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Accessing Cultural Experiences (ACE) is a collaboration between King’s College London and Keio University Tokyo that is developing new ideas for alternative and remote cultural experiences with cultural institutions that work for isolated and/or vulnerable publics across the UK and Japan.

The challenge

As we are all currently experiencing, the COVID-19 situation has had a significant impact on the cultural and creative industries in the UK and Japan. Theatres, museums and galleries have been forced to close their doors to the public and to look for new ways to remotely bring cultural experiences to isolated audiences overnight. This has seen a sharp increase in virtual gallery tours, livestreamed performances and other digital modes of audience engagement. However, it remains challenging to translate immersive, multisensory, social or interactive experiences into something accessible for those who are unable to leave their homes and may not necessarily have high-tech digital devices at their disposal.

This has also highlighted broader challenges in the sector. The need for the empathy, intimacy, emotional connections, creativity and closeness fostered by cultural experiences might be more acute now, but experiences of isolation will not vanish with the easing of lockdown measures. Cultural organisations of all shapes and sizes are continuing to work towards diversifying and democratising access to culture in an increasingly challenging funding landscape.

The process

The Accessing Cultural Experiences project has 4 key challenges at its core:

  1. Diversifying and democratising access;
  2. Creating cultural experiences with positive social impact;
  3. Developing experiences that provide alternative business or economic models for cultural organisations – both long and short-term;
  4. Clearer understanding about remote collaborative design processes.

As a King’s Together and Keio Global Research Institute Pre-Startup Fund project, ACE brings together a diverse global team to tackle these problems, combining design thinking expertise from Keio University in Tokyo and critical theory approaches from King’s College London Arts & Humanities. ACE participants form a consortium of makers, entrepreneurs, museum and gallery professionals and community partners, as well as students and early career professionals studying or with an interest in art. The project also explores the remote nature of an experimental and collaborative design process, with the aim to inform future developments in open access and rapid prototyping.

Over a series of 6 virtual workshops between July and October 2020, teams in London and Tokyo adapted design sprint methods to share knowledges, and develop a series of innovative and practical ideas for a remotely deliverable cultural experience using existing, everyday & repurposed technologies. The teams used a variety of collaborative tools including Zoom, Miro and Padlet, coming together for a final digital tea party to exchange their experiences across borders despite the continued social distancing limits of covid-19.

Participant testimonials

“Full, rich, urgent and a very useful space to think together in response to the current context.”
“A much needed and inspiring gathering and exchange at a time of isolation.”
“It’s been really inspiring, both in terms of content and format. Thank you for the opportunity.”
“Very insightful and thought provoking for my contribution to the cultural sector moving forward.”