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?
As thinktank publications go, Demos reports are usually very good, so check this out if only to get a sense of where the smarter policy wonks are likely to head in the near future. On a quick skim, the report is clearly largely a reflection on the Culture Online initiative funded by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In that context, it should be of interest to people working in cultural institutions (museums, libraries, festivals) or anyone seeking to develop models of online cultural participation based on what is actually going right now. UK-centric, of course, but that’s precisely what allows for the focus on what cultural institutions, governments and organisations should be doing, rather than merely what consumers are doing and how marketers can best reach them, which is too often the implication of work coming out of US thinktanks (good as it is, even the Pew Internet & American Life project suffers from this a little bit).