What is participation?

From the co-creation workshop organized by Co-Creating Cultures at the CCCB

I+C+i // Taller "Disseny col·laboratiu per a institucions culturals"

Photo of the prototype of Hypermedia City realized during the workshop

Foto taken by CCCB (c) Miquel Taverna, 2011

I will not go into how the co-creation workshop was carried out by Co-Creating Cultures at the CCCB because few participants have done it very well here and here (only available in spanish). I would like to talk about how I experienced it as a repeat participant (I participated in the first workshop last year), and what I have learnt from it.

Like Ramón Sanguesa said during the workshop: participation is an attitude. It is the starting point I believe, the fundamental of a participative project. This is what I have learnt from this workshop. There have been discrepancies on this matter during the workshop as we do not all agree on what participation is and what it involves. That is why we can feel, sometimes, that our work is not so productive, or gives the impression that it did not fully answer to the apprenticeship expectations.

I believe the reason why we sometimes feel that we have not learnt enough about participation, that we have not explored further enough the problematic, is due to this attitude we have acquired in school (sitting on benches receiving knowledge): to receive, being passive. Designing forms of participation is based precisely on active participation, that is to give, which is a fundamental element. It is with this state of mind that we will make the most of a workshop like this, that it will answer to our expectations. We will then stay away from the marketing aspect, that companies adopt, giving value, using 2.0 technologies, to the concepts of social currency, reputation, recommendation or networking; which, in my opinion, does not help (but the contrary) to develop a participative attitude.

I noticed during this workshop that my concept of participation must be clarifyed and my attitude improved. I chose the Hypermedia City project. Little after started working on it, I realized it was not a participative project (as I understand participation). This is a participant of my group who made this comment and made me realize it. I did not even realized it on my own! How come? First of all, I believe it is due to few words in the project description, like “networked”, “platform”, “innovation”, “social media”, “interactive technologies”, “web 2.0”, which made me think it was a very participative project, because these words refer to or are usually used when we talk about participation. But taking into account how the project was developed so far: the objective was to bring together on a same platform varius creative agents involved in research and innovation of different cities in the world, where their content on social media was shown according to an algorythm which aims to stimulate the competition between cities. In my opinion, there is no participation because actors of the project do not have an common objective to build something together.

I chose as well to be in the group of the project author because I thought I would understand better his proposal and participate “better”. In the end, it did not help to “hypermodify” the project as the workshop instigated. Trying to understand, through the author vision, the objective of the project, the value proposition and how it was generated, our group remained too close to the author original thinking, without giving another turn to the project, and consequently enrich it.

One difficult exercise is to discuss on a project when you have not developped it, i.e. you know little about it and you do not know your teamates. That is why it is mandatory to endorse this participative attitude, i.e. putting yourself into the skin of the final user to understand his needs and bring relevant modifications to the project. If one wanted to make the most of the workshop, its intensive format allowed to develop an immediate participative attitude, the one we usually adopt in real life, when we are sure something good will come out, or when we gain acknowledgement.

In a participative project, all the voices must be heard. Each of the participant has the responsibility: to give his opinion without imposing it, to listen (here I am referring to an active listening: understanding what the teamate wants to say, making his opinion ours); to make the voices of members who are shy or least interested in the project come out inviting them to give their opinions; and to mantain an elevated concentration without entering and leaving the debate when we feel like.

We experienced some difficulties during the debate because we did not have the same definitions of what participation is. For instance, the author of the project and myself did not agree on the word co-creation: he defended the idea that Hypermedia City is a co-creative project because actors of the platform build a virtual city together just by being on the same platform. I called his attention telling him that the actors did not have a common objective to create something together, that is why we could not talk, in my opinion, about co-creation. To avoid these discrepancies, at A+C+C CoCreació, when we started analyzing the first study cases on participation, Irene saw the need to write a post From interaction to Co-Creation that explained the different levels of participation, which we used as a starting point for our investigation. We have just finished our glossary (the first version, that will soon be published on our blog) based on the study cases we analyzed, to make sure we talk about the same thing when discussing the concepts we investigate.

