Cultural Diffusion, Participation and the New Technologies

In this last couple of weeks I have attended two very interesting seminars which drew attention to the need to rethink the methods of disseminating culture in today’s society. What is art? What is communication? How is culture disseminated? Where is the boundary and how is that information transmitted: these were the subjects reflected on at the 3rd Conference on Innovation and Cultural Dissemination at the CCCB and the Digital Discussion: Key Aspects for Successfully Innovating and Internationalizing the Audio-visual Sector at Barcelona Activa.

At the CCCB the focus of the talks, as Juan Insua made clear in his introduction, was on the paradigm of innovation in the field of culture: going beyond a static culture in art, this proposes a participatory approach in which the users interact with culture, making it more accessible and therefore closer to people’s interests and concerns. Emphasis was placed on the importance of cultural institutions embracing the role of mediator between culture and its users in order to democratize it and make it more social and in this way emulate existing cultural networks.

Beryl Graham applied this concept above all to the reformulation of how exhibitions are curated. Internet has changed the way certain aspects of the museum work, especially those related to communication, so there is also a need to rethink the traditional forms in which the contents are presented to the public. This has led to the emergence of various new disciplines such as Media Art and Net Art, which go beyond the mere contemplative experience and encourage the user to interact with and co-create the work in order to arrive at a joint experience of the exhibition.

Moreover, contrary to what many people may think, philosophy is not at odds with information technology, nor IT with art. Joan Soler-Adillon, a programmer and philosopher, is well aware of this, and his exposition engaged in depth with the concept of emergence in relation to art and artificial life. Emergence, which is to some degree spontaneous, is the result of interactions between the parts that make up the whole. Just as in an ant colony the sum of the individual members, the network of connections, produces a far richer whole, so the interaction of the different users with computers as a creative tool generates a unique participatory experience. In this way the user can perform the same cultural activity such as visiting an exhibition a number of times and enjoy a different experience each time.

There are also other technologies and disciplines through which users can interact with the reality around them. I would like to mention here the presentation by Roc Parés in which he touched on virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. Parés offered us an overview of audio-visual technologies which are perhaps as yet less well-known or less often made use of by cultural institutions, but may in future become a challenging medium for communicating and interact with users. Parés pointed to the need for platforms for the dissemination of culture that allow users to access information and content. All of these platforms are based on audio-visual technologies that effectively audio-visualize art, science, knowledge, society.

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In light of the above the discussion about the internationalization of the audio-visual sector at Barcelona Activa put forward three very specific instances of companies actively involved in audio-visualizing culture. Teresa Guitart (a strategic analyst at TV3), Miriam Porté (a producer from “Distinto Films”) and Àngela Bosch (director of the “Catalan Films & TV” consortium) responded to questions from Victor Horcasitas (director of “The American Society of Barcelona”) on the importance of the new digital media in catering for present-day audiences, which tend to be broader and more mobile. As well as the more traditional concepts of audio-visual production, transmission and distribution, the discussion also covered the opportunities for innovation provided by the new technologies. Here Teresa Guitart stressed the importance of creating content designed not only for television but also for Internet and the social networks. In the same vein, the Miriam Porté noted the role of the new technologies as a medium of distribution, with YouTube video reaching a much wider segment of the population than traditional channels. Àngela Bosch went on to make the point that special attention needs to be paid to the content of the products that are created, even though the initial business may have changed. Nowadays we have to take into account platforms that were inconceivable in the culture market only a few years ago, such as video games.

In short, it was clear in all of these cases that the user is mobile and can be participatory, and that the products created for audio-visual, museological or cultural consumption in general will have to be tailored to these circumstances. The new information and communication technologies and all the tools that derive from them have a key role to play and should be seen not as rivals but as complementary routes to be taken into account in thinking about an integral cultural product.

Cristina Martín

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