When cultural institutions started to make their way in this ‘viral’ world two or three years ago, there still weren’t any proper names. We fell upon the so-called web 2.0 and despised traditional websites as web 1.0 while web 3.0 appeared on the horizon (where it has evidently since disappeared). We ran to lectures and looked at examples of best practice – and the speakers were always just half a step ahead of the participants. Everyone began “with something somehow” and in retrospect this way of working turned out to be exactly right.
Now social media are an established part of the work of almost all cultural institutions. Our use of them is becoming more strategic and we are beginning to understand that social media require time, money, staff and above all patience. At the same time we are confronted with developments led by technology and content at a pace which had never been anticipated.
Above all for festivals, blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. offer excellent opportunities to maintain contact with their target group in the ‘gaps’ in between festivals. The ‘radio silence’ between festivals (which can last well over a year for biennial events) can become a dialogue between the festival and the public. Audiences can watch the state of planning for ‘their’ festival or can be involved in graphic design (such as at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival).
No sooner do existing possibilities become established than new issues appear which have to be dealt with: at the stART Conference in November 2011 the focus was on augmented reality and transmedia storytelling.
This high speed should not worry anyone. Because the further new technology and mew media develop, the more it is evident that the customary values of professional marketing and communication still apply: attention to the audience, regular dialogue, attentive listening and prompt reactions together with developing good stories around what is on offer. In culture what is on offer – the art which can be experienced – is still the core and focus of our activities.
These apparently banal rules now have to be applied to a multitude of channels and swift interactions – and that’s the real challenge.
We don’t have to jump on every bandwagon, but we can’t afford to wait too long either. In this respect critical observation and open exchange (including occasional studies of “bad practice”) are ideal ways of keeping on track with developments. And it is always worth treating these with a healthy portion of scepticism.
Because ultimately Douglas Adams, the fantastic author of ‘A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’, recognised:
- Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
- Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
- Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.