Transition to 8: Bridging social issues, tech and contemporary art is an innovative research project implemented by a diverse consortium that consists of the Laboratory of Qualitative Research in Psychology and Psychosocial Well-Being of the Psychology Department (University of Athens), the Research Centre Athena and the cultural production and management company MENTOR. Its pilot implementation takes place in Eleusis, Greece.
The project's main objective is to connect the city’s prominent social issues with contemporary art. Analysis of Eleusis’s social climate showed that the three most prominent social phenomena are environmental pollution, labour and the refugee/immigrant issue. Those social issues form the three axes of the project.
Experts record the emotional and physical reactions of Eleusinians to these issues. Their goal is to transform them into raw materials for artistic creation. A large-scale multimedia festival will give back to the community its (heart)beat.
Experts in sociopsychology, technology and cultural production and management form the collaborating teams of Transition to 8.
The methodology developed for Transition to 8 is based on the need for a connection between people’s emotional and physical reactions to major social issues with contemporary artistic creation. Eleusis sets the ideal background for the pilot implementation of the project, given that it’s a city where the cultural depth of antiquity meets the industrial rise of modern times and, on the occasion of its proclamation as European Capital of Culture 2023, it reinvents its post-industrial identity.
Analysis of the social climate of Eleusis showed that the most intense phenomena are the environmental pollution, labour and the refugee/immigrant issue. These affect the life quality of its residents the most and are connected to fundamental human rights.
Residents of Eleusis participate in sociodrama sessions where expert coordinators guide them to discuss these issues. Their emotional and physical reactions (temperature, skin stimulation, movement in space) are recorded using wearable technology. In collaboration with scientists from the Qualitative Analysis Laboratory, researchers from the “Athena” Research Centre analyse and process the data to develop a digital platform.
The innovative interactive platform will be a source of inspiration and, at the same time, a source of raw digital material for socially active sound and visual artists to use in order to compose original art pieces. The festival will host the artworks produced via this process, thus returning to the community the data it initially provided filtered by art.
Eleusis is ideal for the pilot implementation of the methodology developed by Transition to 8. The city underwent a series of changes in the 20th century due to the industrial growth of the surrounding area. People from multiple backgrounds arrived in Eleusis in the quest for job opportunities. As a matter of fact, refugees from Asia Minor relocated to Eleusis, doubling the city’s population at that time.
Industrial growth may have helped people to make a living, but at the same time, it led to severe environmental degradation (atmospheric, ground and water pollution).
Eleusis is a city where one can find all the major social issues of today’s world. Scientists, researchers and artists are creating the premises for art to act as a means for the community to redeliberate these issues. The city's proclamation as the European Capital of Culture of 2023 may prove that in the dawn of the city’s postindustrial era, creating opportunities to revisit, rethink, and re-contemplate such social issues is not just desirable but also a prerequisite to moving collectively on.
A large-scale multimedia festival in Eleusis will signify the completion of Transition to 8.
For the first time, the community will have the opportunity to enjoy and reflect on the artworks drawing inspiration and raw materials from their own experiences.
Key locations related to the project’s thematic axes -the environment, labour and the refugee/immigration issue- will host the festival’s program. Live DJ sets and audiovisual installations will unveil to the community new ways of perceiving and dealing with trauma and the lived experience through art.
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Sociodrama: Its history, basic principles and structure
Going back to the early 1920s, we find a young imaginative researcher, Jacob Moreno, who placed in the centre of his theory humans as an organic and necessary part of society, in which they participate adapting to various social roles. Moreno studied medicine, mathematics and philosophy. As a student, he rejected Freud's theory - which “moved” individuals away from the “non-human” society of the 19th century and “placed” them in the treatment room to protect them. Moreno was interested in the possibilities given to individuals by participating in groups, and therefore he was one of the pioneers of group psychotherapy.
We want people to talk about their shared experiences in Eleusis. We want to shed light on their patterns, their various relationships (family, friends, social and professional interactions) and how they perceive and experience their living conditions.
We want to look into the internal structure of Eleusis’s community as a social group regarding their social interactions beyond what "meets the eye".
Sociodrama allows participants to take on different roles related to problems that the members of the community face and act on them as if they experienced a real-life situation in a “place-action-motivation” framework.
Finally, it is a method where the group is addressed to the group itself and not to the individuals.
A group methodology - A group experiential process
Sociodrama is a group methodology that focuses on problem-solving practices within human relationships. It cultivates an understanding of the social systems and behaviours that shape individual and collective identities, exploring social issues, social justice, trauma, prejudice, stigma, interpersonal tension, intergroup conflicts, treatment, justice, etc. It also implicates many non-verbal communication indicators (facial expressions, posture, eye contact, gestures, tone of voice, body language, physical movement, etc.).
