Towards a European Creative Ring - an interview with Simon Delaere
The SPECIFI project, aiming to demonstrate the positive impact of a European Creative Ring of Smart Cities and Regions, was present at ICT 2013 and showcased three different applications running in the Ring. Simon Delaere, project coordinator, reflected with us upon this experience while sketching future objectives.
Simon, why did you decide to participate in ICT 2013, and what has the road to this event been like?
ICT 2013 is the largest digital communications event in Europe. More than 5000 people attended it, while 4000 more followed the conference via streaming. Also, since our project aims to create a bridge between creative industries and ICT providers, it was very important for us to introduce ourselves to both these communities and to link with other initiatives that share our goals. Finally, the ICT conference is also a good way to demonstrate to the European Commission what we have been doing. For all of these reasons, we put a lot of effort in preparing for ICT Vilnius. The organisation was complex, since we had very specific technical and artistic requirements, but the SPECIFI team had already laid the foundations for such collaboration exercises half a year before, at the Future Internet Assembly in Dublin, and our partners did very well.
Was ICT 2013 a fruitful creative environment?
Somewhat contrary to my own expectations, it was. The European Commission has done a lot of effort in emphasizing the importance of creativity for Europe and the role ICT has to play, which I think is a crucial message. Therefore, the big stage with a full programme, and the creative experiments and demonstrations shown by us and by other projects, really enhanced the experience of ICT Vilnius. SPECIFI itself had its stage performance including musicians and a dancer from all over Europe, and we had Belgian artists in Vilnius developing a Creative Encouters experiment in realtime during the event, which also involved local Lithuanian dancers and musicians. It was very rewarding, not only from a demonstration perspective but also really helping the actual ‘project work’ forward.
How did the public react to the applications you have presented in Vilnius?
From what I could tell, they were quite enthusiastic. I think we have a double message: on the one hand, we wanted to show the merits of the specific applications we had, not just for us, but for any city or region that would like to deploy them. I think that message came across. On the other hand, we want to show that these applications and the three cities we develop them in are just a few examples of what we want to achieve with the Creative Ring: a much larger network, comprising more cities, more creative industries and more tools, to experiment and deploy together.
What is the hardest challenge currently faced by the Creative Ring?
On the one hand, we want to achieve critical mass by attracting more members to the creative ring, while on the other hand, we want to work out a number of concrete tools and applications which we can offer to these new members, including clear usage instructions and licensing conditions. One cannot go without the other, but it is a relatively tedious process to work out these details, while we want our community to grow fast. I am sure, however, that cities and their creative industries will see the advantages of our approach.
What are the next steps for the Creative Ring?
We will work towards a manifesto for officially establishing the community, while also working on a number of concrete tools as well as the creation of Creative Hubs in a number of cities (not just the ones currently in SPECIFI).