Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The good that culture on the web does

I'm looking forward to the C4-sponsored 2Together conference which is bringing together 'visionaries' (and wannabees like me) to explore how digital technologies can solve bigger problems. I've been nudging the organisers to ensure that there is a slot or current exploring the triangulation of culture, digital technologies and solving the bigger problems.

There is a bit a gulf between movements for good and the cultural sector, which is not to say that culture doesn't have a contribution to make. Part of the reason for the gulf is the resistance to instrumentalism in the arts sector, and perhaps a sense that culture is elitist and indulgent amongst the social good and charities sectors. I want to bridge that gulf and show that this polarised view of each other is out of date, and that digital technologies play a key role in this shift.

So, if the conference is going to touch on culture at all, I'd better get on and come up with some suggestions. The trouble is, where to start. Culture is so broad, from popular contemporary creativity to archived information and documenting passing knowledge, not forgetting the work of museums and arts organisations. Do parts of culture do more good than others? Does it do more good if it gets spread more widely and involves more people in participation? Is the internet as a cultural ark (e.g. as in the collecting of dying tribal languages) the strongest force for good? Is that task worthwhile, or should we focus on fostering new ways of thinking to solve the huge global problems we face?

Any good examples? Any ideas?