Furthermore, sociodrama enhances members' understanding of their values and feelings and offers an opportunity to experiment with new behaviours.
The ultimate goal of sociodrama is to enable individuals to distance themselves from social behaviours they are accustomed to and react in a different way and/or role.
Sociodrama also works endoscopically at an individual level. At the beginning of a sociodrama session, once the topic is defined, participants’ common features, thoughts, feelings and hopes are brought to the surface as they explore themselves and their place in society.
Structure of a typical sociodrama session:
- Warm-up: Participants decide on the subject matter they will tackle.
- Casting of characters: Participants either decide on their roles spontaneously or the moderator proceeds with the casting.
- Role Development: Participants expand their roles as they imagine them.
Each sociodrama session ends with discussing the group's approach to the subject, possible solutions, new ideas presented, etc. That works in a mirroring and reflective way, addressing the intellect and the emotion and enabling the creation of synapses between the social roles we take on in real life and the roles represented within the sociodrama sessions.
Have you ever felt the rhythm of your heartbeat changing when you experience joy or when you are emotionally charged? Have you ever noticed your palms sweating during social interaction? Have you ever caught yourself nervously moving around or co-existing in peace with others in the same space? Such physical behaviours can be recorded with minimal intervention using modern technology similar to our smartphones.
In Transition to 8, residents of Eleusis participate in sociodrama sessions where they express their views and interact on the social issues of environmental pollution, labour and the refugee/immigrant issue. At the same time, researchers record the heartbeat, galvanic skin response and the motion of the participants who desire to wear the Shimmer Sensing bracelet sensors.
Researchers conduct the biometric data analysis (heartbeat, skin stimulation and motion) using the sound and video recordings of the sessions, and the notes taken by scientists during the sessions. The analysis will offer a flow of information that, in combination with the qualitative analysis of the audiovisual recordings, will be provided to artists to use as digital raw material via the digital platform. Data collected during the sociodrama sessions will be processed so that the participants are not recognisable, in compliance with the Ethics protocol that is always made known to the participants.
In total, through a series of interactive visualisations and sonifications, based on the physiological data analysis and the qualitative analysis of the audiovisual material, artists will get inspired and will create innovative artworks reflecting the social issues at stake within the community of Eleusis.
The digital platform developed within Transition to 8 facilitates the transition from social phenomena to contemporary artistic creation. It will offer a set of tools that will provide a multimedia presentation of the research results available and free to use for artists who engage or would like to engage in innovative forms of expression and the general public. The digital platform is innovative as it expands the idea of a mood board by including the properties of interactivity and dynamic content, as it offers the research results in an understandable audiovisual format. Artists will be able to see, listen to and download the data collected during the sociodrama sessions as digital raw material. The data will be categorised and correspond with sound, visuals and movement through conceptual based on emotional states models. As an online tool, the platform will be able to connect with other online and offline applications, expanding the possibilities of artistic creation and setting the basis for pan-European and international creative and research collaborations.
Transition to 8 uses technology to study social phenomena through an innovative and pioneering methodology. It achieves to provide us with comprehensible data on the observation of how the emotional state of individuals arising from social phenomena manifests in their physical reactions. Thus, the methodology enables the transition from the collected data to artistic creation.
Transition to 8 employs electronic music to communicate the community’s emotions. Electronic music may now prevail in mainstream culture, but it has always represented the need for self-expression of mainly marginalised people.
Since the ‘70s, in the music form of disco, electronic music expressed New York’s socially excluded teams (African-Americans, Latin-Americans and homosexuals). Disco evolved into house, which first appeared in segregated Chicago at the end of the ‘70s; its audience was mainly African-Americans and homosexuals. During the ‘80s, in Detroit, a city with profound economic gaps and social discrimination, techno made its appearance, and soon it would travel through the Atlantic. During the ‘90s, house and techno spread across the world. The neoliberal conservative society of Thatcher's England was deeply shocked by the Acid House or Rave culture that was rising rapidly. New sub-genres came to life only to express new ideas and create the cultural contexts that accompanied the social movements of the time.
The paradigm shift regarding music education and the democratisation in production (many successful producers and music creators made their music from their bedrooms -especially in the ‘80s when the necessary equipment became more affordable) rocked the boat providing at the same time high-quality results.
Today, electronic music is considered inclusive and tolerant. Even though it has prevailed in mainstream culture, music producers and DJs state that electronic music hasn’t given up on its roots, providing a safe place for everyone. Some even use their music to motivate their fans regarding major social issues and political views. Transition to 8 seeks to cooperate with this kind of creators.
Transition to 8 makes art a vehicle to express the community’s emotions. Artistic practices have always kept pace with new technologies and societies’ needs.
Since the 1950s, artists and designers have experimented with technology. In the ’70s, artists began coding and integrated it into their artistic process. The film industry, TV, and video games familiarised people with electronically processed effects.
