Tuesday, 11 February 2014



Ben Stiller, Night at the Museum (2006)

Don't look at me like that Ben, let me explain...

On February 6, 2014 the Tate Britain announced the winner of the Tate's very first IK Prize, an award celebrating "creative talent in the digital industry." The winner of the IK Prize receives £10,000, as well as a £60,000 production budget to be put toward the realization of "a digitally innovative project that  enhances public enjoyment of art."

The IK Prize winner is determined by an expert jury of 6 prominent individuals, well-versed in the fields of arts, technology, and digital media. Among this year's judges was Wikipedia.org founder Jimmy Wales. The winner's work, along with presentations of the other top 3 candidates, are then showcased at the Tate Britain.

This year's winner, announced by Jimmy Wales himself, is a project titled After Dark, created by members of the UK digital product design studio The Workers.


After Dark will allow Tate Britain visitors from all over the world to explore the museum at night. Users will be able to control robots which will roam the galleries, allowing users to look at the art on display up-close and also broadcast their experience and live commentary.

From the looks of the video, the user is, indeed, digitally roaming the Tate in the dark. This definitely seems like a very effective tool for prompting users to think about museum space and atmosphere in a new way and to consider how the presentation/manipulation of museum space can greatly effect one's experience of art. I like the Workers' idea of playing on the notion of the "mystery" of the museum, showing off what happens behind closed doors and, in this case, when the lights go out. I'm certainly curious to see how they will go about organizing After Dark, especially in terms of the sign up process for users.

Balcony view of Tate Britain rotunda

Some food for thought...
Would you be interested in an "after hours" digital tour of your favourite museum? How do you think your experience "after dark" might change (or not) your perception of the artworks/gallery? Do you think this or similar types of digital experiences enhance or take away from (or maybe both) the museum experience?

As a side note, the IK Prize candidate I personally was rooting for was a man by the name of Adam Clarke, who sought to create an interactive Minecraft world that takes the player on a journey of discovery through British art -- aka, Tatecraft


While I have never played Minecraft (mostly for fear of it taking over my life because it would be so addicting), I think this would be a fabulous tool to reach out to new museum audiences. Perhaps we don't typically think of gaming culture and museum culture crossing paths, but in this day and age it is happening more and more often (and rightly so!). As such, I think projects like Tatecraft and After Dark, and closer to home, the ROM's Game Jam, are really embracing the opportunities virtual worlds and digital technologies have to offer in terms of their use value for museums and cultural institutions.

Anyway, I think that all of the IK Prize projects are truly excellent examples of the exciting time we live in, where the crossing of socio-cultural, technological, and creative/artistic boundaries are producing unprecedented opportunities for users of every kind to actively participate in creating their own experiences of art, culture, and history... at any time of day!


  1. Maybe it's because I watch too much Ocean's 11... but my first thought was about security issues in allowing people remote access to the museum after dark. All I can think about is George Clooney stealing/destroying priceless artifacts, haha. Paranoid much?

  2. I think the After Dark phenomenon requires some further thinking - just like any other museum happening (or technology), are museums using this new temporal context wisely? are some museums better equipped (with the right artefacts and architectural context) to create an after dark experience? Such events are fascinating because they do open the museum to new audiences (which seems to be the main intention of these events) but also takes away from the traditional museum experience which is of learning and experiencing through objects. If anyone is ever interesting to do an ethnography of such events, I am in :)

  3. Thanks for the comments guys! I would love to see this After Dark perhaps applied to a natural history museum...imagine panning your camera up in the dark and throwing your spotlight on the charging elephants in the Smithsonian NH museum or peering into a diorama of a family of lions having a snack. Certainly a different experience than one would receive in an after-hours art gallery tour!

  4. Thanks for the interesting discussion on the subject of the IK Prize, technology, games, museums and culture (and support!) - it's always really good to hear different perspectives. I am still working to make Tatecraft a reality -- and I am very interested in starting a dialogue with museums about the possibilities and potentials within this context.

  5. Thank you for your response Adam, look forward to seeing what the future holds in terms of your collaborations with museums and utilizing different kinds of technology to enrich museum experiences!