In the brief history of the internet, the cultural sector has followed two related paths: on the one hand, the digitisation of content and provision of information and, on the other, interactivity and opportunities for expression. Some have seen these as in binary opposition. The truth is that they are inexorably merging. But the big question is where do we go next? How can policy intervention best meet with technology to achieve the aim of bringing about a more democratic culture? What will be the role, opportunities and limitations of online culture in a rapidly changing world?
A moment of reflection is provided by the coming to an end, in March 2007, of the Culture Online initiative funded by the Department for Culture,Media and Sport. Culture Online provides both an interesting case study, bringing together lessons learnt about how to organise online engagement, and a point of departure for asking questions about future directions.
The report is notable for its recommendations for future directions (smaller, agency-led entrepreneurial initiatives that interact/inter-operate with each other) and lessons about how to successfully implement online projects that effectively engage communities. As the report explains, the shift to networked initiatives and new styles of working will not be without difficulties – new organisational models within the public sector will need to be found to accommodate and nurture entrepreneurial talents.
The cultural sector is, almost by definition, at the forefront of innovation. Experimentation in models of organisation are as necessary as new expressions of cultural content. The cultural sector and the organisations that mediate and enable the sector could and should have a role to play in trying out new forms of technology, especially in highlighting non-market or emerging market fields.
Thank you to Daniel Pett at the British Museum for alerting me to this report.