The internet stage for cultural institutions

9 May 2006. Published by Benoît Labourdette.

(text written in 2006, before the advent of social networks and cultural proposals such as the Arte website for example)

New Internet Issues

The Internet is no longer a showcase, the Internet has become a (real) space of sociality. There are some of the biggest Internet specialists I have. But I can reflect on the transmission of culture.

Sites like allocine.com federate, around movies, comments, rich exchanges between people. There is a construction, in the long term, of the gaze, the critical spirit, which passes through these spaces of exchange and reflection.

The place of cultural institutions

A cultural institution, ie a theater, a museum, a cinematheque, a place of heritage, etc., is a place of transmission. What is transmission? It is the passage from something to someone, of the order of the human. The particularity of what is called transmission, especially in the context of culture, is its double meaning, its triple meaning itself. An artist transmits to spectators, who send him something, it is not, in itself, one-way, it is an exchange, otherwise it does not “pass”. Exchange is essential for transmission. And then, the third meaning is what the viewers make of it, afterwards, the way in which they themselves appropriate this emotion, this information, this element of personal construction, or not (there are not only good cultural events ...).

How Transmission Works Today

Today is the time of the show, of course. But this moment is ephemeral. It can be very strong, yes. But in our real world, we are assailed with images and sounds, very beautiful (an advertisement can be magnificently plastic), but which are not in the “ethics” of transmission, which are in the logic of the sale . And yet they do, they use the “recipes” of art, they recycle, and why not, besides. I do not wish to make an easy critique of the company’s audio-visual communication.

But how can one find one’s place, how can one restore one’s “strong place”, if I dare to express oneself thus, its value, to emotion, to this sincere moment of transmission? How to identify oneself because all the messages are blurred because of the profusion of images that are propelled to our senses?

The places of sociality

The physical space around us is saturated, and hard to continue being the substratum of our social construction. This new place of communication that is the space of the internet, the forums, the blogs, the mailing lists, etc., imposes on us like a real space of construction of our sociality. If it is so frequented, if necessary, it is because it provides us with a terrain of exchange and transmission that is precisely, available, profound, free (not only) and vast.

The continuum that institutions should support

Thus, for example, after having seen a show or before, the possibility of exchange, sharing, multiple transmissions and rich, open, can practically only pass through the space of the internet.

Takeover by private companies

Private companies have, in the course of a few years, noticed this, and taken charge of this vital need for exchange of people. So there are forums on all subjects, but also sites of exchange and sharing of photos, videos. This, basically, even if the intentions of the entrepreneurs are marked by democracy, always has a “commercial” objective in the long run.

The role of cultural institutions in Internet space

Cultural institutions, through the quality of their work of approach, mediation and transmission, must accompany, in this continuum of the spectator’s journey, the amateur (in the sense in which Bernard Stiegler), to build, to propose.

In order for a show, a film, an exhibition, to make sense, to be embodied fully, fairly and freely in the reality of each viewer, it must be possible for the audience , continuity, before-during-after the cultural event, in a “managed” way (what a terrible word ...) by the cultural institution, with its particular and valuable skills. Thus, on the one hand, people will be enriched and on the other hand the social, that is to say also the future, warned, of cultural productions, will be built.

If this “editorialization”, these sayings, this ethic of exchanges, is not taken care of by public cultural institutions, this will be done by private companies, in the name of financial interests, anyway, because the need is there. And, eventually, the theater, or the museum, which will be less and less frequented physically, will perish.

Cultural institutions must play this role of “guide” in the forest of the offer that is found on the Internet. A guide not magistral, but guide of exchanges. We must build these ethical spaces of exchange and transmission. They can bring so much to everyone: people, the social, for construction, and institutions for their sustainability.

Concrete Objectives for Cultural Institutions

It is, in my opinion, extremely simple: it is enough that the cultural institutions offer websites on which the spectators, everyone and the artists can exchange, make links, around the proposed events. And it is there, although at first it seems tenuous, it is a new, valued social fabric that is being built.

A finding

The websites of many theaters, cinemas or museums are, in 2006, showcase sites, which can be very sophisticated, but in which the person only has a place of viewer. So that precisely, all the stake of the Internet, and deeply for the institutions and the cultural transmission, is in its capacity of exchange between the people.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, faced with the reality principle, the State will ask the cultural institutions to account for the traffic on their website and the nature of the “added value” for the citizens. Institutions are more fragile than people think. The State, it is hoped, will always play its role of “pilot”. And if he does his job well, he will be forced, for his duty to the taxpayer, to put an end to the existence of what has a cost but no longer enough cultural and social “productivity” . Let’s hope it does not happen. But I sincerely believe that many cultural institutions today have a major step to take to ensure their sustainability, and especially for the sustainability of the works they know so well transmit in their physical spaces.

A new job to learn

There is certainly a new job to be learned: the website is no longer a “communication tool”, it must be an integral part of the cultural mediation project, whose center is not the work but the person who receives the work and transmits it.