During the 2000s, the widespread use of digital technologies led to their integration into culture and society. The World Wide Web and the constant interconnectedness of humans created new dimensions that led to Internet Art and the creation of new channels for the dissemination of artistic information. Today, social media provide platforms where anybody can create and distribute their art. At the same time, artists explore the boundaries of new media while criticising the consequences of the technologies used daily.
Constant accumulation of data, due to the extended use of technology and the Internet in the last decade, led to artists studying, interpreting, and visualising them, thus creating new narratives.
The new genre, Data Art, draws data from online and offline sources and uses the internet to make them accessible. The chaos of uncountable data turns into a new way of understanding ourselves and our world, and it may serve as a metaphor for human experience.
Transition to 8 offers data to artists for the creation of artworks deriving and directly related to the emotional and physical reactions of Eleusinians to the social issues of the city. Artists will then create a new experience of perceiving the community’s experience. The community and artists become co-creators offering a unique artistic approach to the concept of experience.
Transition to 8 is a research-development project, which is implemented by the Laboratory of Quality Research in Psychology and Mental Health of the Department of Psychology of the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Research Center "Athena" and the cultural production and management company MENTOR.
The project is part of the Operational Programme Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation 2014-2020 (EPAnEK) and is co-financed by Greece, the European Union and the company MENTOR.
MENTOR focuses on Culture and Heritage Management.
MENTOR was created by a team of young professionals active in the fields of culture, entrepreneurship, new technologies, and digital communication. It harnesses tangible and intangible cultural assets and modern artistic creations to contribute to local communities’ sustainable development. To realize this vision, we employ innovative strategies and applications in cultural management.
The “egg” entrepreneurship competition powered by Eurobank proclaimed MENTOR one of the most innovative Greek companies. Their portfolio includes projects for some of the most influential cultural organizations, institutions and festivals in Greece.
MENTOR aims to support and strengthen communities with untapped cultural assets, with the ultimate goal of assisting them to become self-sufficient through the proper identification, management and utilization of their comparative advantages.
Their team members have backgrounds in cultural and heritage management, academic program development, marketing and communication, social media management, interpretation and translation, web design and development, entrepreneurship and business development. In addition, they receive support from an extensive network of collaborating academics, cultural managers, artists, etc.
MENTOR has established essential partnerships with Eleusis 2023 / European Capital of Culture, the Hellenic American University & College, the Athena Research Center, the Attica School of Ancient Drama, the Heritage Management Organization (HERITAGE), the Animasyros: International Animation Festival, the Municipality of Elefsina and the Athens Tourism Development and Promotion Company (EATA) through “This is Athens”.
University of Athens - Dept. of Psychology
The Research Team of scientists of the National Kapodistrian University of Athens, specifically coming from the Laboratory of Qualitative Research in Psychology and Psychosocial Well-Being is in charge of researching and highlighting the topics that impact the most the residents of Eleusis on a psychosocial level. The research seeks to “listen” and contemplate the meaning of terms like “Eleusis-Life, Residents, Cooperation, Social Issues, Daily Life” in a broader way and in connection with phenomena that affect the residents’ daily life, like environmental pollution, employment/labour and unemployment, the refugee/immigrant situation and the residential parameters that intensely appear in the area (landscape industrialization, changes to the urban environment, etc).
"Athena" Research Center
The mission of the “Athena” Research Center is to conduct outstanding research in Informatics and Computational Sciences, tackling global challenges and local needs, and producing technological results with impact on other sciences, industry, and the society at large.
For more than 25 years, the “Athena” RC sustains a culture of innovation, developing high-end technologies, products and services, and cultivating synergies between the entrepreneurial and research worlds. It has founded 5 spin-off companies and facilitates three industrial clusters in knowledge-intensive thematic sectors.
The vision of the “Athena” RC is to create knowledge and devise solutions and technologies for the digital society. It aims to serve the full spectrum of the research lifecycle, starting from basic and applied research, continuing to system & product building and infrastructure service provision, and ending with technology transfer and entrepreneurship.
The scope of activities of the “Athena” RC includes all Information and Communication Technologies, covering all software and hardware aspects. These include every area of informatics, data science, robotics, automation, signal processing, artificial intelligence, networking and digital communication, and modelling. Computational sciences form a strong component of the “Athena” RC activities, including – but without being limited to – computational linguistics, archaeology, engineering, medicine, biology, biodiversity, earth observation, space science, mechanics, and the arts.
The key value of the “Athena” RC lies in the deep expertise and extensive experience of its more than 350 researchers and other professionals. By participating in more than 300 R&D projects in the last five years and producing more than a thousand publications in the same time frame, the people of the “Athena” RC are the ones giving it its strong international reputation.