Audience Participation in Digital Culture

Join in and share what you are being offered

Posted by JaFraFrie on July 31, 2009

Joining in… Joining in…. Join in and share what you are being offered

Participatory Artworks – Approaches to the digital culture as target group

Statement: the perception offer determines the strategy

Excursions into the history of art

_Reception as participation

The constitutive role of the (art) observer can be identified and defined for each aesthetic experience on the basis of the works reception of Marcel Duchamps. According to him the element of participation accomplishes the constitution of a work of art only with the reception thereof. John Cage makes the dimensions of effects of technical media become the central work tool of art. They make the participating and constituting role of the recipient into the central working tool with a new form of creativity and a new definition of the term work. Cage accomplished his compositions for radios with the use of technical media at the beginning of the fifties. Cage is known to be the first one who used random processes to create a creative act. In pieces like »Imaginary Landscape No. 4« (1951) he determined the parameters of his musical score after »I Ging«. They were but instructions for the operation of the radio. The sounds of the radio stations received brought the randomness in a relation to the uniqueness of the respective performance.

From participation to interaction

The next step in the progression from participating to interactive elements in art is found in a new form of art production, which lets the recipient interact with the work of art. This interaction can also pertain to the optical form, sound or text. In the course of this the work of art becomes a type of collaborative process, where the artist and various recipients take part in by means of an object, a context of a situation or a technical medium. Instead of a finished work, an open sphere of activity is being created by the participants. They interact among each other within the given confines. The interaction is such that it becomes the central factor of the aesthetic experience and dissolves borderlines between authors, participants and audience. At this point the concept of the “happening” by Allan Kaprow, can be referred to as representative example.

_Change of meaning of interactivity

In comparison of the sixties to the nineties there has been a change of meaning of interactivity, that is closely connected to a shift of the key motives for the application of art and media. In the sixties the effects of art and media were aligned by a combination of ideological objectives with technical means. The social and cultural utopia was the deliverable of a desired future function of the media, which was hoped to trigger off social change. Activity art as well as the political movements in the sixties had a downright critical attitude towards technology, this relationship however reverses during the nineties. The media technology establishes itself as key motive, which is adequate to the perception of a world increasingly mediated by media. The present day opportunities to interact are closely tied to the electronic media. They are determined by the technology of the interfaces and the rules of the software.

conclusion: the media art has established the participation of the observer in the creation of an art of work as an interactivity between observer and work of art, in the sense of mutually taking influence

_media hype = participation hype?

So far so good. We can thus assume that more than a hundred years of art history are sufficient to establish a general understanding and wide acceptance of participation within the arts. If we look at Charlie Gere’ and his derivation theory of digital culture, it will be obvious that a comprehensive expansion of the digital technologies will affect all spheres of production and society. Furthermore our ways of perception and activity options will change. Entirely in the sense of McLuhan: specific cultural contexts influence the values and beliefs that determine behavioural patterns. After Marshall McLuhan’s media theories, such physical and psychic behavioural role-playing has been examined in relation to media and how media, as extensions of human behaviour, affect our environment and our interactions.

But what will happen, if within the target group „digital culture“ a type of perception establishes that is in the first place passive ? In an electronically networked world – especially with the hype of the so-called media – a type of interaction has evolved which primarily takes place in front of the computer, i.e. in a sitting position. Where on your festivals and events are the representatives of a postulated digital culture ?

What are the relevant connotations of a digital bohemian world, a digital culture or interface culture ?

  • user-created contents
  • subjective scope of experience
  • networking/ network communication
  • secondary real-time experience

But are those the typical parameters for an activation of our target group ? The question is: how can a general trend within the medial world be transformed into a real involvement and connection to cultural offers ? What needs to be done so that our offers are perceived actively, not just as information or web-based announcement, but as being directly present and available on site. What steps are needed to stimulate a direct participation in the offers ? The participating offers that make the visitors join in have to be reviewed and adjusted depending on the respective perceptive offer. How can we achieve the new thinking together ? In what way can we come together and organise events like CYNETART, which is a source of fun and radiating happiness for the new generation of the digital world ?


  1. If we talk about art and art works we have to seriously consider the users with their specific conditions of life and perception.
  2. Certain perceptive occasions (cultural events) aren’t pieces of work as such. They rather have to be declared or perceived as works of art. They have to be sensed and assessed.

Art cannot be determined in terms of essentialism, i.e. within itself, but only by someone, who regards it as part of a symbolisation process. To this end we have established our festivals and events. Art (conceptions) can only be determined within art (conceptions). Only someone who knows what he considers art can get answers to the question about art or get into problems with art.

From the above I conclude the requirement to communicate the respective philosophies of the organising committees/curators to the outside world. Furthermore the understanding of the offered occasion to perceive (art) has to be made clear.

We always talk about art in a preconceived and biased way due to our own art concept ort he one known to us. And these concepts are usually formed imperceptibly in the course of the respective subject-specific socialisation. Within this process we make prototype experiences with perceptive offers, which are presented as works of art and which we have learned to regard as art at the time of the respective experience.

The term defining art and work cannot be fixed to timeless characteristics, but must be related to attitudes that stem from socialisation, prototype experiences, expectations and assessments. The more uniform their socialisation (digital culture), the more uniform will be their expectations and experiences. Therefore the cultural and participating offers (occasions to perceive) should feature material compositions that correspond to these expectations and experiences. The participants in the art process should be led to the assumption that the conception is the result of specific works/project characteristics.

Maybe borrowings taken from the happening, fluxus or concept art help you there. These avant-gardes of modernism have continued to dematerialise the work (of art) going as far as staged/acted processes or even pure playing with ideas. Theory and practice enter a generally changed relationship to each other. The work (of art) has lost its complacent self-sufficiency. It has to be brought to the frame of its baseline theories in order to realise the semantic and aesthetic message of art production. Therefore the work (of art) is dropped from its special position as autonomous work of art and becomes the moment of comprehensive reflection. This work necessitates a recipient, who uses it as a starting point for reflective perception and then produces separate and individual work realisations from it. The character of such work means in the first place to document a production and reception process at significant points or in a remarkable condition.

The subject takes the place of the object. The subject constructs objects by its perspective and its figurative attempts. Seeing and not the figured objects, the presentation mode and not the presented, the expression and not the objective connection dominate.

Conclusion: web 2.0 marketing-strategies and work-intrinsic participation offers cannot be held apart. In terms of their characteristics they are comparable. Especially with the early involvement of our potential audience in the production process of the festival or a specific project or the stimulation for the reception process by special offers of mediation.

on the future of participatory media
building sites around social objects

The objective: long-term involvement in activities of TMA especially special projects. What is the social object of TMA Hellerau?

Thomas Dumke, Mai 2009

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: