I use the word ‘devise’ here to indicate the ‘constructed but open ended’ nature of the project and to reference the concept of devised theatre.

“Devised theatre can start from anything. it is determined and defined by a group of people who set up an initial framework or structure to explore and experiment with ideas, images, concepts, themes, or specific stimuli ………devised theatrical performance originates with the group while making the performance, rather than starting from a play text that someone else has written to be interpreted. A devised theatre product is a work that has emerged from and been generated by a group of people working in collaboration.” (Oddey)
‘Devising Theatre: A Practical and Theoretical Handbook’ by Alison Oddey
Pubished by Routledge, 1996, ISBN 10:0415049008

A good way to envisage the DataGolem LABs is to refer to the concept of devised theatre performance as opposed to a theatre performance that is based on the interpretation of an author’s text or script. Perhaps the most famous, certainly the most popular play, to come out of the ‘devised’ theatre tradition in this country is Mike Leigh’s  Abigail’s Party (1979).

“Instead of writing a script, Leigh works from a basic premise, however vague it may be, that will be fleshed out through months of improvisation and rehearsal. This will involve an exploration of the actor’s own experiences and people they know, things which will then inform the characters they develop; Leigh’s work then, is devised, so much of the credit must be given to those he works with………. while his performers are vital to the process, it is Leigh, who moulds and shapes the work, who provides the simple instructions which allow the narrative to develop.”
Garan Holcombe, 2005

Of course there are many differences between our working approach and that of Mike Leigh. First, is the established practice of theatre, even though there may be false preconceptions of the nature of a director, actors and stage designer, most people have a clear idea of what these roles involve. The same however is not true of software development, which has a relatively short history. Whilst within the industry there are precise definitions of the roles within a software development team (analyst, programmer, project manager, HCI designer, tester) in general these are not clear within most peoples’ minds, so breaking away from established practice is conversely easier but perhaps more difficult to define.

Secondly, in a DataGolem LAB the core participants aren’t actors (although there may be actors amongst them). Importantly they do not one come from on single discipline, there is no shared practice, no common language, the common ground that they share is is one of intent and purpose.
However, similarities of our working approach are evident as seen in this paraphrase of the previous text :

DataGolem LAB

Instead of writing programs to produce a piece of software, we work from the basic premise of DataGolem, this concept will be ‘fleshed out’ through the initial 5 day LAB. This will involve an exploration of the core participants expertise and experience, expectation and desires…. these will then inform how the seed software will develop; DataGolem is ‘devised’ and much of the credit will be given to the core participants, yet while they are vital to the process, it is Elliott, Jones-Morris who will initially mould and shape the work, provide the structure to stimulate ideas and capture concepts, that will allow the software to develop into a DataGolem of everyone’s making.

“All art is a synthesis of improvisation and order. You discover what it is by interacting with the canvas or the page or the musical manuscript paper or whatever it is.”

Mike Leigh

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