Ramón and Irene, when we started to work in groups, explained the different steps of the work they asked and gave us a timeframe for each phase. In my group, we did not respect these timeframes (being absorbed by the discussion) because we did not come to make a clear decision, made by consensus, for each phase. We closed the steps because we had to. Maybe that is the reason why we had the feeling of something unachived. Maybe because it was only a workshop and not real life, we kept discussing (and it surely has been the most interesting part of the workshop for me) and we did not oblige ourselves to fulfill the instructions of the workshop. For my part, I admit I did not take into account the timeframes when discussing with the others. I do not think it was positive for the project, neither for the group in general.

I will conclude saying that this workshop allowed me to identify the starting point of participation: the attitude.



Social Currency in Museums

Image Capture_StreetMuseum App

We put limits to ourselves, I believe, by measuring the value of things only in terms of monetary value. Our happiness is not only measurable by this value. That is why the expression social currency called my attention. Both words together give another dimension: the word “social” giving human value to the word “currency”. I decided investigate on it.

Currency is what a person earns to be active in his/her community, network or social organization. The value of this currency is measured in each exchange by its reach, resonance, influence and social impact. “Social currency increases one’s sense of community, granting access to information and knowledge, helping to form one’s identity, providing status and recognition” (def. Wikipedia). This is the content that generates conversation. The content must include all the elements that define social currency for people to share it and enrich it.

In our lives, our social currency are our relationships with our family and community, our reputation, love, entertainment and culture. The new technologies and the online social networks have empowered people and entities to enrich their social currency by their actions and words, giving them more weight. Before, museums, only gave access to their collections. Thank to the technologies, museums of today are able to serve their community giving them the right answers, thus providing them with a higher social currency.

¿How to apply social currency in museums?

The International Council of Museums gives a beautiful definition of a museum: “Museums allow people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment”.

To answer to their mission, museums must know very well their community to identify the challenges they can answer from their entities. Thus, they must answer to the following questions: What could I bring to my community from my capital (that is collection, ressources, expertise, etc.)? What is my community missing to be spiritually happy? How can I enrich it? What are the conflicts or problems that it is suffering from?

Following, we will talk about few digital tools that allow to apply social currency to museum projects. They bring knowledge to the community and generate conversation and interaction in both ways between museums and their communities.

A Wiki is a Web site that allows the creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages via a web browser. The most famous example is Wikipedia. In the museum field, the GLAM-WIKI project allows GLAMs (i.e. Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) to use the Wikipedia platform to give access of their content to the public to be reused freely. This tool allows the public and the museum to generate social currency; the public using the content, the museum getting closer to its community and obtaining visibility.

The Augmented Reality is a vision of the real world enriched by virtual elements in real time and 3D. An excellent use of it is what the Museum of London did with its StreetMuseum iPhone app. It used the images of its collection to tell the story of London at that time: the application took the museum to the street guiding users to over 200 locations in London telling them the story of the city at the time of the images. The GPS of the phone places the images of the museum’s collection on a map of London. Depending on where the user was, he could access to 2D images of the collection of this particular location. With another click, the users of the iPhone 3GS could have a 3D view. The picture of the post illustrates the augmented reality effect applied to a museum project.

The QR Code connects the physical world to the digital world. It’s a 2D code whose content can be decoded at high speed. It allows to put in practice the Tales of Things theory that grants an object of real life to have a digital memory. The museums link a QR code to objects of its physical collection (works of art, photos, etc.) and link it up with an online video, an audio or a text that tells the story of this object. The use of QR codes raises thank to smartphones and its cameras that can scan the code.
The QRator project gives a step further asking the participation of the user and creates a communication in both ways, between the user and the institution. In this case, the QR code links objects of the museum to an online database. It grants the public to have access to curated information but also gives him the opportunity to communicate his own interpretation of the object via a mobile device and the interactive digital labels. The public opinion is stored and is shown next to the curated content and belongs to the story of this object. Other users can comment on the new content created.

