We design the future of art and technology through networks: Digital Design Weekend 2016 | V&A Museum-British Council- Digital Culture Center

By Pamela Zuñiga, Project Manager Arts, British Council Mexico. TRANSLATED by sofía fuentes.


The Victoria & Albert Museum in London opened its doors the 24 and 25 September for one of the most innovative and experimental event in the cultural scene, the Digital Design Weekend that has as main purpose the constant search for collaboration and innovation in art and technology.

The British Council, through the Department of Creative Economy, forms part of the institutional partners that make possible this initiative and in which Mexico has had an outstanding participation and presence led by the Center for Digital Culture. Grace Quintanilla, Director, Center for Digital Culture further explains their participation:

"The collaboration began in January 2015, during a visit to Mexico of Irini Papadimitriou, Digital Project Manager of the V & A Museum, in which she intended to know the activities of the Center for Digital Culture and to find possible ways of collaboration. Considering that the Center for Digital Culture in Mexico and the one in the V & A Museum run by Irini share the same vocation, we found many points in common and a practical and theoretical affinity that  immediately connected the two institutions."

That was how, through a first institutional contact, Irini and Grace began collaborating during the dual UKMX year in 2015 through the British Council team, and creating Digital Futures as a result, their first joint project:

"Irini invited us to join the annual event at the V & A and with the support team of Arts and the Department of Creative Economy of the British Council we organized a marathon for the production of prototypes inspired by the idea of a possible digital future. From an open call we accepted 60 participants assembled in teams and advised by experts from various institutions in the UK, as a result they developed six prototypes in Mexico, which were exhibited at the V & A Museum during 2015 Digital Design Weekend."

After the success of Digital Futures, in 2016 the V & A Museum invited the Center for Digital Culture to participate again in the Digital Design Weekend:

"We had the opportunity to collaborate with the support of the British Council in Mexico. The Center for Digital Culture participation consisted in displaying the piece “Hello Goldberg!”. The theme this year was Engineering the Future, focused largely on projects from Internet of Things (IoT, acronym in English)".

“Hello Golberg!” is a mechanical-electronic piece (built by Salvador Chavez and Francisco Valencia, proud graduate engineers of the National Polytechnic Institute), based on the principle of mechanical algorithm (a set of ordered rules that allows you to perform an activity through successive steps) that relates to the origins of programming as we know it today. The machine stores simple information and makes decisions that are translated into moving gears, cams and levers.

Its operation is simple: It’s activated via social networks with the hashtag #elCDD, #holagoldberg which immediately detonate the movement of a sphere that will have to follow a journey guided by flow control rules.

But this simple, precise and elegant machine is more than that; it was also the pretext for the Center for Digital Culture, represented by Grace Quintanilla, to join the Open IoT Design Sprint in London, where a group of specialists from different parts of the world such as India, Indonesia and Spain reflected on the future of engineering and the role of the arts and academia in this process.

This first step is essential to begin to understand the importance of digital culture locally and globally, as was noted by Grace Quintanilla: "The digital culture is a term too vast naming an urgent phenomenon to address in Mexico and in all countries worldwide and refers to the social and cultural impact that emerges from our daily relationship with digital technologies. In Mexico it is essential to appropriate these technologies so that we can modify the applications according to our needs as individuals and as citizens. There is great talent in our country and it requires spaces of action and infrastructure programs that generate social inclusion and economic growth".

But what role does art play in this process and how does it relate to technology?

"I think the trends change at a dizzying rate and we need to pay attention to the underlying processes of understanding and the use and production of technology. I think that the way we can deal with the vertigo caused by the technological changes is through education: to encourage the training of young people through art and creativity to help them adapt easily to changes and to benefit society through the knowledge of programming. That way, humans can overcome the constant obsolescence of technology. The binomial art-technology should be seen as a methodological process rather than as a multimedia discipline of artistic production. In that sense, I think that institutions should focus their efforts on education and reflection. To generate spaces of connections, space to share logical correspondence knowledge" says Grace.

The Digital Design Weekend is certainly just the beginning of a relationship that will allow us to continue detonating talks, prototypes and efforts for art and technology.

¡Hola Goldberg! En el V&A Museum
Francisco, Pamela y Salvador con ¡Hola Goldberg!
Primera sesión del Open IoT Design Sprint