For the German Federal Cultural Foundation we developed Co-Creating Hybrid Culture that addresses the augmenting of physical cultural sites and practices through digital spaces via transdisciplinary co-creating events.
The way people around the world communicate and connect is being radically redefined by digitization. With the acceleration of digitization as one of the most obvious consequences of the current pandemic, the use of digital tools is experiencing an unprecedented surge.
Given the powerful, sometimes unquestioned, and unreflective acceleration of these technological developments, it is important to pause for a moment to critically reflect. It is urgent to examine what it means to co-create and experience meaningful cultural interactions in the Digital Age, and to imagine inclusive and inspiring digital spaces.
The way to achieve this, is to influence this development by “inhabiting technology” – approaching technological developments from a cultural perspective and transforming digital technologies to fit the way we want to live as a society.
Art and culture offer highly malleable and fertile sources for this, pulsing with transformative power in multiple dimensions. Tapping into the creative potential in the fields of cultural production, artistic speculation, and vision can support us in addressing these challenges to rethink social interactions in the age of the Digital. Thus, the Bundeskulturstiftung’s Digital Workshops program has a far-reaching significance.
This exercise in rethinking cultural formats and spaces and in co-creating cultural experiences in the digital era has relevance far beyond the narrow cultural sphere. The Digital Workshops, which start with small experiments in small circles, can act as catalysts to expand the exchange with other experts and actors in a spiral fashion and to promote culturally motivated experiments in the digital realm.
Supporting cultural institutions to culturally appropriate and shape digital spaces and formats can advance society’s engagement with technology. Cultural innovation in the age of the digital can thus be an important driving force in shaping social change toward sustainability.
Similarly to co-creation processes that characterize other fields (Wikipedia is the best-known example), digital networks can help cultural institutions interact with audiences and actively engage their online and on-site audiences. This encouragement of audience interaction and active participation can support community building around cultural institutions.
At the same time, we are seeing contemporary art practices transcend the boundaries of traditional artistic media, for example, sculpture and painting. Today, media specificity does not determine artistic production. Painting and sculpture come together with performance, dance, video, film, and sound, as well as gaming and other online formats, and different media merge within a single artistic project. This merging of art fields requires a rethinking of cultural institutions in terms of transdisciplinary and hybrid practices.
The Digital Workshops program develops ideas for the future of cultural hybrid and digital formats and their spaces. The Digital Workshops enable cultural institutions to explore new models to develop sustainable perspectives. The program follows an inclusive and solution-oriented approach and focusses on current challenges, such as co-creating audiences, inspiring formats, and sustainable practices, and thus addresses a broad and diverse target group of – also non-digital – actors from the cultural field. Beyond the goal of engaging new audiences in existing cultural offerings, the aim is to attract new cultural actors to bring new voices to the development of digitally supported cultural production.
The clear – but open – focus of each workshop-event allows for a concentrated exchange between the participants, enabling them to co-create around several relevant topics.
All events are designed to be transdisciplinary, bringing together actors from very different cultural fields (such as theatre, music, dance and performance, film, video, museums, cultural centres, libraries, etc.) together with a wide range of digital experts from academia, business, society and politics, activism, pedagogy, game development, fashion, marketing and advertising, design, the start-up scene, sharing economy and digital platforms … At the same time, expertise from the early experiments of digital pioneers – in the sense of “looking forward by looking back” – is also incorporated into the program.
During the co-creative sessions of the workshops, small transdisciplinary working groups are formed to jointly develop initial project ideas. These transdisciplinary working groups consist of experts from different cultural fields (for example, theatre and museums) as well as experts from other fields. Following the respective workshop events, these working groups further develop their project ideas to briefly present them at the final event.
To support the development of these small projects and for the exchange between the different working groups, regular online meetings (possibly also involving external guest critics) and online co-creative spaces are offered. In addition to the exchange with experts, these also enable peer learning processes between the participants of the digital workshops.
How can we break through the common practice of directly translating analog formats into the digital to move away from frontal events with the classic sender-receiver model? What are the opportunities of immersive, performative, and co-creative hybrid and digital formats? How can we incorporate more imagination into digital solutions and create an more sensorially engaging access?
The event provides a first overview of relevant digital tools with inspiring, interactive, and co-creative formats and their opportunities and challenges. In this context, technological solutions ranging from Artificial Intelligence to Social Media are briefly addressed. Immersive technologies, such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, as well as cinematic dramaturgical qualities, such as staging and camera work, and television formats, such as live directing, are briefly introduced and discussed. In addition, digital solutions for co-creation processes, such as gaming solutions with “user-generated content”, “story-finding” and “worldbuilding” aspects are addressed. Co-creative digital environments and hybrid are briefly presented and tested. To make aware that solutions are possible alongside the mainstream commercial digital tools, open-source and free software and digital services, are also briefly shown. In addition, the growing and specific role of mobile media and their possible applications in the cultural sector are briefly reviewed.