We observe that to offer high impact social currency, museums link few technologies and various concepts together. The application of the StreetMuseum required, on a technical level, a smartphone (iPhone) with a GPS and an Internet connection, plus the augmented reality. It linked as well the museum online database and the Tales of Things theory. The result was very innovative and generated a ludic educational experience. It also allowed the experience to be shared with the community. The QRator project linked up an online database, the QR Code technology and the interactive digital labels. It used as well Twitter to mantain alive an online presence of the objects.


To come to a conclusion, I will quote Wayne Labar from the Liberty Science Center, that will be at the “Taller 2.0: de la interacción a la cocreación (in english, workshop 2.0: from interaction to cocreation) on September 14th and 15th at the CCCB: “The ideal museums are gyroscopic. Similar to the gyroscope, the museum corresponds to relationships with visitors that can respond in freely in some or all directions and being relevant in spite of changes in content and the surrounding world.” The museum must connect its practices to the new forms of experience, education and reflexion that will give it the possibility to offer high social currency. It is made possible through technology and social networks. The final objective is to provoke a social impact for the value of this impact to convert into a new monetary value for the community.



Photo Credit:




Products and processes open to participation

Products vs processes

A product can be any object that can be offered in a market and that satisfies a wish or a need of a given consumer. Products can be understood as industrial products, that is, the results of a process of fabrication. But we cannot take for granted that products are physical objects. Products can haven a very ethereal reality: a touristic route, a massage, a show, a lesson, and advice…

On the other hand, processes are sets of operations, reactions, calculations or the steps that are needed to change some given initial features. What is relevant for a process is its ability to induce change or transformation.

We live with products and processes every day in a very natural fashion. Creating a product requires a process. The realization of a process ends up with the development of products. A process can be a product. This is not a problem, in principle. If times were not changing as they are, we wouldn’t event bother to talk about products and processes. Where do dissonnaces occur?. Let’s go step by step. Let’s try to unveil the mistery of the process of writing this blog entry, which is our final product.

Processing dissonances.

The word “process” became very important during the second half of the XXth century, very probably because of cibernetics, computation and systems theory. For a long time, our focus was set on the results of our actions. We lived in “product times”. Cibernetics, computation and systems theory made visible the difficulties of programming changes and transformations. In doing so, they suggested the need to be more attentive to processes. We live in “days of processes” but products are still on the market!. What has changed?

Nowadays we don’t only give value to results but also to the path followed towards this result. In fact, we have learnt to see these paths, when, in the past, we usually forgot about them. With this learning also we have been made conscious of the fact that, although the focus is on the process (enjoy, have experiences, etc.), we still put it on the product (clothes, books, swimming pools and many other surrounding objects). In other words, even if most processes and products live together in harmony, most of the times one is more relevant than the other. This difference can have important consequences.

The XXth Century: the century of openness!

If the XXth century has brought us processes, it also has brought open processes of interaction, participation and co-creation. Increasingly, more initiatives pop up that invite citizens to start collaborating with each other. We live days of “co-”: “co-creation”, “co-production”, “co-ownership”, “co-working”. The “co-” philosophy has wonderful facets and, I think, it represents a general positive trend in humanity. But it also has important dangers.

What happens when we open a process where the important part, the focus of action, is the process itself? What happens when we open a process where the most relevant part is the resulting product? And what happens when we open to participation an action whose result will be beneficious to humanity in general but there is a chance, however slight, that the result of the participatory process developed ends up in the hands of just a few?

Let’s take the case where we open up a learning process where the most important thing is that a given group, that is invited to participate, obtains new knowldge. If we start this process and we think that participation will result in greater, deeper learning, openness is justified by our goals. It is a well-known fact of learning, that teaching is learning twice. If, for a student to better acquire knolwedge about, say, fractions it is more interesting that we invite him or her to shoot a video about fractions than submitting the student to a long-winding lecture about mathematics, let’s do it!. In this case, the product, a videoclip, will be interesting, but the focus will be clearly on the process. We’d like the student to behave independently, perform information research, analysis, and process. Finally the student organizes this information as a video script, learning in the process how to translate it into the language of images. Eventually the student will be able to observe the result and even evaluate it!

