This is a brief reflection on my contribution to a panel in the ISEA2011 symposium at Istanbul. I was there thanks to the generous and trusting invitation from Charlotte Frost, who had never met me before but thought my tweets were interesting enough. It was a great opportunity to meet Charlotte, to meet Ruth Catlow from Furtherfield for the first time (ridiculously), to catch up with Dougald Hine and to get to know Jack Hutchinson and, mentioned only last because his presence was remote, Marcus Romer. It was also pretty wonderful to be in Istanbul for the first time, a city that combines excitement with comfort in equal measure. (Photos will soon appear.) Charlotte asked us to follow up by writing some reflections. I have been shamefully inadequate at the task due to the fact that my daughter has needed helping through school trauma and now I’m home schooling her.
My slides for the panel session can be seen here on Slideshare. And my notes for the slides are here on Evernote. (I tried to be digitally whizzy and collate the whole thing on Storify, but I just couldn’t quite cope with all this cross-linking and embedding, so I made a cup of tea and did a blogpost.) For those as short of time as I am, in a nutshell, I talked about what public art museums & galleries are doing and what they could do better to promote more participation and sharing between creative practitioners and the public. And above all, why they need to be doing it better. The reason for ramping up what they do is the context of a severe pressure on resources and growing instability of the economy-ecology. The ways they need to ramp up include much more open sharing of content, much more involvement of people in collaborative problem-solving and much more connection with people such as design activists.
After returning from Istanbul I gave a talk at the Museums Association conference, about how museums could contribute to wellbeing in the context of environmental instability, through a greater focus on the reality of our context and looking more to the future. Slides can be seen here and read more on the post Why we need happy museums. The conversations with the others on the ISEA panel had been very helpful for me to clarify my thoughts about the false opposition between social and environmental justice, affirming my belief in the importance of sharing between disciplines and of overcoming antagonism in order to work towards common goals. It also led to these attempts to visualise in diagrams the distinction between supporting the status quo and taking a positive but entirely radical stance in relation to economy, education and prosperity.
So often the best things to come out of conferences are from the conversations around food and between the sessions where you must dutifully listen. Absolutely true in this case, though ISEA was a great chance to see installations of digital art and hear more about art and technology from some very dignified and knowledgeable speakers.