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Cultural Centres in the Age of Digitalization

27 October 2015

On Thursday 15 October, ECAS’ Digital Democracy and Campaigning Coordinator Elisa Lironi was invited to speak at the Travelling Academy, which was organised by the European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC).

The Travelling Academy was a three-day seminar in Krakow which gathered representatives of cultural centres to debate on ‘Reinventing Forms of Civic Participation and Audience Development at the Age of Digitalization: the Role of Cultural Centres’. The aim of the seminar was to discuss ways to enhance citizen participation in cultural and democratic life, especially in an age in which digitalization has a strong impact on our societies. Furthermore, the seminar explored new possibilities for connecting, collaborating and sharing with each other to tackle common challenges in different fields, such as education and migration.

On the first day the participants were invited to have a city tour in the centre of Krakow and meet several local cultural stakeholders and associations who explained the impact of digitalization on their work.

On the second day, ECAS was invited to give an introduction on digital democracy and to describe ways in which cultural centres can use technology in order to reach their goals. The presentation included a description of ECAS’ work in empowering citizens to exercise their rights, an explanation of ‘digital democracy’ and ‘crowdsourcing’, and three case studies of eDemocracy worldwide. Through the three cases, a list of challenges and recommendations were presented to the representatives of cultural centres.

After the introduction by ECAS, the participants were divided into workshops to deepen their knowledge on different specific issues: audience development, cultural participation, youth participation, and re-inventing cities.

On the third day, the participants started off by debating on how to build innovative projects and work with audiences. It was followed by several workshops where some cultural representatives presented the projects of their associations. This was an occasion not only to illustrate their experiences but also to list the challenges they encountered and brainstorm with the rest of the participants on new ideas on how to improve their projects, especially by working together. The topics included the current migration crisis, rethinking future models for cultural centres and building projects around rural issues.

The Travelling Academy event in Krakow allowed national representatives of cultural centres from all across Europe to exchange views on the difficulties they are facing with the rise of digitalization. Most of them agreed that common European cultural projects are necessary in order to tackle complicated situations, such as the refugee crisis. Furthermore, technological advances have led to an important debate on whether cultural centres, including libraries and museums, currently have the same purpose as they did in the past. Many realised that it is time to rethink the concept of cultural centres and how important it is to engage the younger generations through digital tools.