If what we open, on the other hand, is the creative process leading to a new advertising campaign, with the only goal of developing a business strategy that will attract more consumers, then we, again, have a very effective method, but we don’t have a justified openness. In this case we are just lowering costs and improving efficiency. The focus is on the result, the product, but not on the process. Let’s add that if this process is presented to the public straightforwardly in its real terms and the public still wants to participat, because they feel that they will be compensated in some other way, then let’s welcome this initiative too!. Eventually, everything is an interchange. The important thing is that all sides feel compensated. Personally, I am not that confortable with participatory processes that just focus on the product.

The biggest difficulties arise when things are not white, nor black but grey!

In “twilight zones” difficulties pose even bigger challenges. Sometimes the focus is on the product but it has a positive impact on humanity. Take for example the cure for a disease o the creation of a given content. It is difficult not to agree that for these goals, the more people that gets involved, the more we open the process, the better. I am the first to be in favour of openness. I’d like to put as an example of success, a product such as Wikipedia. But I also want to flip the coin and look at its other face. In this case, The Huffington Post. All people who devote effort to create participatory processes or who contribute to collective benefits through group collaboration, have the right to attribute themselves the merit of the ideation and realization of the process but they wouldn’t be allowed let the benefits be enjoyed by a small and closed group nor allow them to exclusively enrich themselves from the co-created results. If a group develops together something to go forward together, this is something that has to be a progress for all the group not for just some part of it!

These reflections make me think that is important to understand what process are, what products are, where we put the focus of our actions, which are our goals and what is the return for the involved people, both those who created participatory processes and those who participate in these processes. It is vital that we analyze each case in turn. Not only because I believe that these processes should created collective benefits but because if we don’t understand the difference between product and process we will miss the advantages of opening up. I just want to end by bringing these considerations to the world of museums. What is more important for a museum: to have objects, collections and exhibitions or to promote culture and induce social change? Does this correspond to a product or a process? Can we all benefit from these paradigm changes?



Credits of photographies:
- Rowdy Kittens
- Seychelles 88 

Participative dance performances

Last automn, I participated for the first time, as an active spectator, in three different dance performances in Barcelona organized by the Mercat dels Flors. I will analyze in this post two of them which seemed interesting to me from the way they used the public participation. My objective is to analyze the elements used to implement the participative process and the contribution this new type of participative performances brings to the peforming arts creation and to its spectators.

The first performance, Hello!Earth (Projecte Barcelona), consisted in a route in a cityscape in Barcelona. A responsible took first our belongings that he kept away in a secret place. He only left us with our mobile and a plastic bracelet with a mobile number on it. Dressed up as rabbit from head to toe, the voice of an mp3, plus the participation of artists, guided us in the streets of the Poble Sec neighborghood. They made us run, jump, wag the tail, investigate the streets. We even traveled in the space inside a tippi which served as a space shuttle. Yes, yes, I swear! During the second part of the route, we took off our costume and started a trip trough our senses. In an unhabitated flat, bare feet, blindfolded eyes, we danced a moment with another unknown person. The end of the route finished in a bar, the group seated at a table, drinking to its first experience in a participative performance.

The second performance was the creation of Sra Polaroiska & Ruemaniak. A man with a black suit, slicked-back hair, who seemed to come from the 50′s, picked us up in front of the theater and took us to some sort of abandoned warehouse, where he asked us to get on a car. Two people, layed on the floor as if they were dead, under the other car parked next to our, got up and started moving in a dislocated way. The radio of our car switched on by itself. Another woman appeared behing some construction work and headed towards us. That is how the story started. We observed with curiousity and silently these characters who seemed to come from another world. I did not understand what was going on but it did not matter. I liked their strangeness, how they moved and danced under country music. I liked the Far West’s clothes of the 50′s and 60′s with the cowboy boots. At some point, they blindfolfed our eyes, did to us small massages on the hands and shoulders and we danced with them. What a moment! I did not want this moment to stop. Then, the man with the black suit drove us outside the warehouse. He told us to be discreet about what had happened. Before he left, he gave us an envelop to each of us. Inside was a polaroid photo of mi with a gun pointed at my tempe. I had not dreamed, it was true. Hallelujah!

