Hi, please

Catching up with the XXI Century- culture and the Web

Hi, everyone. I am happy to join this conversation as the newest addition to this Topics in Digital Media class– Quick presentation: My name is Jimena Lara, second-semester MCC student from Mexico City. My general background is in Communication and Cultural Public Policy. I’ve been working in different areas of Mexico’s Ministry of Culture for the past few years: mainly in cultural project development in general, grants and scholarships for the arts; and marketing for the performing arts.

My experience there has shown me how technology’s role within the Arts has become increasingly important; both as means and platforms for creation, and as a priceless tool for marketing, communication and cultural advocacy– especially in a country with such diverse cultural needs as Mexico.

I would like my first plunge into digital travel to go down this path. I believe that there are awesome possibilities of making arts organizations and new media join in an amazing, firework-deserving, explosive relationship. Some of the issues that I’d like to explore are:

1.  Outreach–

Unlike the United States, cultural policy in Mexico is mainly a governmental issue. The majority of the cultural institutions and the education and cultural policies are under the control of the Federal and Local Governments through the National Council for Culture and the Arts; and the vast majority of cultural institutions (all of the archeological sites and most of the museums and concert halls, as well as the main orchestras, dance and theatre companies, etc.) are financed with public funds.

Therefore, it is a primary objective and responsibility to make culture and the Arts as accessible as possible for the whole country. This means reaching an extremely  diverse population (both socially and economically) with, of course, a very limited (actually, shrinking) budget. The sizzling urban centers might be bustling with theater, film and museums, but also the small rural towns in the middle of the mountains, the jungle or the desert need to be taken into account and their own cultural expressions to find a spot in the national stage.

How can digital media help to establish a true cultural dialogue between urban and rural? What possibilities does it offer for crossing the multi-language barrier in a country with 62 indigenous tongues? In the world of streaming and 360º cameras, distance should be a much lesser problem, right?

2. New audience formation–

In order to survive, any cultural institution needs to keep reaching for different segments of the population and engage new audiences in its offers. Digital media can prove to offer amazing tools to interest the younger generations, as well as other alternative, highly politicized or underground communities.

3. Digital marketing and publicity–

I can’t say if it’s a wider phenomenon, but least in Mexico the tendency of cultural organizations (both public, private and non-for-profit) is to focus their advertising and marketing efforts mostly on the media that they have known for so long: newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, flyers, posters, and billboards. In my experience, the older and more ‘respectable’ the institution is, the more it doubts the effectiveness of digital alternatives of advertising. Furthermore, they seem to tremble at the mere thought of opening their websites to the uncontrollable world of social media (“but what if someone criticizes us and everybody reads it?”). Although traditional media does give positive results, there is no questioning the impact of digital media and, particularly, social networking as a faster, much cheaper means of publicity and circulation. I’d like to further explore the communication strategies that have worked for local art institutions.

4. Networking–

How can public, private and non-for-profit cultural institutions make the most of digital networking? Strong connections are essential for funding, idea exchange, joint advertising, and other forms of cross-pollination. Even more than institutions, independent artists and collectives can benefit enormously from joining systems, lists, and other collectives to show and even commercialize their work– like this cool project from hitRECORD.org Still, in the ever-growing sea of options that is the Web, it’s hard for smaller actors to gain visibility. What are the best strategies for this?

Anyway, I know I need to narrow this down a lot and set a clearer path to travel or I might end up walking in circles–and without a GoogleMap, of course.

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  1. Leslie 12:31, Feb 1st, 10

    Hi Jimena…welcome! Looking into how different cultural and artistic institutions use the web to try to promote their cause seems like an interesting topic. It’s important for organizations like this to have a strong networking community and get people to feel an emotional connection with the org.

    Looking into how hard it is for smaller artists vs bigger artistic organizations to get their word out (as see with the hitrecord.org video) could be an interesting subtopic to explore. Do the larger organizations try to help the smaller people? If so, to what extent? I write for a horror film website that actively tries to promote the indie and lesser-known film makers within the genre. But, I know a lot of the bigger horror film websites do not bother to get the word out for the smaller people. Does this hold true for the whole of the arts community? If so, what does this mean when it comes to the Internet- a place where there’s supposed to be room for everyone’s voice?

  2. Alexandra Cale 15:07, Feb 1st, 10

    Welcome Jimena! I was particularly interested in your third point about digital marketing and publicity. My company has the same reaction – what if someone says something bad about us?! There are lots of examples out there of businesses using social media to great benefit. However, the culture of the place has to be ready to expose themselves to the potential for criticism.

    There have been talks that Google wants to buy Yelp, a site where anyone can review restaurants, businesses, etc. Yelp can make or break a business easily by the comments people post about it. I think if Google wants to get involved in the social commentary business than that says something about how much more potential there is for success. Check out an article about the deal: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/19/technology/companies/19yelp.html?_r=2&src=tptw

  3. mushon 08:45, Feb 2nd, 10

    Indeed a worthy subject, but as you said Jimena, this needs some narrowing down. I personally find the public outreach issue interesting, as this indeed is something that should be made easier these days.

    You might want to check on the ideas behind the Electro Smog festival. They are coming from a different perspective, identifying a double standard in the sustainability debate in which the conferences and festivals that touch on the subject actually fly speakers over and by that often leave a higher carbon footprint than the conference outcomes could ever clear. ESmog, subtitled “International Festival for Sustainable Immobility” will try to nail down ways for using teleconferencing technology and global networks in general to create a successful cultural event with a low carbon footprint. Nailing down these issues obviously helps lower the cost of a festival and potentially extending its outreach. More about it here: http://electrosmogblog.wordpress.com/

  4. Harris 14:46, Feb 2nd, 10

    This is also extremely relevant to one of the projects I want to work in Pakistan, where terrorists specify cultural events and spaces as direct targets. I’ll be very interested in your virtual outreach research and might also look at possibilities of virtual cultural events (that I will share with you).