The Wednesday morning workshop focused on the concept of participation in culture.
Jean Pierre quoted from a report from MIT, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture by Henry Jenkins. Though referring to media development, it says that participatory culture should enable people to develop their skills, their knowledge, their ethical framework and their self-confidence – something which is empowering.
This report aims to shift the conversation about the “digital divide” from questions about access to technology to questions about access to opportunities for involvement in participatory culture and how to provide all young people with the chance to develop the cultural competencies and social skills needed. Fostering these skills, the authors argue, requires a systemic approach to media education; schools, after school programs, and parents all have distinctive roles to play.
Schools can create a context that facilitates participation but as Jean Perre had pointed out previously, he believes that the education system stifles creativity. (There’s an American article which looks at this here: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/18133-when-schools-become-dead-zones-of-the-imagination-a-critical-pedagogy-manifesto)
1. Culture which has low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement. So that means you can take part.
2. There is strong support for sharing one’s creation. Informal mentorship allows the more experienced will help novices to have access. All the members – not clients – are convinced that their contribution matters and are convinced that it is important that they say something, that it will be heard, and that it will have an impact.
3. There is a connection between between people because the logic is shifting from an individual logic to a community logic. People care about other people’s participation.
Participatory cultures reward participation. Not everyone must participate, but everyone must believe that if they participate it will be valued.
Ania felt that participation was a close relation to accessibility, but not quite the same. With participatory the people should express what they need and we should be open to that. She asked the group to describe the people who took part in their actions, activities, who came to their events and cultural institutions. How do we define, describe, categorise? Audience? Clients? She went on to share several examples.
Note: Brendan gave an example of a project over four years with Jubilee Arts. ‘The People’s Portrait’ was a series of projects made with local groups in response to a damning article in the colour supplement national newspaper, called ‘Ghetto Britain: Black Country Blues’ which portrayed the area as one of the worst places to live in the UK, with a photographer flown in for 48 hours to capture the essence of the place. The project ‘Sandwell in Black & White’ asked people who lived in Sandwell to photograph their home place, to make and share their own images. Over the period of a year a camera was given to a cross section of random individuals. One person per week was asked to photograph whatever they chose, reflecting their neighbourhoods, their lives, their daily concerns. It was no scientific sample but a range reflecting the ethnic mix, age and occupational diversity. The majority of the people asked to participate were strangers to the organisers, met at the bus stop or in a shop. Among them were a hairdresser, a fireman, a member of a Mothers & Toddlers group, a video store owner, young people, pensioners, a football groundskeeper, employed and unemployed. Sixty four people took part in total. Those who took part had the final choice of what image was printed for the show, and had the opportunity to meet other participants through editorial meetings. The result couldn’t be more different from the images that come from outsiders, or presented in the media.