Digital: The Power to Create Culture

It is vital that we do not simply think of digital technology as a means to distribute and broadcast arts and culture. Having these revolutionary tools at our disposal and merely using them to take the arts programming of recent decades and extending their reach is not grasping the full opportunity with which we are presented. We must recognise and support the empowerment of all individuals to create culture through digital means. We must not think of digital as simply a means of distribution.
Digital technology has put the power to create into the hands of more people than ever before. New tools and new access to information have created a new generation of creators. The default position for many young people (digital natives) today is to create new creative content on a daily basis.
Any promotion of digital culture by DCMS needs to emphasise the creation of culture by ordinary individuals from all walks of life. The equal access to the tools of creation should be a priority. The issue of ‘Access and Participation’ must be broadened to encompass Creation.
As the recent Towards Cultural Democracy report by King's College London states:
The use of online fora and platforms for creative activities is widely heralded as a major democratising influence in contemporary culture. Children and young people are growing up with the confidence and skills to adopt and adapt this space for an enormous variety of cultural ends. To the extent that a major ‘first step’ in promoting cultural capabilities and cultural democracy involves shifting mindsets and raising awareness of a more inclusive way of thinking about arts, culture and creativity, it is important both to ensure that stories of digital co-creation are widely shared, but also that more individuals, young and old, are actively enabled to use digital media creatively.
The sharing of culture through digital means can indeed enrich our lives, but by ensuring everyone is empowered to contribute to our culture through these platforms, our collective culture will itself be hugely enriched.
#CultureisDigital should lead to a major investigation of the access, and potential barriers, to the tools of creation. A holistic approach across DCMS, DfE and DoH should address how people are or are not accessing digital technology and then ensure everyone is empowered to use these tools creatively in their everyday lives.

Why the contribution is important

If we genuinely want to address issues of social cohesion and social mobility as well as public wellbeing, it is essential to recognise and value the thoughts, creativity and actions of individuals across the UK. We cannot go on treating them as consumers of culture alone.
The digital world is one of creation, exchange and conversation. We are fundamentally misunderstanding its potential and its attraction if we do not prioritise the democratisation of cultural creativity that this enables.
Creative Health: The Arts, Health and Wellbeing, the report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing published this week, makes the point early in its summary:
The creative impulse is fundamental to the experience of being human. We might express this through art, craft, creative writing, dance, design (including architecture), drama, film- or music-making or singing, by ourselves or with others; increasingly, we might make creative use of digital media. […] The act of creation, and our appreciation of it, provides an individual experience that can have positive effects on our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

by VoluntaryArts on July 21, 2017 at 06:19PM

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  • Posted by helenn July 22, 2017 at 08:45

    If you examine the most popular sites for word culture (eg news or blogs) they are those where comments from the public are welcomed. Your suggestion would be the visual equivalent.
  • Posted by TheSpace August 03, 2017 at 17:20

    The Space commissions “born digital” work and original digital content from artists and arts organisations. According to our research and our partner organisations, there is an appetite for more short form content, particularly for younger consumers using phones and tablets. In general, new work or “born digital” work commissioned by The Space less expensive than live capture projects, although building the audience for a new work requires a bigger (relatively speaking) investment marketing and audience development.
  • Posted by VoluntaryArts August 04, 2017 at 17:16

    @helenn True, but the huge success stories of the the past decade have been those platforms that have equal, or greater, importance on user-created content - not just the hierarchical format of articles and user comments. YouTube is the second most visited website in the world, after Google, and, for younger generations in particular, there is equity between the opportunity for major public figures/organisations and ordinary individuals to share content on YouTube and reach an audience. The entire social media movement is based on empowering individuals to become creators and broadcasters, increasingly moving into live video. It's this blending of consumer and broadcaster that's the crucial issue of this time in digital media and culture more widely.

    @TheSpace This is great, but even the act of "commissioning" is potentially in need of modernisation when dealing with digital platforms and younger audiences who are less inclined to consider the need for commissioning or permission to create and broadcast when the tools are already available. The definition of "artists and arts organisations" also seems to act as a potential restriction as to who this is for, when digital natives often consider themselves inherently creative and much more fluid in their definition of their role or career.
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