Northern Lights Ceilidh: playful digital interventions in a Scottish tradition

Lynn Parker (Designer), Clare Brennan (Producer)

Research output: Non-textual formPerformance

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Abstract

Northern Lights Ceilidh (NLC) was a one-off event which added a modern twist to traditional Scottish dancing, music and performance and added a digital infusion of technology mediated interactions to proceedings. The event marked the end of an international games competition hosted in Dundee each year, Dare to be Digital (DtbD) inviting the participants in the games competition and the general public to attend. In total 208 people attended NLC, 75 of whom were participants in DtbD.

It is not possible to determine how many of the participants were external to Abertay University. However, 50% of respondents to a survey relating to NLC1 (the survey was completed by 12% of the total attendees) cited they found out about the event through sources external to Dare to be Digital which could suggest that there were attendees who had no link to Dare to be Digital and Abertay University.

The Ceilidh was part funded by the year of Homecoming Scotland, and thus sought to weave historical Scottish traditions with new traditions in Scotland (i.e. weaving ceilidh, poetry and dance with new forms of design including 3D printed jewellery and interactive technology). NLC was held in a high-tech marquee in Dundee City Square on the 8th of August 2014. The marquee had been used for four days as the site of the DtbD games showcase and was transformed into a dance hall for the event.

NLC aimed to, through digital mediation, provide participants with agency commonly associated with digital media. Participants were able to contribute to the creation of a digital aesthetic which was layered upon the physical ceilidh experience through projection and real-time manipulation of live video feeds. The participants could alter and manipulate their movement to change what happened on screen, co-creating not only the dance elements of the ceilidh but also the digital spectacle.

The ceilidh was designed Lynn Parker, and Clare Brennan. Ryan Locke provided imagery which was used as the setting for digital animation production by Lynn Parker. A jeweller, Elizabeth Armour, was commissioned to create custom jewellery for the event, a 3D printed brooch and two digital artists, Stuart MacBean and Yana Hristova were commissioned to create an animated ‘peep’ board with which attendees were encouraged to take photographs. During the event itself, the band Whiskey Kiss called the dances and provided the music whilst a performer recited poetry to open the event. Quartic Llama, an interactive media company were commissioned to create a digital app to promote the event, titled Lightstream (Quartic Llama, 2014).
Lynn Parker led the design of interactive media interventions into the event, the creation of animation sequences and live visuals during the event, developed branding for the event, carried out client facing work with Quartic Llama and collaborated with her colleagues in the facilitation and organisation of the event.

Northern Lights Ceilidh as practice-led-research work offers insight into design approaches to support and facilitate social interaction. The social nature of the ceilidh event provides a template for community creation and the layering of digital intervention provides a basis from which the mediation of interaction through both human and technology mediated play can be evaluated.

The addition of a digital layer to the ceilidh setting provides an extra level of participation in the event, where the participants can not only make the event come to life through participating in the dances but also in their manipulation of their movement to shape the digital visualisations on screen. The experience of the participants of both the ceilidh setting and of digital mediation provides valuable underpinning for the evaluation of these factors through practice-led-research.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2014

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