The two performances share the following elements:

  • The “mystery” is a core element in each performance because it prepares the sensivity level of the spectators, which is key in the participative process. It is reflected in the following form: the spectator does not know what the performance and his participation consist in, he is informed at the last minute of the meeting point.

  • Performance site-specific
  • Movement-based performance: the body is the central point of the performance. Everything is designed from the body, around the body and for the body.

  • The public is protagonist: the spectator experiences, feels and makesThe stage does not exist in such wayReduced group of spectators: 6 and 3 peopleThere are more artists than spectatorsMutlidisciplinary approach: there is a mix of different artistic disciplines to create the performances.The public is in touch with the artists: he does with the artists
  • Use of a lot of objects during the performances: the objects in common were the mp3, photos and music

  • A souvenir is offered at the end of the performances: a free drink, a photo

It’s interesting to see how each performance exploited these elements, the emphasis put on each one to answer to the objective. The Hello!Earth project aimed to give the opportunity to the public to discover its environment with other eyes. Sra Polaroiska & Ruemaniak made enter the public in the performance.

“Dance! – you can’t stop the revolution” of Hello!Earth (Projecte Barcelona) was an unexpected route developed specially for Barcelona, that relied on the participation of the artists, citizens and spectators from Barcelona. The artists participated in the design of the route to make appear the social context of the city. The neighborhood of Poble Sec offered its houses that served as stages. And the collective experience of the spectators was the peformance itself. It was a cocreation participative process: all the actors involved in the performance contributed to its design, its development and its content.

“Apuntes sobre animales, encuentros y autopistas” of Sra Polaroiska & Ruemaniak created an experience-piece for the spectator who entered as a protagonist in the story that was unfolding. It was like if the spectator entered as a protagonist in the course a movie. The form of participation used was, what we call at A+C+C CoCreació, interactive (read this post). As a public, we did not create content, neither influence the performance. Our intervention was framed: the actors knew what they were going to ask us to do and at which moment.

In the two performances, the protagonist spectator played the games.

In Hello!Earth, the design of the route favored the interaction within the group. Also to compensate a probable feeling of anxiety generated by the ignorance of what was going to happen, the spectators remained together most of the time.

On the contrary, there was no communicatin among the spectators of Sra Polaroiska y Ruemaniak. It was not the aim of the performance. Additional factors intimidated the public: there were more artists than public participating during the performance, the artists knew what was going on, not the spectators.

It’s interesting to see as well the color of the component mystery in each performance. The mystery in Hello!Eart was a surprise. With the costume, you knew you were going to have a laugh. The costume is a tool to forget oneself and allows to see things another way. The route reminded a bit of a gymkhana, something recreational, like a tresure hunt.

The mystery of Sra Polaroiska & Ruemaniak was more worrying. On one hand, the public had more information about the performance but on the other hand, this same information was somewhat disturbing: the synopsis of the performance described unusual characters and situation. Listen to Country music is also unusual for people from Barcelona. The dislocated moves of the dancers gave a sensation of uneasiness. And the man with the black suit spoke to us with an emphatic voice.

At the end of the performance, we commented that we all liked it, especially the moment of the blindfolded eyes. I think now that this is because there were so many strange things in this peformance, that dancing with blindfolded eyes allowed us to let it go.

I don’t know if Hello!Earth made me see my environment in another way. I was not able to fully relax with the costume, so I never let it go totally I suppose. The unfolding of the performance was like a serie of activities without transitions between each one. It brought me back to the reality between each activity and I was not able to see my environment with new eyes. However, the performance left me with good feelings.

The project of Sra Polaroiska & Ruemaniak filled me with enthusiasm. Even if I did not participate in the creation of the content, it allowed me to let it go and enter in the story, be in another world. The closed stage offered more intimacy than the streets. The experience of the spectator during the performance was fluid. The collective Sra Polaroiska & Ruemaniak used the elements of the performance with more strength and answered to its objective with accuracy.

We see that the objective, the components and the design of the project will determine the type of participation of the public. It will be key to condition the state of mind of the public to favor its participation: its senses must be awake and available to react and respond to the project’s proposal. The public must have an optimal experience.

