Day 3: Salzburg Global Seminar on Cultural-Exchange Based Diplomacy or,
The Sound of Cultural Engagement
(for the program of the Seminar, see)
The Sound of Cultural Engagement
(for the program of the Seminar, see)
On Day 3 of the conference at the 490th Salzburg Global Seminar (April 28-May 2), "Public and Private Cultural-Exchange Based Diplomacy: New Models for the 21st Century"; see previous posts (1) (2) on this event), I attended two plenary sessions -- "Creating an Enabling Environment that Promotes Cultural Diversity within the Context of Cultural Relations" and "Global Communications and the Rise of Social Media: The Future of International Cultural Engagement" -- as well as the breakout sessions (10-person small group meetings) following these two events.
Below are main points I took from these wide-ranging discussions. My account is not comprehensive; readers interested in more thoughtful remarks/details about the conference will find them in its forthcoming final report.
In some cases, below I am quoting speakers directly, with memorable (to my mind) phrases in quotation marks.
Creating an Enabling Environment that Promotes Cultural Diversity within the Context of Cultural Relations" and Global Communications and the Rise of Social Media: The Future of International Cultural Engagement (Plenary Session)
--Diversity in principle is worthy to pursue, but as a term it is a "head-scratcher" and a "sponge word" that does not have a definitive definition.
--Cultural engagement activists are always asked to "prove the benefit" of their programs to state funders.
--A civilized society requires investment in education and culture if it aspires to create trust -- and overcome xenophobia and loss of confidence in government.
--The British Council is a government-funded agency with 7000 employees and programs in 110 countries that include education, the arts, the rule of law and English teaching.
--The BC believes that not all its activities must originate from London headquarters; it strongly supports partnerships that go beyond "lunchtime alliances." Its emphasis is on learning and listening.
--The new social media and technology as a whole offer BC great opportunities to provide outreach tailored to specific audiences.
--A diverse world will make us culturally richer. An English-speaking international elite can be a challenge to diversity.
--A relatively new Arab NGO involved in cultural engagement such as Cultural Resource in Cairo can find collaboration with a large American organization a bureaucratic challenge.
--Cultural figures/organizations from the Arab world that seek links with the West should not wait for an invitation; they themselves should take the initiative if they wish to be recognized.
--Understanding and connecting with Islamists should be a priority of forward-looking Arab cultural organizations.
--In the United States, there is a huge marginilization of Hispanics in the field of arts and culture. The cultural "Latinization" of the USA has a long way to go.
--Los Angeles partners with foreign cultural entities (and their embassies in Washington) in arranging cultural exchange programs, including with Latin America.
--In the case of cultural engagement with Africa by means of an exhibition, Global Africa, a key issue is the distinction -- overstressed by some specialists -- between "craft" and "art."
Creating an Enabling Environment that Promotes Cultural Diversity within the Context of Cultural Relations" and Global Communications and the Rise of Social Media: The Future of International Cultural Engagement (Breakout Session)
--Diversity is not an issue in Japan.
--China is a multi-national society of different ethnicities and languages. The policy of the government is "diversity in unity."
--In Russia, where 100 languages are spoken, Russian helps keep the country linguistically together.
--In order to preserve and encourage diversity, a strategy is needed to link cultural engagement with the experience and expectation of its audiences. But those involved in this process should expect the unexpected.
--Measurement of the results of cultural engagement is important, but cannot always be evaluated scientifically through questionnaires. In some situations, cultural diplomacy cannot be measured.
--In its search for diversity, a complex term, cultural engagement should not neglect the need to encourage artistic excellence.
Cultural Diplomacy and Engagement in the Digital Age: Global Communications and the Rise of Social Media: The Future of International Cultural Engagement (Plenary Session)
--In the past, obtacles to cultural diplomacy and engagement in the Arab world have included what is perceived as hypocritical policies by outside powers.
--Contrary to what is widely believed in non-Arab countries, the term "Arab Spring" surfaced after the March 2005 Iraqi elections, as an effort to depict the American invasion as making political reform possible. In reality, the Arabic words for "revolution" and "dignity" were used to describe the more recent protests throughout the Middle East.
--Digital media have transformed how individuals in the Arab world (and in the Arab diaspora) interact with one another. These media have also contributed to an expansion in the region of a consumer culture that makes choice possible in the selection of marketable products. But Facebook and Twitter are not the "magic bullet" that brought about political change in non-democratic countries.
--The upper echelons of Arab society have far lesser power to define culture's purpose and content because of the mind-opening information available on the internet.
--Arab governments are using social media in an effort to manipulate its cyberspace-savvy citizens.` They also try to control the flow in private internet message. "One click can sometimes cost someone's life."
--Most of humankind has a tendency to be initially put off by new technology. The telegraph, for example, was first dismissed as the "tell-lie-graph."
--The advance of technology occurs in waves (the term "surfing" a propos the web turns out to be most apt ). Sometimes the drawbridge of technology is pulled up, sometimes down. It is hard to evaluate the effect of a technological "magic bullet."
--Cultural engagement is not limited to the physical world. It can also occur in virtual space, as several digital projects (including one using Second Life) have suggested.
--Traditionally museums are about objects; the digital universe is about intangible items.
--Museums must adapt to the digital revolution, no longer considering themselves, in terms of delivering content, as a source of permanent, unchangeable, information.
--The purpose of social media from a cultural engagement perspective is "to find and interact with interesting people."
--"Digital culture is an overlay on the physical world."
--In terms of the evolution of the social media, the sky's the limit. At the same time, what's new one day is old the next: "Facebook is the McDonald's of the Internet."
Cultural Diplomacy and Engagement in the Digital Age: Global Communications and the Rise of Social Media: The Future of International Cultural Engagement (Breakout Session)
--Facebook is used as a medium in Russia for cultural engagement; the local portal vkontakte.ru is very popular. An EU-sponsored project for designing a virtual space for disabled persons is being implemented by the St. Petersburg PRO ARTE Foundation for Culture and Arts in partnership with organizations in Scandinavian countries.
--The website World Cultures Connect, a project in development by the Resource Center for Cultural Engagement, aims to bring individuals and organization involved in cultural engagement together via the Internet.
--The Centro Cultural Estacion Mapocho in Chile makes extensive use of the social media.
--How employees of organizations involved in cultural engagement should use the social media in/at their work can be problematical. While blogs with a personal voice can attract a wider audience than bland announcements, it is not always clear how much "control" an organization should have over the opinions of its employees.
--Use of the internet for cultural engagement should not be limited to social media. Skype, for example, can be an effective and inexpensive way to reach audiences.
Day 4: Salzburg Global Seminar on Cultural-Exchange Based Diplomacy
Day 4 was wrap-up day. The speculations and recommendations of Breakout Sessions were discussed at two Plenary Meetings. Session Rapporteur Andras Szanto envisioned that the final report on the Seminar would consist of five parts: context; gaps; needs; opportunities; action.
Image of Mozart statue, Salzburg, from
With many thanks to SSF.