Studio resident Chris Pinchen prototypes a game for Brighton Cryptofest, with MA Student Maf'j Alvarez
Studio resident Chris Pinchen prototypes a game for Brighton Cryptofest, with MA Student Maf'j Alvarez

Lighthouse Studio - The First Phase


10 June 2015

Lighthouse Studio is the new interdisciplinary residency programme we’re developing. We’ll be hosting practitioners from the digital culture world, and other creatives, to catalyse new work and collaborations that will enrich our future programmes. Our Creative Producer, Andrew Sleigh, gives us a recap of the first phase of prototyping.

Mark Simpkin's Emotional Infrastructure project 'Friendly Crowds'
Mark Simpkin's Emotional Infrastructure project 'Friendly Crowds'

Lighthouse Studio is also a way to grow and connect our network of collaborators, to find new ways of working, and to invite a positive contagion from outside into the organisation.

Learning by doing

We’re launching publicly in Spring 2014, and until then, we’re designing the studio through a process of active prototyping. So we set some questions we wanted to answer, and invited some residents into our first prototype studio space, a cosy 15 sq m office right next to the main Lighthouse space.

At this early stage almost everything is a question. Every day and every conversation brings some new insight which we try to record and fold into the studio design. Some of the key areas where I’m focusing my attention:

How do we make our networks accessible to the studio residents? Our network is our most valuable asset; we work with many of the leading figures across digital practice. So how do we make the most of this network, and give our residents as much as possible during – and after – their time in the studio?

How do we structure residencies? How much time do residents need to do good work, and how do we support them in producing work as part of the Lighthouse programme? Our current residents are here for 2-3 months. That time goes by at an alarming pace when you’re working with the lead times of event production and promotion.

Our residents

Over the last 2 months we’ve had 3 residents in the studio working on projects that all relate to the theme of personal data: who owns it, who collects it, how do we feel about it, and what, if anything, can we do about it.

Aral Balkan, our technologist-in-residence, is working on an audacious project Codename Prometheus to develop a complete mobile phone experience to compete with Apple et al in the consumer space, but built with user-owned data at its heart. We’ve been working with the residents to help them develop their work, and find ways to bring it out in the Lighthouse programme. Aral presented our monthly talkin November, on the theme of personal data. Aral continued the theme this week with a screening of Terms and Conditions May Apply, an accessible film about personal data and privacy in the digital age.

Our second resident, Chris Pinchen is an activist and organiser, who sometimes describes himself as a geek to non-geek interface. He’s been working on a series of events to bring the tools of privacy, encryption and security – as well as an awareness of these issues – to a wider audience. Chris brought the Techno-Activism Third Mondays (TA3M) meetup to Brighton. This informal global network is designed to connect software creators and activists who are interested in censorship, surveillance, and open technology. After a highly successful first meetup, we hope to be hosting more, as you might expect, on the third Monday of each month. Watch this space.

Chris is also behind the forthcoming Brighton Cryptofestival, on December 1st, following on from a companion event in London the day before. The Cryptofestival builds on the burgeoning Cryptoparty movement, and aims to bring practical privacy and security tools to the rest of us. Both of these events are run in partnership with Open Rights Group, and I’m really pleased to see how Chris’s residency has allowed us to develop this partnership and make things happen in a very short space of time. More recently, Mark Simpkins, a research fellow in digital design at Central Saint Martins, has joined the studio, working on projects to map people’s emotional responses to infrastructure, including of course the surveillance infrastructure that looks over our public and private spaces.

What next

We’re coming to the end of our first 3 month prototyping phase, taking us to the end of 2013. Then, after a few weeks off over Christmas and New Year, we’ll be running a second prototyping phase with different residents for another 2-3 months.

Watch this space as we discover the answers to our questions and expand and develop our studio over the coming months.

Getting involved

I’m spending a lot of my time talking to people who’ve either done something like this before, or are interested in being part of the studio in some way. If you’d like to discuss the studio with me, do get in touch (andrew at lighthouse.org.uk). I’m particularly interested in talking to people who have a project they’d like to bring to the studio that could benefit from the environment we offer, or access to our networks.


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