How do you respond to the National Cultural Policy? It's back on the agenda with a promise of a policy by next year. This is a long post so grab a cup of your favourite brew and come along...
In preparation, on October 6th The Office of Senator Kate Lundy in collaboration with the Office of Minister Simon Crean is running a Digital Culture Public Sphere consultation to look specifically at the digital arts and industries as well as opportunities for cultural institutions around digitisation, public engagement and collaboration.
This consultation process is supported by a number of social media platforms and opportunities including a Digital Culture Public Sphere wiki. blog, twitter hashtag #publicsphere, Facebook page . http://www.facebook.com/digitalculturepublicsphere.
Additionally, thre is a live event which you can attend remotely by registering to reserve a spot. You can watch the Live Event remotely and participate in the online discussions on the day through http://www.livestream.com/publicsphere
If you get a chance, you can submit a 10 minute talk by video submission by adding a link http://www.katelundy.com.au/2011/09/06/the-digital-culture-public-sphere/
So with so much opportunity, where do I start?
In a word?
Let me be clear, I'm not talking about collaboration. GLAM isn't really set up to collaborate across organisations particularly effectively and certainly not on a large scale. On the other hand, most GLAM organisations have Partnership and Relations departments/staff.
Here are the questions from the wiki and my responses. I'm toying with putting together a 10min presentation to add to their feed. If so, I'll post it here.
Ideas for a Long Term Sustainable vision
The GLAM sector has done a sterling job in responding to new audience expectations. From digitisation to social media programs, the past 10 years (and the last 5 in particular) have seen a growth and change in the communication practices of major cultural organisations in Australia. Is it enough though? The first wave of social media brought with it excellent prototypes for future cultural communication processes but how much of this has become embedded in the everyday workings of our sector? If we are to continue to excel and lead in this area, the next stage needs to be more strategic, looking at how we encourage engagement, participation and co-creation as defined cultural practices. A ten year plan needs to include strategic partnerships with multiple networks; broad discussions regarding how these partnerships encourage new knowledge, products and services, while upholding the sovereignty of the cultural sector. These are not easy conversations to have.
Broad digital cultural communication programs which encourage three way communication are contested, time consuming and risky. They suggest changes to work practices, changes to funding models and changes to professional (rather than audience) expectation. They also suggest a shift away from what matters to the organisation, to what matters to the audience. Why would we undertake such risky discussions? What's in it for us?
The proposed Digital Cultural Sphere process is an exceptional opportunity to engage in these conversations and to redefine, not only the internal practices of specific areas but the public understanding of what cultural organisations can offer. A ten year plan needs to realistically address these issues.
Ideas for what success might look like
Over the past 7 years I've been working with an end-to-end digital content structure which my colleague Associate Professor Jerry Watkins established. I'm using it here to suggest what success might look like:
- establish partnerships with creative communities.
There are engaged, passionate communities out there who already connect with cultural organisations, for instance: astronomers, photographers, fish scientists. These communities connect, share knowledge, discuss new approaches and are generally committed to engagement and participation.
What if the GLAM sector could work with these communities in new ways? Ways which built capacity, drove innovation and created new products, processes and services? Would either the communities or GLAMS see the value of this? Why would they do it?
GLAMS hold collections. Those collections are a spatial and temporal record which defines, denies, contests, affirms and illustrates cultures, events, opportunities. Creative Communities that are seeking to build capacity often have little chance of supporting innovations in their area.
(I'm going to put together a case study for the video on this one)
Creative partnerships should be considered joint-ventures rather than collaborations. Each party agrees to a finite time in which to develop a new process, product or service. Equity on either side is in-kind and contributes to a broader understanding of the value of the cultural sector in supporting creative communites.
- Identify current issues which can be described through collections & partner with creative communities to create new content
Work with creative communities to explore new approaches to current issues. Use collections to illustrate this endeavour. Take the Australian Museum's Climate Change as an example. In many ways, this is a curated public discussion around current issues.
How could this be broadened to create new products, services or processes? There is a vested interest in innovation from both parties so how could the museum act as a laboratory for testing new ideas?
Some may ask why you would use a GLAM as a laboratory. I don't think there would be many people in the sector who would suggest that GLAMs aren't research institutions. The best research institutions pose hypotheses, test these hypotheses and create new knowledge. This new knowledge can contribute to three broad areas: the discipline itself, professional practices, broader discourses. Is this type of research currently happening in the sector? I would suggest that it does, in some areas but is rarely aimed at new products, services or practices. Could we test new partnerships by co-creating specific content in a structured and strategic way?
- decouple content creation from content distribution
If you're still reading you may suddenly feel a rush of terror at the suggestion of decoupling content creation from distribution. I can offer an example: A History of the World in 100 Objects. 100 x 15min podcasts co-created by the British Museum and the BBC, distributed on both their platforms and, importantly, Itunes. Why Itunes? Here's why...
"The podcast has had over 18 million downloads worldwide in 2010. Initial evaluation suggests that 24% of the UK population (i.e. 14.8 million people) listened to at least one episode, whether on air, online or via the podcast." via Museums&The Web 2010
We have many EXISTING opportunities for innovative distribution in Australia. Think ABC Open or the ABC Pool project, not to mention the National Curriculum up-and-coming National Broadband Network.
If we can get our heads around decoupling digital cultural content creation from distribution, our sector can partner to create new innovations and to demonstrate the value of cultural collections to the broader public. Importantly, we can do this from the standpoint of our expertise rather than by searching for ways to make our content more "popular" or as some might say by "dumbing it down".
- recognise promotion as an integral, curated digital cultural communicaton process
If I had a dollar for every time someone in the sector told me that their marketing was done by "someone else" I wouldn't have to keep writing blog posts. I'd be lying on a beach somewhere.
Why would the promotion of innovative processes be undertaken by others? Why would marketing and promotion be seen as slightly sordid? I would posit that the cultural sector sometimes sees these activities as separate to the "serious" work they do. I'm just guessing here, but I would suggest that part of the reason is that they are not trying to "make money" out of their content.
excuse me while I take a little rest here....
Yes, commercial entities are established to create and distribute income and yes, cultural institutions are not. Then again, commercial entities are rarely subsidized at around $517,000,000 per annum. (p8). Return on investment does, of course, come in many different forms but what I would propose here is that promotion become an integral part of the digital cultural communication program - and I'm not talking about promoting events. I'm suggesting that we work with our creative communities to promote the innovations we create on both our and their platforms. That we develop strategic, end-to-end communication programs that are highly curated, integrated and, essentially, small research projects in themselves. I can talk about this in more detail but I think I wrote a post describing it here.
Commercialisation and emerging business models
I've met very few people in academia who have degrees in Research Development and Commercialisation. Nor have I met many who have experience in commercialising content. It may be the case that I've spent too much time with Humanities and Arts academics but then again, it is the HASS sector that we are, for the most part, describing here. I'm going out on a limb, but I'm going to suggest that the GLAM sector doesn't have many in-house R&D and Commercialisation specialists either.
So, if this is the case, how do we conceptualise commercialisation opportunities in the GLAM sector? The National Cultural Policy could do well to lead an investigation into cultural research development and commercialisation opportunities. It may well start with a small research project, (possibly using some of those very few academics with these qualifications) to test the waters. Following this, small prototypes, based on the structure suggested above, may well be developed to test propositions.
So, in a nutshell, this is my thinking on the future of the sector. I look forward to your comments and to participating in the Digital Cultural Sphere on 6th October.