[artinfo] 'Making a Difference' by Lucy Kimbell

joasia joasia at i-dat.org
Sun Oct 10 11:02:59 CEST 2004

Making a Difference at the University of Plymouth

- a project by Lucy Kimbell

11th - 22nd October 2004
Portland Square
University of Plymouth, UK


Making a Difference at the University of Plymouth is a project by
Lucy Kimbell. It uses Arch-OS, an innovative digital system embedded in the
architecture of the Portland Square building, enabling passers-by to express
the corporate mantra of our times. On pressing a special button, the phrase
is broadcast over the entire building, beginning with the first clear
iteration of sound but increasingly becoming layered and invasive. The wish
to make a difference is also automatically sent as an email to the
Vice-Chancellor of the University to register this fact. Data is collected
and made public but to questionable effect.

Higher education has changed rapidly over recent years, reflecting the
general tendency of increased corporatisation of culture at large.
Management cultures insist on personal responsibility where the individual
employee is supposed to align themselves with the organisation's brand
values. The phrase, 'I want to make a difference', reveals something of the
tendency towards increased individualisation and a break with previous
collective ways of engendering change. Does this demonstrate the view that
large corporate and hierarchical institutions are ineffectual, that local
and more complex models are at work in the forces of change? Who holds
responsibility in seeking positive improvement in the workplace and in terms
of the service on offer? Will the number of people pressing the 'I want to
make a difference' button reveal a true willingness or an empty gesture
towards change? The shift from the individual sound to a chorus by the end
of the project presents itself as an allegory in this respect.

Lucy Kimbell is AHRB Creative and Performing Arts Fellow at the Ruskin
School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford.


Institute of Digital Art and Technology
School of Computing, Communications and Electronics,
University of Plymouth, Portland Square, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, Devon, UK.

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