I think participation offers to the public a unique and more intense experience that just sitting in a theater. The artists through participation have an intimate communication with their public and can make innovative proposals. Each participative show is for the artists a unique and different experience everytime, which enriches them as professionals.



Credit of photography: Colectivo Sra Polaroiska & Ruemaniak

- http://www.nativa.cat/2010/12/sobre-apuntes-sobre-animales-encuentros-y-autopistas/

Pdf Participative dance performances


P.U.P.E. (1)

This is the first article of a series dedicated to the public, the user, the participant, the spectator… (from now on the P.U.P.E in its Spanish version). As it is a topic with a lot of shades of meanings, I think it is appropriate to dedicate more than one article. Today, we will make few considerations about this key topic in the cultural participation.

We will go back in time remembering Walter Benjamin – it is always interesting to have a Renaissance attitude with the classics. We can never forget the fact that it has been 75 years that we are observing the shifting of location of the cultural object and its addressees. Since art has entered in the age of technical reproducibility, its aura, the hic et nunc, it remains depreciated due to its accessibility and projection in favour of the citizens. The art work for the first time “goes to meet its receiver, under the form of a photography or a disc. The cathedral gives up its location to be welcome at the studio of an art lover; the choral piece that has been interpreted in an auditorium or in the open air can be now listened in a room”.

I would like to start this trajectory of the p.u.p.e around the planet emphasizing what apparently looks like an obviousness, but which often, we do not pay attention to. Like Víctor Molina explains in a wonderful and surprising article that opens his book Querido público (cherished public in English) “it exists a close tie between the intimate body and the social mankind”. This mysterious comment highlights the trend (proper as well of the social sciences) that the p.u.p.e is seen as impersonal, like if he was an independent and external body, when in reality, the p.u.p.e, this is us!

With these two premises and by changing perspectives, we will be able to make an approximation a lot more precise and loyal of the interactive paradigm.

At the initial contact with the participative universe, when I thought about the role of a cultural centre as an interconnector, a facilitator, a creator, a co-designer or a platform, I thought that the complement of these subjects was the “cultural product” (these role have first been stablished by Nina Simon and during our first Tallers 2.0., Ramon explained to the crew) . But later on, I understood that the complement had to do with the “user”: cultural centres, creators of users, co-designers with the users, platforms for the users, etc. like the anglophile trends name user centred projects. So the best way to link the p.u.p.e to a cultural project (social, citizenship, etc.) is to make it his, going a lot further than only giving him voice and vote, or giving him the keys of the house for him to go at ease.

To transmit this message, it is recommended to bring it on the personal sphere.  We need to become conscious that our p.u.p.e is used as an argument to justify the success and failure of almost everything. This is why we consider honesty as a core value to guarantee that our project works. With this series of articles, we propose to do a 360º tour around the p.u.p.e. Our contemporaneity (maybe due to the mercantilism of the society) does not conceive any public activity or citizenship proposal without the complicity of its own p.u.p.e. Even like this, it is necessary to be careful with this complicity and not loose the north, nor generalizing, neither renouncing to everything to get the aimed success.

And if, at the same time, we know that there is nothing that pleases “everybody”, we will get a lot closer to the reality that surrounds us or that surrounds our project, and the one we belong to.

It is compulsory to be clear regarding who is our addressees, how he/she is, who he/she is, how he/she acts, what we can give him/her, etc. i.e. all the questions answered by the market studies but brought to our field. Determine who we speak to and how is our p.u.p.e for all agents to feel part of the same project. Determine who will be the addressees or groups of addressees towards whom we will concentrate our efforts of communication, will help us optimize our resources to adapt the media, the style, the message, etc.

Social sciences have spared no efforts, neither studies to classify the human groups. There are endless typologies and variables: level of studies, geographical, age and vital circle, economical, etc. Of course, there are as well specific variables regarding the studies of cultural consumption: level of instruction, attendance, geographical, vital circle, generated benefit, enjoyment expectations (emotional, intellectual, apprenticeship, escape, fun), reaffirmation to the affiliation of a social group, cultural militancy.  There was an attempt as well to define these groups of consumers according to external factors of the cultural environment (demographical, economical, technological, political, legal) and internal factors (cultural, social, personal, psychological,  linked to the self-esteem, to the social acceptance, self-realization, etc.).

