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At the end of January I was part of a ‘Knowledge Exchange Network’ seminar organised by Leila Jancovich and her team at Leeds Metropolitan University held at the fittingly interdisciplinary home that is Culture Lab at Newcastle University.  Through this Network Leila has successfully brought together policy makers, academics and practitioners to share research and ideas and to debate the issues around cultural engagement and participation. With a theme of engagement and participation in the arts on this particular day we focussed on the role that technology plays.

My contribution was around Citizen Power Peterborough and the social media approaches we’ve adopted, with some of the lessons learnt along way as a project that is trying to communicate what we are doing in the city whilst trying to involve and enthuse people in that as much as possible.

I thought I’d share some of the conversation here as it turned towards how the arts and technologies can be a tool for engaging people, here’s some of the abbreviated highlights:

  • Social media offers great opportunity to share cultural content through networks of networks

  • You can tell people about your work and generate a buzz when it might be challenging to do so on the street

  • Film is hugely powerful, participatory and largely accessible as a device for community groups. Check out Citizen Power’s Rebecca Daddow and the FREE group’s simple, effecting film

  • Initiatives like NT Live showed how technologies open up new audiences and create a new kind of cultural experience through sharing live content in cinemas

  • Social media can encourage people to come back to the local

  • Social media doesn’t replace face to face – instead it should strengthen and deepen real life

  • Be careful there is a digital divide and social media excludes some groups totally creating a new form of exclusion

  • Equally social media can be used as a way over overcoming social exclusion for some groups

  • But resist the pressure to always be new. Don’t innovate for the sake of it.  If it works already, great, stick with it and see if you can’t make it bigger. This is what business would do.

There’s conference that brings together all the different themes explored by the Knowledge Exchange Network; internationalism, engagement strategies, place and geography and socially engaged practice on Tuesday 26 June at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  To join the off-line conversation book here.


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