Culture & New Media (with a side point on books)

Eoin Purcell

A fine conference (after a fine meal)
There was something great about The New Media. New Audience? Conference run by the Arts Council last week. For one thing it was great to see Charles Leadbeater and Andrew Keen spar (no matter how mildly they did so). We rarely see clashes on such opposed viewpoints and when it refers directly to your own industry it is particularly interesting.

Leadbeater is the optimist and Keen, the somewhat posed pessimist. I say posed because you get the sense that he is in fact a personally shy man who would rather not be gunning up opposition the way he is, except that it sells books & gets him speaking gigs.

Its all about marketing
Which brings me to the over riding message I got from this fine conference. The strongest sense was that most Irish Arts organizations see the best way forward with the web in using it as a marketing tool with an allied with an almost overwhelming lack of clarity on how to do that.

There was an avoidance, especially in my panel session, of any discussion of the web and new media as a way to collaborate or to generate new and different arts. I found this odd until I realised that the vast bulk of the attendees had little exposure to the web as anything more than the home of Google and free content.

And why should they have. The tools of interaction are hardly the most widely advertised. Blogs have a bad pr problem that is only slowly being addressed. People at the panel feared the loss of control when their content went online. They wondered how best to reach audiences across all platforms.

Where does this point us?
There is a real need not for high talk of collaboration and new media, but for solid and basic ways to interact with audiences and potential customers online. It seems after the conference that there is much work to be done and embedding the arts world in the online world in a real and meaningful way.

That is not to say that there are not individuals and organizations with an excellent grasp of how the web can be used and who are working on exciting projects that deliver real and interesting results, just that for the vast majority, the web is not a friendly place!

A very worthwhile conference nonetheless getting people, at the very least, focused on these issues. That can never hurt!
Eoin