Inside i-DAT's Tate Modern installation This Is Where We Are (TIWWA) - an immersive and interactive algorithmic sculpture fuelled by the data we collectively generate.
Working collaboratively with communities, not-for-profit, public, private organisations, impact includes: design of cultural value metrics to increase public engagement, organisational culture change, financial value, marketing reach; design of the Arts Council England ‘Impact & Insight Toolkit’; enhancing curatorial techniques of the Tate; application of Artificial Intelligence to improve safe-guarding and pupil engagement for schools; strategy change of Plymouth City Council’s open data policy to engage citizens and industry; designing collaborative audience experiences for the international Fulldome community.

The deficit in meaningful methods and tools for data collection across the cultural sector, combined with the sectors limited acceptance of digital processes provoked a research initiative to explore the challenges associated with measuring ‘instrumental’ as opposed to ‘intrinsic’ value, this also exposed the ‘divide’ between the motivations and requirements of the funder and the funded and highlighted an ‘innovation problem’ across the cultural sector in respect of technology adoption.

i-DAT, led by Prof Phillips, is a research group in the University of Plymouth’s School of Art Design & Architecture. Quorum emerged following i-DAT’s tenure as an Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) (2012-2015). Our response to these sector problems was to develop collaborative design strategies and technological innovations that filled the gap between governmental pressures and organisational capabilities, creating mechanisms to enhance audience engagement and participation.

This approach consisted of participatory design processes coupled with digital prototyping, developing networked devices, apps and the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to augment, evaluate and increase public engagement of cultural experiences.

This research led to a partnership with Cheltenham Festivals and Dr Eric Jensen (University of Warwick,) which secured a NESTA Digital R&D Award) for the Qualia Project (1, I). It developed digital alternatives, complimentary enhancements and speculative innovations to exploit the potential of digital systems to deliver new mechanisms and metrics. Prof Mike Phillips, Dr Birgitte Aga and Chris Hunt (Research Assistant) employed a ‘research-by-design’ methodology to rapid prototype technologies for the four festivals which operated as a ‘living laboratory’. The research generated a platform with a sophisticated API for data capture, processing and analytics, powering smile detection, geofencing and tracking, and sentiment analysis to calculate the ‘mood’ of social media. Shared with users and festival organisers the system generated a real-time data model of audience activities.

Quorum open source software

The Quorum software is Open Source and the research proactively shared across the sector through design workshops with Tate, BAFA Road Shows (including Cambridge Literary Festival and Theatres Trust), Cheltenham Festivals and the AHRC Creative Economy Showcase 2014. Subsequently Phillips was commissioned by Jensen working for the AHRC Cultural Value Project to extend this research into digital methods for measuring cultural value (2).

This resulted in three commissions by the Tate to develop the Artificial Intelligence elements of this research for the DataJam, Turbine Festival (2015) and This Is Where We Are (TIWWA) installation for the launch of the Tate Modern Blavatnik Building (2016) (6, V, G). These attracted significant audiences (25k DataJam, 197k for TIWWA), incorporated projection mapping, robotic objects and Internet of Things technologies (IoT) to create intimate networked relationships between audiences and the algorithms that they were ‘playing’ with. Phillips developed these IoT techniques into handheld devices for the Murmuration fulldome performances at SAT, Montreal, Canada (21/05-14/06/2015) (EU Culture Programme funded European Mobile Domes Labs) (5, II, F). The third Tate commission developed a high-resolution interactive simulation for the St Ives Naum Gabo exhibition (2020) (F).

Further iterations of Quorum included: Artory (2015-2017) (4) and incentivised ‘What’s-On’ app, a city-wide collaborative pilot, produced by i-DAT and Plymouth Arts Centre with the Plymouth Culture Guide Group. Emoti-OS (2017-) (3, H), led by Dr Aga, a conversational AI developed with and for Children & Young People (CYP) at Plymouth School of Creative Arts (PSCA) which questions if artificial systems can generate increased levels of awareness and empathy within a School. Participatory design workshops were carried out with stakeholders across these projects as a methodology to explore ethical, design, pragmatic integration and subsequent audience/institutional behaviours.

Underpinning this impact is the code that has facilitated the collaborations and design approach. Distributed as an open source repositories on GitHub, the original code base had 5 remote contributions, and made forward contributions to 4 open source projects and interacted with by over 250k people. It also was instrumental on i-DAT’s status as an ACE NPO (2012-2015) which engaged over 1.5 million audiences, 4,348 participants (from which over 3000 are Children & Young People (CYP). Through Phillips’ role as a Co-I in the European Regional Development Funded Environmental Futures & Big Data Impact Lab the data driven and visualisation techniques of Quorum are supporting SMEs across Devon (III).


References to the research 

1. Aga, B. 2017. Capture the Rapture. Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics. Leonardo Electronic Almanac Book. Volume 22 Issue 1. Editors Lanfranco Aceti, Paul Thomas, Edward Colless.

2. Phillips, M. Bennett, J. 2014. Measuring Cultural Value and Cultural Impact using technology-enhanced methods. Research commissioned by Dr Eric Jensen, University of Warwick University, for the AHRC’s Cultural Value Project., 

3. Birgitte Aga and Mike Phillips. 2017. “This is where we are”: collectively living, working and being, with and through predictive algorithms. In Proceedings of the conference on Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA ’17). BCS Learning & Development Ltd., Swindon, GBR, 198–201. 

4. Aga, B. Melville, D. Phillips, M. etal. 2015. Artory

5. Phillips, M. et al. 2015. Murmuration. EMDL Productions, SAT (Society for Arts and Technology), Montreal, Canada. 26/05-12/06/ 2015. /
Unit 32 Portfolio Submission Phillips, M.

6. Phillips, P. Aga, B. et al. 2016. This Is Where We Are. Installation. Tate Modern, Switch House Launch, 12-19/07/2016.
Unit 32 Portfolio Submission Phillips, M.


I. Phillips, M. Co-I. Qualia, NESTA Digital R&D Award. £127,000. Cheltenham Festivals, i-DAT, University of Warwick. 02/2013-04/2014. 

II. Phillips, M. UK PI. 2014. European Mobile Dome Labs. EU Culture Programme. Strand 1.3.5, Cultural Cooperation projects with Third Countries (€400k). University of Applied Arts Vienna (lead), i-DAT, Trans-Media-Akademie Hellerau, UoA NTLab (Athens), Society for Arts and Technology (Montreal) kondition pluriel (Montreal), LANTISS (Montreal). E/M/D/L presented three research outcomes (Liminal Spaces, Dream Collider, and Murmuration) at the Society for Arts and Technology, 21/05-14/06/ 2015.

III. Phillips, M. Co-I. 2018. Environmental Futures & Big Data Impact Lab. University of Exeter, Exeter City Futures, the Met Office, the University of Plymouth, Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and Rothamsted Research. The Impact Lab is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Total funding is £6.4 million. 2018-2021.

IV. Aga, B. Emoti-OS with Plymouth Creative School. £2,000, Plymouth City Council DataPlay awards (2017)

V. Phillips, M. 2016. This Is Where We Are (TIWWA) Arts Council England TIWWA, £17,000 and Tate Modern Commission, £12,500. 

VI. Phillips, PI. 2016. University of Warwick commission contracts for AHRC Culture Smile Project, £16,000./

VII. Phillips, M. 2019. Naum Gabo XR: Tate, £7,400. 

VIII. Phillips, M. 2019. IX SW Delegation. Arts Council England, £20,000.