All these typologies are put to the service of the emotional and cultural marketing with mercantilist ends. Besides any ethical or moral consideration (or prejudice), you cannot deny the utility of these tools when it comes to refine the content of message. In the same line, we find interesting studies like the one adapted to the microanalitycal EKB buying behaviour to the live experience, that draws an interesting formula to take into account: “all these sensations felt by the spectator while experiencing the show, added up to the others which have to do with the attention received from the personal and the facilities of the venue, make, as a fact, the cultural product itself” and determine the grade of satisfaction of the public.

Even like this, and at the same time, Ricardo Antón gave us another key to understand this new paradigm in a recent interview we did with him from A+C+C CoCreació. He commented, talking about the participative user, that there is no need to go to look for him as he emerges on his own being a proactive character. He underlines that the work of a cultural agent should focus more on looking for the ways to transmit this attitude to the people whom cost them to let it go, who do not recognize his/her own value and capacity to bring added value.

In the line of Dolors Reig, we should bet on the citizen, the one that feeds the projects, but as well it is compulsory to know who is our “citizen”.

to be continued…

Flora Bacquelaine, 04/11/2011



Benjamin, Walter (1936). L’obra d’art a la època de la seva reproductibilitat tècnica. Tres estudis de sociologia de l’art. 1ª ed. Barcelona: Edicions 62/Diputació de Barcelona, 1983 (Col. Clàssics del pensament modern; nº9).

Sellas, Jordi i Colomer, Jaume (2009). Màrqueting de les arts escèniques. Creació i desenvolupament de públics. 1ª ed. Barcelona: Quaderns Gescènic.

Duarte, Ignasi i Bernat, Roger (eds.) (2009). Querido público. El espectador ante la participación: jugadores, usuarios, prosumers y fans. 1ª ed. Murcia: Centro Parraga, CENDEAC y Eléctrica Produccions.


The virtualization of the curator

In a recent post, we commented on the different types of projects that range from creating an open exhibition to full co-creative exhibition. In this process, the central role of the curator is still central but, at the same time, changes. Let’s take, for example, the participatory exhibition on Travel that was created by Mediamatic of Amsterdam a couple of years ago, MediaMatic Travel. It could serve us as a way to illustrate this process of “curator virtualization”.

A curator gives meaning to a selection of artists and works because of the message that he or she wants to convey around a topic. This topic may have been suggested or decided by him or herself. Curation is a process that is not always closed or unidirectional. Curatorship does not need to be performed by just a single person. Collective curation is a common practice. Also curation is not just the selection of existing works but also a way to manage comissions to artist according to the goals and criteria of the curator.

In participatory processes, such as the Mediamatic Travel exhibition, the relationship between the curator and decision-making changes both in the in the sharing and the timing of decision making. In Mediamatic Travel, for example, because of the use of voting mechanisms the curator, so to speaks, retires into the background: selection of artists is made indirectly by the audience (of an exhibition still to be made) by voting on artists. In other cases, not just artist or exhibition items are decided this way: the topics of the exhibition itself may be decided in a process led or shared by would-be visitors of the exhibition. Also curators can ask for and receive objectsand finally express their curatorship in defining their role in final exhibion.

What happened in the case of Mediamatic? The curator did not intervene so directly because his main contribution was the design of an automated process for selecting artists (not works).

One wonders which new skills curators who want to venture into these new forms of participatory exhibition design may need.

  • Platforms. The curator’s role now includes the ability to design platforms that support a process of invitation to artists and groups, facilitates to artist the contribution of their material or the description of their project and orchestates emergent selection processes. These processes must be able to respond to the changing evaluation patterns of the participants in the exhibition project. A popular way to implement this type of process is by offering voting mechanisms.

