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Creating New Forms of Cultural Participation

The final speaker here at the Prosumer Revisited conference is Gerhard Panzer, whose interest is in the consumption of cultural goods. Such cultural consumption can be defined as the purchase and/or use of cultural works and services; these are objects that have specific embedded meanings, whose quality is realised through the process of reception. Their value is determined through attention and recognition; consumers of such objects are therefore co-producers of (the value of) cultural works.

Cultural producers, in turn, are also consumers of other cultural producers' works, and are influenced by their wider environment (competitors, financiers, publishers, audiences, etc.). This influence may have taken place against the wishes of cultural producers (where patrons or publishers altered works) or may have been specifically sought out by cultural producers (for example through live performance). Indeed, markets for cultural products are themselves also complex networks of institutions.

It is possible to distinguish two particularly important forms of cultural works in this context: fixed works (literature, film, visual arts) where the shape of the work is determined by the producer and the work can be consumed in a multi-user setting (the museum, the cinema); and open works (the performing arts) where only the directions for the work are defined, but need to be interpreted by other artists, and can be performed and consumed in a multi-user setting (the theatre, the concert hall).

These latter, for example, are still consumed largely in a standard historically developed fashion which was defined in the 18th century - in darkened theatres -, but since the 1920s there has been a countermovement focussed on eliciting specific audience reactions, and since the 1960s there has been a stronger turn towards the performative which introduced a self-referential feedback loop that turned the audience itself into a performer of the piece.

There are other transformative tendencies also for fixed works, and this is creating new markets. Digital and social interventions are transforming the music industry, for example, and the book market is becoming a market for texts, through the emergence of e-books; these specific transformations have taken place where driven by the interests of users.

But this is only a limited picture: such transformative processes in the cultural field may be initiated by either producers (artists) or consumers (art enthusiasts). What is common for such developments is that a key interest is also to stage cultural participation; museums offer guided tours specifically for singles, and queues in front of museums become part of the cultural event themselves, for example. This is also an attention-grabbing strategy, then.

And that's it - goodbye from Frankfurt...

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