Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Media and Cultural Institutions

Note that often I have adapted what the author is talking about to the idea of a cultural institution because it is relevant and media businesses, content, platforms and audiences operate and exist within cultural institutions

An analysis of New Media, New Audiences (Chapter 18 of The Media and communications in Australia)

Fiona Martin

Interactivity with Audiences

As new media develops it influences what cultural institutions will present to an audience and will in turn, change how audiences use/visit cultural institutions. As media is becoming more interactive, say for instance an artwork which, through technology changes or moves when an audience member moves through or views it, audience behaviour changes. In the example given the behaviour change is quite positive, a user is very excited that what he/she does changes what is seen, and that the artist has anticipated them. There can, however, be negative change. An example would be a user becoming overwhelmed with new technologies and have not yet themselves adapted, for instance if some of a libraries recourses are now online and the user is not familiar with the environment.

New media can also “reconfigure audience relations, in time, place and space, challenging the confines of old media production” (Pg 319). This can occur with a galleries virtual tour, or a universities virtual classrooms. Audiences do not need to be present in the space to experience and gain from it, they may also not need to witness an event as it happens. This transforms cultural institutions into something else, or something more, by being able to be experienced elsewhere and possibly, by a greater audience. New media can strengthen the cultural institution by spreading further throughout a culture.

Consumers and Commodities

There is an opposing side to this, however. Because new media can attract niche markets, a group of people who favour technology centred exhibitions over more traditional painting forms. Some people who are fond of, or work in other areas, like painting, may even come to resent these new forms. Perhaps they see that less skill is required, that only concept is necessary. (While I might agree somewhat, I might want to remind these people of artists like Duchamp and his ‘ready mades’. Perhaps, though, he is resented by them too). While this article mentions the dilemmas which advertisers face, I would argue this extends to curators, theatre owners, directors, artists, librarians, teachers who all need to strike a balance between new media and ‘old’ media content, so as to please all audiences.


This section of the article discusses primarily online forums which are relevant to today’s cultural institutions because most of them, if not all have an online presence even have their own forums. UTS would be an example of this who has discussion boards within subjects on UTSOnline where students can discuss assessments, share tips, ask questions, find help etc. While the article claims that ‘community’ is not fostered within such forums the benefits lie in the ability to share information quickly and easily.

Creativity and Control

This is of vital importance to cultural institutions, from what students can access due to copyright laws in library and at the university and what is put on show/display at theatres and galleries. As it is noted by Martin, Lessig’s (2004) belief is that copyright law regulates all forms of non-commercial innovation and creativity and has the potential to “restrict us from building on the digital creativity of others” (Page 326). It is also mentioned that some institutions are establishing rights of things which not even yet been created. If such a thing continues it is likely to get out of hand and artists who create for such institutions will not be able to do anything without it being taken away from them or being locked to a specific use.

Analysis of New Media Worlds? Challenges of Convergence

Virginia Nightingale

“Beyond its technological dimension, convergence both precipitates and is accelerated or slows by the social, cultural, managerial and structural responses of media industries, meadia users and media audiences to digitisation” (Page 20). In the same way change in cultural institutions (due to convergence) is accelerated and slowed by responses by the same people and industries. Nightingale points out that convergence is felt the most in three areas:

  1. How media structures must adapt
  2. How content changes
  3. How audience change

In the case of cultural institutions, convergence causes change by:

  1. Creating new platforms for content to appear, instead of just galleries/shelves it is online
  2. The way artists/authors may create changes because of the new medias available to them and those they are aware may change their content. As well as content being created by audiences/users
  3. The audience has a greater level of interactivity and influence over the content and structures

Nightingale also believes that instead of convergence causing a homogenous culture, it will actually produce the opposite. There will be an increase of media platforms, devices and activities. This can be further applied to institutions in that more will be formed because of all of these new platforms, devices and activities. However there is not a clear vision of how traditional media will fit this and how it will need to be developed in order to support new media and exist alongside it. Because of digitisation, institutions need to readjust how they operate and redinie themselves in the new media age. This process is called deconstruction (Evans and Wurster, 2000, pg. 39).

What is currently happening for traditional medias and institutions is they are enhancing themselves by providing and online presence. However, this presence only offers a link to what is happening in the ‘real’ space and is not necessarily a solution. On the positive side of this online presence, Nightingale adds, is that the reach of media of such cultural institutions is widening because the audience isn’t limited to a specific time or place.

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