V&A Digital Design Weekend – Review

LDF V&A Digital Design Weekend

Crafting Our Digital Future

A weekend of free events exploring themes of civic engagement, design and collaboration were on offer at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Samuel Fry writes about his experiences of their London Design Festival event.

There are not many nicer experiences than strolling around a museum on a Saturday. So, this weekend, I woke up excited to see that it was a glorious late summer morning and I remembered that I was due to visit the V&A for their Digital Design Weekend.

This was the fifth year that the V&A have run their Digital Design Weekend. The event brings together artists, designers, engineers and scientists to celebrate the intersections of art, design and technology. Designers and artists took over the Museum with pop up installations, open workshops, labs and family-friendly activities across the building.

As is the nature of drop-in events, I was not able to see everything. However, as I strolled around the exhibition I heard artists and academics talk about some really interesting  projects.

Marginalia Machine – Tom Schofield

One of the first projects that caught my eye was called Marginalia Machine. The project, run by Tom Schofield from University of Newcastle, is mainly concerned with a drawing robot which reproduces the comments and analysis that are found in the margins of poems. Yet, his project is more than that. Tom explained how his study also looks at the shape of poems, to find poems with a similar structure. This seemed to me to be a really fascinating way to engage with archives.

I have been fascinated by marginalia before, as I once wrote about when confronted by a lone Grape at Futurefest, and Schofield’s project brought some of that back to me.

Connecting our High Streets

One of the key themes that was covered at the Digital Design Weekend was connecting distant places. The first project that I saw that covered this was “Seven Seconds Ago”, a live feed portal which took its audience away from London to a watering hole in Africa. This project used technologies such as Google Cardboard, a simple Virtual Reality headset, and used a 3D camera at the other end.

The other project was called “Connecting our High Streets”. This project questions whether there is a way for Internet of Things technologies to connect people to their local high streets. The way that they do this is by using a small receipt printer, not too dissimilar to the Choosatron that I wrote for a couple of years ago, which will simultaneously print messages in shops in London, Dundee and Mexico City.

Killbox – An Interactive Drone Warfare Installation

The final project that really grabbed my attention, was probably the most thought provoking. The project was called Killbox, named after the military term for an area on a grid map that is targeted to be destroyed.

Killbox is an interactive game which critically explores the nature of drone warfare, its complexities and consequences. The game is two player, so I played against my friend. I started as Player One, a drone pilot who is guided into destroying an area on a map. In the meantime, my friend played on the other side as Player Two. After one turn, we switched roles. At which point I became Player Two, a small, friendly circle who can explore colourful fields (as seen in the image below).

killbox at the v&a

Soon into this game it was clear that I was exploring the area that, as Player One, I had just been destroying with a missile strike. My friend on the other computer then fired two missiles towards the colourful land that I was exploring. I, and my world, was destroyed.

The game did just as it intended. It abstracted the idea of killing through virtualisation. As someone that is prone to playing games like Call of Duty, it made me feel very uneasy.

The project is created by Malath Abbas, Joseph DeLappe, Tom deMajo and Albert Elwin. It was a great installation and one that really summed up the inquisitive nature of the projects on show. I’ll certainly try and visit next year’s V&A Digital Design Weekend. I recommend that you do the same.


sam fry creative arts technology

Samuel Fry

Director, Create Hub

Samuel is a Business Consultant at IBM, working in their Interactive Experience team. He is also currently the Director of Create Hub. Samuel has a history of working with creative, innovative and entrepreneurial companies such as the creative-business incubator Cockpit Arts, in the Creative Economy team at Nesta, with entrepreneur network Virgin Media Pioneers and as the Enterprise Consultant at University of Bristol. All thoughts shared on this site are his own.


Image Credits: Top: “Every Mickey Every Object Matthew Plummer Fernandez” (V&A); Lower: “LDF Digital Design Weekend” (V&A);

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