As online technologies continue to affect every aspect of our daily lives, the professional use of and engagement with these tools is a topic that is becoming more and more pressing within the cultural sector, as highlighted, for example, in a previous LabforCulture newsletter devoted to cultural networking online. LabforCulture has been discussing these issues extensively with peers across Europe, and through these discussions we identified a need to give an overview of how the cultural sector is (or is not) taking up the use of these tools for collaboration. Tools for Culture, now available on LabforCulture.org as our latest Research in focus, presents the results of this first mapping prepared by Sabine Niederer and Richard Rogers from the Digital Methods Initiative (Govcom.org).
In relation to these findings, we are putting the focus of this newsletter on how cultural institutions and audiences can collaboratively engage with each other with the help of these new online practices. Peter Mechant, a researcher at the Research Group for Media and ICT, Ghent University, recently published a text in the Virtueel Platform's Cultuur 2.0 publication that presents a particular perspective on developing these new relationships. We have asked two individuals working in the field to respond to this text with their own viewpoints and experiences, and we invite you to add yours. Special thanks go out to the Virtueel Platform for their collaboration on this newsletter.
Online digital information has become ubiquitous and accounts for a major part of the economic and cultural activities in the western hemisphere. Hence, our society calls itself an information or network society. Instant messaging, weblogs or other websites facilitating true user participation, one-to-many or many-to-many asyn-chronous or synchronous communication are on the rise and appeal to millions of Internet users worldwide. This recent shift, in terms of the availability of online content and services, is often referred to using phrases such as web 2.0 or social software. In this article I want to look at how cultural institutions can enhance or enrich participation in culture through the use of web 2.0 or social software websites and discuss the potential for more active participation and collaboration between hosts and users.
Times they are a-changin' and what exciting times these are... Just as cultural organisations have finally accepted that they need an online (Web 1.0) presence - and over time have even learned to be quite good at it - along comes an "upgrade" with all these fabulous Web 2.0 opportunities and challenges. The paradigm is clear: in order to enhance experience and involvement, cultural organisations need to communicate with their audiences (visitors and users) in new ways and establish new forms of relationships.
This shouldn't be so hard, right? Well, it depends... First, Web 2.0 is still a rapidly evolving and heavily competing jungle of applications. Since the changes are so constant, there is no winning recipe. Second, these changes are so profound that we are hardly able to grasp their full impact. We do not just need to re-think, but also to re-invent our concepts of "copyright, authorship, identity, ethics, aesthetics, rhetoric, governance, privacy, commerce, love, family, ourselves" and possibly the rest of it too - including arts and culture.
Social software also owes much of its attraction to a lot of hype and hype bubbles are known to burst eventually. While this fact should not scare anybody away, it seems reasonable to take a closer look before diving headfirst into the water.
To merely describe social software as superficial or as a marketing tool is not doing it justice. Even though these properties underlie the structure of social software, its value lies mainly in the dissemination of information. As Henry Jenkins notes, social software has paved the way towards "an era where the highest value is in spreadability (a term which emphasizes the active agency of consumers in creating value and heightening awareness through their circulation of media content)".
For a cultural organisation to achieve a meaningful public production relationship with their audience, it is important to create a context that is acknowledged by some sort of agency and to set up some sort of structure with a specific set of rules that provides enough space for individual creation and ideas. Instead of settling for ‘weak ties’, an organisation should provide the context and framework to build on strong ties. Social software has the potential to facilitate this process.
The virtual library Readme.cc
European Year of Intercultural Dialogue (EYID)
The current EYID is setting the scene for a number of initiatives instigating debate and proposing actions for an effective intercultural Europe.
- Rainbow Platform - Civil Society Platform for Intercultural Dialogue
- Arts Festival Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue
Recommended by Cristina Farinha, Editor of the Directory and Resources for Research sections of LabforCulture.org
Case study: Signs of the City
Using digital photography and new media, Signs of the City explores the sign systems of the European city by drawing up a visual inventory of four metropolises.
Recommended by Dea Vidovic, Editor of the Case Studies section of LabforCulture.org
Follow our blogging columnists as they explore issues that connect and challenge the cultural sector across Europe. LabforCulture currently features two regularly updated blogs, "Passing in Proximity" by Nat Muller, an independent curator and critic based in Rotterdam, and "Blue Monday" by Jelena Vesic, a curator and art critic based in Belgrade.
Don't miss the opportunity to announce your events and news in our special forum on LabforCulture.org. Let the community know about your cross-border cultural/artistic events, projects or opportunities. The forum is open to everyone!
We invite you to join in the preparation for the Victims’ Symptom online debate to take place on LabforCulture.org in April 2008. Send in your responses (artworks, comments, texts and debates) to the main questions of the project. Read more detailed information about this call here. Deadline 21 March 2008.
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