Audience Participation in Digital Culture

ARS ELECTRONICA: Diversity of “New” Audiences of Media Art by Barbara U. Schmidt

Posted by Pavel Sedlak on May 18, 2008

ARS ELECTRONICA: Diversity of “New” Audiences of Media Art

Barbara U. Schmidt

This presentation is related to the research project “Operating System Ars Electronica. By using the terms “operation” and “operating system” that were introduced into the field of arts in the early ‘90s, this project specifically refers to discussions from the area of institutional critique which questioned strategies of the presentation and appreciation of art. The term “system” also refers to a primarily cultural studies approach, which serves to describe and analyze, how the Ars Electronica Festival was initiated and how all of its components function and interact. The program of the Ars Electronica Festival is outstanding, because it offers the audiences a great variety of events and approaches. But its structure is not neutral, rather it positions the events in distinct sequences, at special times and locations. These parameters have a great influence: they signalize the ‘importance’ of events, they separate contents from each other, they get along with distinct behaviors and dress codes, they indicate whether the event is rather entertaining or instructive. Thus there is a broad variety of topics and events but at the same time there is also a clear system of classification, a system which also implies a differentiation between audiences: between lay persons and experts, insiders and outsiders, artists and amateurs. In my paper I would like to ask whether these distinctions – which are significant for the field of media art in general – still meet with the practices, the interests, and the self-concept of all groups of audiences; because due to the mediatization of society there is a wide range of visitors who do not fit into these binary patterns: they have for instance expertise in programming or web-design concerning to their professional background, others are creative and well informed media-amateurs or game aficinados. My paper is based on interviews with visitors of Ars Electronica in 2006.

Bio: Barbara U. Schmidt (DE) is researcher at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Media.Art.Research. in Linz (A), where she directs a research project on the institutional development and objectives of the Ars Electronica. She studied art history and German language and literature at the universities of Bonn and Munich. From 1995 to 1998 she was an assistant to the Women’s Representative of, and a lecturer at, the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich. She was also active as a curator (exhibitions, multimedia projects, conferences, and film events, among others for Kunstraum München and the Künstlerwerkstatt Lothringer Strasse, Munich) as well as an assistant lecturer at various Austrian universities. Between 2003 and 2005, Schmidt worked as an assistant professor at the Institute for Media/Media Theory at the University of Arts and Industrial Design in Linz and as director of the research project “New Media Images,” supported by the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture.

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