Hacking into the Audience

When you are creating a new product, who has the most knowledge about what this product should be? No matter what product you are creating, the answer is always the same. It’s the audience. The people who are going to buy, download, experience or use the end product. So why not get them to design it as well?


New York is on the verge of its second Broadway Hackathon. Contrary to the name, this has nothing to do with hacking servers and stealing secrets. It’s more along the line of YouTube Hacks – using existing processes to create an exciting, new and more customer-friendly innovation. Taking place at New York’s Performing Arts Library, this event will see competing teams spend 24 hours immersed in product development creating a new digital solution to the following brief:

“This year, in honour of the 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy, we are especially interested in applications supporting the production of Shakespearean plays, though this focus should serve as an inspiration rather than a restriction.”  

At the end of this competition, each team will have created a new app which will re-examine the role of technology in the theatrical process from idea to script to performance and hopefully include some elements which link in the global online community. And at the end, all creations at this Hackathon will be released under an open licence at the end of the competition to be further developed by passionate digital/theatre communities.

But why is this so exciting? There are digital theatre companies looking into new developments every day.

The exciting part about this Hackathon is that it engages the current tech-savvy audience members and people outside the theatre industry to take a look at the experience, identify some short-falls and come up with a creative solution that is customer-focussed. It is an idea which is designed by the people who will end up using it. You cannot get more customer-oriented than that!

Who knows what will come out of this competition? An online resource allowing users to experience different interpretations of Shakespeare’s works? An innovation using the increasingly popular Virtual Reality to allow users a 360 degrees view into Shakespeare’s theatrical world? Maybe it is a Shakespeare translation app which takes the language from traditional Elizabethan English into Hamilton style rap? Or maybe it will be an innovative new look at how audiences can interact with each other, actors and the set at a Shakespeare play through their smart phones?

The possibilities are endless, especially since the possibilities for reimagination in the Bard’s plays are also infinite. And a new technological advancement might be just the catalyst for a whole new generation finding interest in these traditional classics.