Hackers credit: Jonny Walton/kaptur

The arts, I have learnt, is full of incredibly creative people but a lot of them still haven’t quite come to terms with the possibilities offered by the huge advances in technology we’ve seen in recent years. Culture Hack North will help explore and explain those possibilities and I can’t wait to see what happens.

So what is a hack day?

A hack day is an event where developers, designers and people with ideas gather to build ‘cool stuff’ – the events now run all over the world and are organised by a wide variety of people, companies, and even government departments.

Culture Hack takes this format and is an opportunity for us to delve deeper into some of the data arts companies have stashed away, that they and we don’t yet realise has potential online.

I have spent the last 6 months organising the first ever Culture Hack North, Culture Hack North: Leeds 2011, which will take place this weekend (12-13 November) at NTI Leeds and is sponsored by Marketing Leeds. Over 50 developers will be working with data from 15 organisations including Opera North, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Museums Sheffield, Leeds Libraries, the Henry Moore Institute, Whitworth Art Gallery and many more. In addition to the ‘hacking’ there is also a programme of talks with speakers including Rohan Gunatillake (Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab), Greg Povey (Mudlark) and Lucy Bannister (Axis).

During the day the 50 hackers will split into teams to work on the provided data which can include opening times, location information or programme notes. Arts organisations involved have the opportunity to meet and talk with digital and creative professionals outside the confines of the usual client-agency relationship, which encourages new ways of thinking about the potential of digital and data. The results can be things that we would never have imagined and which would never have materialised without this kind of event. For the hackers there are a variety of prizes on offer for the best ideas plus the experience.

I think the most exciting thing about an event like this is you really have no idea what the outcomes will be, who knows what hacks will be made or what weird and wonderful ideas might emerge as a result of the conversations that’ll take place over the course of the weekend. And that’s kind of the point, to get all these people together, to think differently – without the constraints of the office environment and working on a specific project.

Ash Mann, Digital Communications Manager, Opera North

Culture Hack North: Leeds 2011 is sponsored by Marketing Leeds. The venue is sponsored by NTI Leeds and the event takes place as part of Leeds Digital Festival. The event has been organised by Opera North and Leeds Hack. For more information go here.

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