Category Archives: cultural economy

Audiences, Readers, Listeners, Users – Understanding reception in a digital age

On 18 May I’ll be leading a workshop on ‘Understanding reception in a digital age’ as part of the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Advanced Studies. Below is a description of the event and the schedule for the day. If you’re a researcher at UoB or an artist in the Midlands region and are interested in attending, please get in touch!

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Digital connectivity is radically reshaping how we engage with culture in the 21st century. Whether it’s the books we read, the music we listen to, the theatre we see, or the people with whom we interact, new technologies are remapping the way we access, consume, create, and share cultural experience. This one-day workshop will explore the impact such changes are having on the study of reception across the humanities and social sciences.

Since Stuart Hall’s ground-breaking work in field in the 1970s, the University of Birmingham has been at the forefront of debates about how people interact with culture and the meaning they derive from it. This workshop will build on this long history of interdisciplinary, grassroots thinking by investigating how digital technology is changing both the methods and the objects of reception-oriented research. It will consider how audiences are becoming increasingly active co-producers or ‘pro-sumers’ of artistic works through collaborative digital media, how the data produced through digital encounters might be used to generate new creative projects and formulate new research agendas, and how environment and materiality still shape cultural experience in the supposedly de-localised and disembodied world of online interaction. It will ask how we can best study audience, reader, listener, and user experience in a digital age, making the most of the new methods available to us and the new ways in which people are interacting with and creating culture.

The workshop aims to bring together expertise in reception studies and the digital humanities from across the University, and also to strengthen partnerships with artists and cultural programmers conducting practice-based work in the field. It will showcase the findings of several externally funded projects based at the University, and it will build upon strategic developments in digital research. Each panel will feature three brief presentations from academics and artists, leaving 20-30 minutes per session for further discussion among all the workshop participants. The day will conclude with a one-hour, guided roundtable session, which will result in a list of key questions for the field, identify possibilities for follow-on projects and funding, and outline next steps for digital culture and reception research at UoB.

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10.30-10.40         Introduction and aims for the day – Erin Sullivan (Shakespeare Institute)

10.40-11.30         Data – Michaela Mahlberg (Language and Linguistics), Rowanne Fleck (Computer Science), Di Wiltshire (visual/performance artist)

11.30-11.50         Tea/coffee

11.50-12.40         Co-production – Caroline Chapain (Business School), Helen Abbott (Modern Languages), Annie Mahtani (Music/composer and curator)

12.40-1.40           Lunch

1.40-2.30             Space – Patricia Noxolo (Geography), Matt Hayler (Literature), Katie Day (theatre director)

2.30-3.20             Roundtable discussion with tea/coffee – Danielle Fuller (American Studies/Literature), Peta Murphy-Burke (Arts Council)

3.20-3.30             Next steps – Erin Sullivan

For further details or to register to attend this workshop please contact Lauren Rawlins at l.rawlins@bham.ac.uk. For more about UoB’s Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) see http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/ias/index.aspx.

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Shakespeare, Britain, Brexit

Pretty much glued to news sites and social media feeds this morning as this new phase in UK politics unfolds. Three years ago I was writing about how the London Olympics used Shakespeare to celebrate British diversity, and how the politics that followed were failing to live up to those ideals. But now things are looking even worse than I feared. Watching Farage & co. on the news I can’t help but think of this brilliant and now terribly prescient cartoon by Steve Bell that I wrote about in the essay. Shakespeare will of course survive this sinking ship, but I’m honestly not sure what’s going to happen to us.

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Copyright Steve Bell 2013/All Rights Reserved

 

 

The money question

Very interesting article below about the challenges of financing a theatre broadcasting project (courtesy of John Wyver and his blog at Illuminations Media).

Call me naive, but I would have assumed that commercial theatre (i.e. Broadway and the West End) would be better equipped to capitalize on new financial ventures such as live broadcasting. But this piece from the New York Times — ‘Off Off Off Broadway (at Your Multiplex)’ — suggests that this isn’t the case. On the contrary, established arts institutions like the Met Opera and the National Theatre have both the cultural heft and long-term structure to be able to develop an in-house broadcasting programme and to keep it supplied with a steady stream of productions:

    ‘The scattershot attempts to follow National Theater Live and the Met suggest that there is still plenty of head scratching about the financial and philosophical issues behind the idea of canning Broadway for mass consumption.
    Julie Borchard-Young, who along with her husband, Robert Borchard-Young, runs BY Experience, said the sheer institutional might of companies like the Met and the National made the process far easier to navigate than it would be for an individual Broadway producer. Ms. Borchard-Young, who knew the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, from his days at Sony Classical, was the one who initiated conversations about bringing opera to the movie-theater masses.
    “Broadway is not a single unified institution that can do all the legwork to prepare the marketplace,” she said. “Also, the serial nature is important. When you have a series of productions, everything from marketing to other costs are easier to handle.”’

The other point the article makes are the manifold challenges of negotiating artists’ contracts and associated financial rights — something I’ve heard reiterated in smaller-scale digital projects as well.

Unsurprisingly the question of money is a very, very important one, and one that perhaps we hear far too little of. How much does it cost to produce a live broadcast, and to what extent are those costs recouped through cinematic and DVD/download distribution?