We need a fresh, radically innovative perspective with a solution-oriented approach to look at the different forms of cultural heritage – be it objects, monuments or other (memory) places – in a way that corresponds to the cultural hybridity of today’s globalized world.
How to enable the re-reading and re-interpreting of cultural heritage from a multicultural perspective using artistic and collective practices and digital and hybrid tools and (co-)archives? Can digital and hybrid cultural spaces support conversations and processes around restitution? Can virtual worlds foster the reading of the urban landscape from a multicultural perspective and more inclusive, collective processes of memory-making and the construction of meaning and thus the multi-voiced appropriation of our environment?
Artistic speculations on possible futures require mutual contamination and enrichment from different viewpoints and perspectives, practices and backgrounds. With such a “you-topic” approach that emphasizes the τόπος (topos) of the Other, and thus opposes closed utopian models, how can we design shared positive visions? How can artistic constructions of imaginary worlds inform the co-creation of future worlds? What would be digitally supported cultural spaces that break through the digital “bubbles” and echo-chambers and their highly personalized, customized digital existences and representations of identity? How to engage highly differentiating audiences and bring together previously separate socio-cultural groups? What are the hybrid cultural communal spaces that enable serendipitous encounters and foster exchange with the Other?
As civilization emerges “in and as play” (Johan Huizinga), the contemporary and future playgrounds of Homo ludens need to be explored. Let’s play! How can we be inspired by best practices in digitally supported museum education and outreach with children and young people? What can be learned from club culture – with the physical club experience as an adaptable building block for the digital presence of digital natives? How can the interactive and participatory models of gaming with “user-generated content” help develop shared community spaces for cultural activities? And how are digital and hybrid playful artistic formats to be developed? Where and how to play – with hybrid gaming parcours, interactive installations, dance-, theatre- and music-performances and with a versatile cultural practice that is fun!
Today we are witnessing a hybridization of artistic and cultural practices in multiple dimensions. Different media come together within a single artistic project. Artists and cultural practitioners work in transdisciplinary research projects. At the same time, they integrate virtual tools and spaces into their practices. Digital tools support processes of multi-voiced co-creation of hybrid cultures that are anchored and embedded in physical spaces and at the same time increasingly shaped and negotiated in trans-local media networks.
How should cultural institutions respond to this and develop new physical and digital spaces and formats? What would a digitally supported hybrid of exhibition space and theatre be and how would it work? What would be formats that could bring together the (private) spaces of creative practitioners with the public spaces of co-creating audiences? What would be possible infrastructures and platforms to actively engage both online and on-site audiences and foster processes of co-creation? How can we further imagine spaces for future cultural collaborations?
Digitization creates the opportunity to overcome distances and address a wider range of target groups. With the help of digital tools, outreach can be extended globally and exchange with far-flung places made possible. And yet the future looks increasingly local, with strong cultural ties to the social environment in the immediate neighbourhood.
How can hybrid (combined physical and digital) trans-local community spaces support exchanges across localities? How can people engage in conversation across distances and develop empathy and a sense of community in digital space? How can peripheral cultural actors and communities, e.g. in rural areas or the Global South, be strengthened and thus promote the decentralization of culture? Would this entail a reformulation of spatial cultural hierarchies? And how can such hyper-locality – also in the sense of connecting local physical spaces and their challenges together with global discourses – strengthen a “planetary thinking”? Think globally, act locally!
Beyond reviewing the ecological footprint of their own practices – including the digital ones – cultural practitioners can engage in the development of more sustainable futures and thus move from being custodians of the past, to shapers of the future. Cultural actors can communicate complex sustainable issues in an attractive and playful way using artistic and cultural means. Cultural institutions can tell powerful stories about the impact of human life on our planet, promoting an understanding of the challenges of global environmental and climate change. Most importantly, artists have the imagination, to open new spaces of possibility, to develop new perspectives and thus to contribute to the imaginability of more sustainable future worlds.
How can digital tools be used to communicate the highly complex issue of sustainability in an impactful and engaging way through artistic means? How can cultural institutions use the digital transformation to work toward a healthier and more equitable future that preserves nature rather than exploits it? And how can digitally supported participatory formats be used to co-create new narratives for the Anthropocene?
All of these challenges underscore the need to rethink the classic (business) models of cultural institutions. For a long time, cultural practices and spaces have become hybrid, as programs that take place in physical locations rely heavily on non-local, dispersed audiences in front of screens. Digital networks thus enable broader reach and engagement of larger audiences. The “long tail” effect of digitization enables cultural institutions to strengthen their genre focus and character – for example, via engagement with a particular scene and its artists. At the same time, the long-overdue digitization of cultural heritage is a challenging and time- and budget-intensive task.
How are blockchain and cryptocurrencies changing the art market? How might crowd-sourcing and crowdfunding be used to connect communities to cultural institutions? In doing so, what would be new ways to participate in cultural life? What can be learned from the business models and processes of start-ups? And how could business models, including concepts for revenue diversification, be further envisioned and developed?