out on page 2.

Two of the nine primary placements are in Tasmania - at the Salamanca Arts Centre and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra - because the NBN rollout begins in that state and the Council wanted to provide opportunities to demonstrate what is possible with high speed connectivity.

A special tenth placement is on the Tasmanian NBN committee to ensure culture and the arts are high on the NBN agenda, among other considerations.

"The National Broadband Network will change the way we make and share artistic practice, not only across the country but across the world. So we'll be watching the Tasmanian geeks closely because they're working on things that we simply haven't yet seen in this country," said Kathy Keele, CEO of the Australia Council.

"Their actions now will establish models of digital usage soon to be reflected throughout the arts industry and beyond. They'll also show us what kind of investment is needed, not just in infrastructure but in training for artists, organisations and users."

Other organisations involved in the program are Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Country Arts SA, IAD Press (Alice Springs), Shopfront (Sydney), Sydney Dance Company, University of Queensland Press, and West Space (Melbourne).

West Space was treated as a special case, as the organisation could not provide its half-share of the geek's salary. The Council felt it would make a good case study of the provision of technical expertise to small, resource-poor organisations, so an exception was made.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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