Earlier in September, DARIAH-EU launched an Innovation Challenge, as part of its 2022 Innovation Forum, that sought to explore how the arts and humanities contribute to innovation. The challenge was an open case competition that invited young researchers in the arts and humanities to submit their solutions to a culturally embedded, but also economically, environmentally and socially relevant ‘wicked’ problem: the regional airport.
The central question of this innovation challenge was: How might the services and spaces of regional airports be reinvented so as to continue to serve their longstanding mission as hubs for cultural exchange, even if fewer actual flights arrive and depart from their gates? How might they draw inspiration from other kinds of transformed cultural spaces, such as libraries, museums and bookstores in order to find new pathways to economic and social vitality?
“With this challenge, we wanted to encourage arts and humanities researchers to apply their knowledge in an unexpected way. To do this, we knew we would have to be specific, framing a problem neither too big, nor too small” said Jennifer Edmond, DARIAH-EU Director and chair of the Programme Committee of the Innovation Forum. “For us, the regional airport, with its smaller scale, status as a community base for cultural exchange, and place in the debates around climate change, seemed a perfect context in which to solicit fresh ideas.”
The competition ran for a month, inviting innovative ideas and non-textual artefacts to illustrate each submission. Having received a number of well articulated and diverse submissions, the Programme Committee of the Innovation Forum selected three finalists who were invited to present their ideas at the DARIAH Innovation Forum on the 3rd of November in Dublin.
All three finalists were affiliated at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design: Tamar Berger, an architecture student with a background in law, Ofir Bouba and Gil Sharabi, architecture students with an interest in ecological innovation and technology, and Uri Yahalom, an active artist and architecture student, and Mai Caspi, interdisciplinary researcher, choreographer, and dramaturg.
The winning finalists
Uri Yahalom and Mai Caspi were the winning finalists of this challenge, suggesting the idea of turning regional airports to NFT factories as a means of celebrating diversity. Regional airports function as an intersection of many cultures, providing a pleasant breakpoint for many people from various countries. The main advantage of this space is diversity, and their proposition suggested a way for both the airport and the airport’s guests to celebrate this opulence of cultures and harness it for a good cause.
By providing the necessary means, the airports should be able to allow guests to submit drawings, essays, and even music, mint them on the blockchain, and list them for sale on one of the NFT marketplaces (e.g OpenSea).
In this way, the airport could function as a curator, deciding how to categorise and price each creation. All pieces would be minted under the airport’s marketplace account, to grant exposure for smaller artists that happen to pass through the airport, and increase the airport’s popularity when significant artists make submissions.
“There are plenty of voices calling for greater input from the arts and humanities into innovation, but what isn’t clear is how we transform our traditional modes of training students in these areas to hold on to the values of creativity and criticality, but also be open to applied and translational applications of their ideas” said Edmond. “We hope our Innovation Challenge might be an inspiration to others looking to enhance the place of arts and humanities in how we approach societal challenges.”
DARIAH-EU granted a cash prize of €1000 to the winning finalists while the two runners up received a prize of €500 each.