shifty digits

IMG_0770Last week’s Brussels Creative Europe briefing bravely attempted to encompass the ‘digital shift’.  No simple task given the variegated digital Euro-picture.  One person’s streaming, is another’s comms crash.  And we remain in thrall to even the most banal geek-speak.   How can we begin to configure our expectations of digital as European cultural instrument?

The framing is difficult.  The European digital ‘pipework’ means that options differ for cultural producers in, say, Belgium or the Netherlands, with almost 100% superfast broadband coverage, or Italy with less than 15% or Greece with less than 25%.  Sociologists observe that digital communities can be shallow or even counterfeit, not what cultural funding is about.  Our tendency to uncritical technophilia and to name check digital innovation can devalue project assessment.  Dealing with the tension between the creative entrepreneurs desire to monetise Intellectual Property and the public benefit of open innovation and data is also a challenge.  The scientific project may sign over access to digital material in the interests of knowledge exchange, but should we expect cultural producers to do the same?

Understanding of the merits of digital marketing tools is widespread, but experts may be less up to speed in developing areas like theatre in the cloud, or even webcasting as delivered by NT Live or La Monnaie.  After all the streaming of  Le Page’s Ring Cycle was one of the artistic events of recent years for one of our most conservative audiences.

Digitally decorating cultural projects for the delectation of the funder is a temptation, and unpicking the cultural value of the digital component is a new evaluation challenge.  We should interrogate the digital elements of proposals as thoroughly as the analog elements and need the tools to do it.

Ref: Digital Sociology, Critical Perspectives 2013;   Ofcom – The European Broadband Scorecard.   Photo: author’s own, Paolozzi at Edinburgh University Science Campus

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