People, 1. -  3. October 1998
Frank Boyd

Digital media can be valued in multiple ways. They can become a profitable sector of the European economy. They can can play a part in local and regional regeneration where they may have diffuse benefits - for instance in revitalizing the wider cultural life of a community. They can can be valued 'for their own sake', because they enrich, enlighten, or challenge.

Cultural activity in digital media is driving innovation at all levels - with constant movement of skills, individuals, and infrastructure, across different sectors. In this context frameworks which sharply divide the 'not for profit' and 'commercial' sectors are unhelpful. An over-rigid classification of enterprises, artists, resources, and projects into 'for profit' or 'not for profit' zones will slow movement across the lines and stifle initiatives on both.

Collaborative working, the experimental nature of the industry, and the fast pace of change, means staying up to date is important for practitioners. Informal networks and one off events are not sufficient. The establishment of on-line and off-line networks, functioning at local, national, and international levels, to develop better communications between digital media professionals is required.

Time and space are required for productive experimental work to be carried out. Content is currently a neglected area. Ways should be found to redress this balance and encourage experimental and innovative content development. A culture of experimentation should be supported by skills training at all levels. Digital media has its experts, but it remains an open culture.

The value of any cultural output is difficult to assess, but the audit culture of public sector funding agencies compounds the problem. The lack of a credible system for evaluating experimental digital media content is holding back the development of support mechanisms for creative experimentation.

A commitment by the public sector in, firstly, championing the sector (making the scale of the opportunity visible), and secondly, in pump-priming early development, should have a disproportionately large benefit. Such public commitment will make the sector more visible at the most senior levels of industry, thereby ensuring that the private sector follows government's lead.


Frank Boyd has been Director of London's Arts Technology Centre since its founding in 1990. At Artec he developed the UK's first vocational training course in multimedia design and an award-winning programme of access, research and production for artists and creative professionals

Frank was a founder member in 1983 of the independent arts and media company Cultural Partnerships where he led the development of a major media centre in East London. He started working with computers fifteen years ago and has been trying to work out what to do with them ever since.

Previously he worked as a performance artist, pyrotechnician and project co-ordinator with the interdidisciplinary arts group Free. He has worked as a director, actor and workshop leader in professional theatre, in community arts and in education. Much of his experience has been on participatory arts projects.

Frank is an adviser to the European Commission's Media Programme and the Council of Europe's Culture Committee on digital media. He is also chair of the UK's new Digital Media Alliance.

Current projects include development of the European Multimedia Labs and the establishment of the London Digital Media School.

Institution: Artec is the UK's Arts Technology Centre. Founded in 1990, the centre develops innovative creative work with new media and extends access to digital technologies through three programmes:
- education and training,
- creative research with artists and audio visual professionals
- development of experimental and educational interactive software.

Artec developed the first vocational training courses in design for new media in England. The centre's pioneering work in this field makes it a key institution at regional, national and international levels.

Artec also develops projects to expand digital media as an artform, It commissions new work from digital artists and produces interactive software for clients. Productions include:

Think Positive - an interactive resource for young people about HIV and AIDS awarded the Prix Mobius; On Air - an installation for the Science Museum winner of the BIMA Award for Best Interactive Display; Photo Store - a picture retrieval system for the Crafts Council of England.

Artists' CD-ROMs produced at Artec include From Silver to Silicon(eight new pieces), Rehearsal of Memory (Graham Harwood), internal Organs of the Cyborg (Jane Prophet).

Artec's also co-ordinates Channel, a network of arts, photography and new media centres in the UK.

Frank Boyd
Project Director
257-258 Upper Street
N1 1RW
Tel: +44 171 477 2775
Fax: +44 171 477 2813
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