Apps & Mobile

Björk Crowdfunds Biophilia App For Education But Will It Reach The Poor Kids?

received quite a bit of attention for her suite of iOS apps that offered an app for each song on her Biophilia album. Since then the nonproft Biophilia Educational Program has used the "mother app" in educational settings with great response. Now they are raising money through Kickstarter to support further development of the program and to port the app to Android, Windows 8 and the Mac Desktop in order to make it more accessible for lower income children around the world.

I don't think there's a conscious scam in progress here, though the history of nonprofits is certainly full of such situations, but based on the details given it's unclear how this will reach the poor people that they use as a justification for receiving funds.

Pitch Video for Björk's Biophilia & Education Program

Björk's iOS Biophilia app, which was released in late 2011 to widespread media and fan attention, is rather pricey at $12.99 plus $1.99 for each of 10 song-specific apps available within the larger app. The grand total is $32.89.

[Update: So apparently the whole app with all the components is $12.99. iTunes still lists the top in-app purchases so that must be for the original free version where you had to buy each song app individually. So, yes, I was confused by that. It would be nice if iTunes was a bit clearer but nicer still if Team Björk would clarify in their Kickstarter just how poor African kids can access such an app given that $12.99 is way out of reach for most of that population. This just in: there will also be pie in the sky when you die.]

The Biophilia Education Program

The Biophilia Educational Program is developing curriculum "to inspire children to explore their own creativity, and to learn about music and science through new technologies." The app itself is used to connect "diverse subjects with playful creativity." Their focus is kids aged 10 to 12 with kids 8 to 15 likely to find it of interest.

Much of the work has been developed during month long performance residencies in major cities where the Biophilia Educational Program:

"has worked with local school authorities to create lessons, complete with a core syllabus and curriculum topics. In dealing with these topics, it aims to bring together knowledge of nature and science, music and technology."

The Kickstarter Campaign

Björk and the Biophilia Educational Program are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise £375,000 pounds (currently a little over $590,000) to further develop the program, help pay volunteers who have been providing free educational services during the workshops and, most immediately expensive,:

"pay for a team of 6 app guys to convert the Biophilia app to Android, Windows 8 and Mac Desktop – it’s a big job and is going to take them 6 months – the Biophilia App is a suite of 10 apps so that's a lot of code!"

Though they'll be making curricular materials available for free, they do not discuss educational pricing for the apps which suggests there will be some sort of fee. I wish that point was a bit clearer. So far the workshops they're doing, often at science museums, seem quite labor intensive and not the sort of thing you could integrate into a regular school curriculum.

Will This Actually Reach the Poor Kids that Inspired the Campaign?

But by offering a free curriculum to help teachers get started using the apps, it appears that the cost to educators will include both the cost of the apps and of computer tablets or Mac Desktops which means it will remain out of the reach for many of the poor kids name checked at the beginnning of the Kickstarter campaign text:

"the most interest has come from students from low-income households and schools with underfunded art budgets , and the only way to bring the project to those people is to have biophilia reprogrammed for android and windows 8 ."

Anybody working in truly impoverished situations, including many parts of the U.S., realize that cheaper apps may still be inaccessible. In addition, I can't help cringing at grandiose claims made by the latest flavor of the month in ed tech programs:

"We are on the brink of a revolution that will reunite humans with nature through new technological innovations."

Honestly, taking a walk outside might be a bit more to the point and also cheaper than sitting inside and playing with apps on screens.

That said, crowdfunding makes a lot of sense in this case since government or even foundation funding would be difficult to pull off for a program that is likely to remain inaccessible to those it claims to be trying to reach. So, if you're feeling it, go pledge your dough and give a group of "app guys" six months of work.


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/ also blogs at All World Dance: Videos and maintains Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. the biophilia app suite is $12.99, period. it includes all the song-specific apps. stating otherwise is irresponsible.

  2. Actually there are additional explanations of my statement if you’re willing to step down off your soap box for a sec and ask how I came up with that.
    The app says it’s $12.99 and then there is a list of top in-app purchases:
    So if it was once free and the in-app purchase list reflects that earlier version that is no longer available, then Apple’s fucked up interface is to blame.
    I’ll probably update but I have more important work to do at the moment given that my mistake is based on the failures of others.
    For example, if Bjork’s people were smarter they would make that clear in the Kickstarter. But it’s Bjork and she’s saying the right things so everybody gives her a pass. And that’s irresponsible on the part of everybody who’s doing so i.e. every other writer who I’ve seen cover the issue.
    By the way, $12.99 is still too much to reach poor kids in Africa so my point still stands. And, actually, though I tried to soften the piece a bit, I think this whole claim to be reaching poor kids is bullshit unless they have some unannounced plans related to free distribution.

  3. Just updated it with the information you could only imply since you were too busy pointing fingers to actually help.
    Nevertheless I thank you for caring about accuracy. That’s something.

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