  • Dilemmas of voting. Any open system faces difficulties in form of ill-will and other malicious behaviors that can result in harmful effects. For example, identity theft. Also, collusion among many voters can be prepared to harm or to favor one candidate over another, in this case, artists. This is a problem that can be observed in various open systems of voting as, for example, “Digg”. These evil dynamics are difficult to counter but the use of reputation mechanisms on the voters behaviours may help. Mechanisms to develop trust can also help. Mediamatic, for example,  gave a considerable time and resources to the interaction between  the would-be public and artists, which may have helped in offsetting negative emerging mechanisms. Also the fact that the vote took place both continously and after interaction with the artists themselves, through dialogue and by allowing time to consideration may also have helped.

  • Redesign. The voting phase is not the only time when a curator may be watching what happens in the process that will culminate in an exhibition. Monitoring the process of dialogue, observing emerging trends, allowing the reconsideration of some aspects of the original design, are also tasks to be made and that should take place all along. And also redesigning the components of the final result.

  • Transparency. Open processes involve require clear communication of the decisions to be taken. Not only comment on what is decided, but why. This has to do with the necessary expectations of justification of the curator’s decision by the public that has responded to a request for participation. It adds to the legitimacy of the process too. Therefore, there is a need to change the present patterns of communication with the public, before an exhibition. We’re not in the usual marketing framework that warms up public interest before the actual opening of the exhibition. You can almost say that there  is no “before the exhibition.”

  • Research on the process. The fact that many of the platforms allow to keep track of the interactions that occur all along the participatory process in terms of voting, discussion, or suggestions provides explicit material can be structured for analysis. This analysis benefits the curator himself or helself as well as the institution that promotes the exhibition. It is an excellent opportunity for research and learning about the participatory process itself, and about the expectations and motivations of the public and its relationship with the institution.

In sum, if they want to get into participatory terrain, curators must be able to carry out a new type of exhibition design process closer to the open design processes than to traditional closed design. This should give us clues as to what new types of training for the practice of curation should be promoted. Certainly curators need to be more familiar with the dynamics of emergent and complex process and with open user-centric design processes. Thes are tools that would be useful and should be added to the toolbox of the new curators.


Participative Business Models

Human Tower

Since last year, I have been paying special attention to existing business models within the creative & cultural industries as I joined A+C+C CoCreación. I was especially interested in business models related to crowdsourcing/open innovation because they lean on “participation”, which is the focus of our investigation. I would like to sum up in this post the existing business models that use crowdsourcing and draw a parallel with the level of participation. I will refer then to the different levels of participation detailed in a previous post.

Donation-based business model enables users to donate money to help sustain a project or enterprise, like Wikipedia or Radiohead. The key to make it a sustainable business model is the community: having a strong community of fans is necessary to live only thank to its donations. The organization must find the right correlation between the community volume and the average sum of money received per person for the project or enterprise. It was the first time a band, Radiohead, direct sold via its Web its music to its fans, without intermediary. It was probably a mixed success as the last album “the king of limbs” is actually selling via online prepayment on the official Web of the band. In addition to the official Web site, the band uses the other distribution channels of the music industry. It is the first level of participation on our scale. This model allows an interaction with the public who can only react to the content.

Wikipedia is slightly different. There is a double condition for the business model to be sustainable: donations from the community to keep maintaining the project alive and user-generated content.

A donation-based business model alone is probably too limited for a project to live. The community needs to engage itself in another way in addition of donations. If the community is not actively engaged, the project will need extra earnings on the side or change business model. That explains why Wikipedia can only live on donations: the community is engaged at the highest level of participation via co-creation. The community is then stronger and more keen to sustain the project.

Crowdfunding business model enables citizens or entities to contribute to an enterprise or project by becoming stakeholders. The contribution, usually via an online platform, takes the form of an investment prior to the work being created, a micro o macro credit, or donations. Four categories of crowdfunding business models exist:

The Direct Crowdfunding enables a project to receive donations via its personal online platform to promote itself, engage the community in the production in exchange of merchandising, exclusive goodies, etc. The key in this model, as the one above, is the community. You need to have you own community of fans, important enough, to be able to reach your funding goal to complete your project.

Crowdfunding of non-existing project platform: Kickstarter is the most eloquent exemple of this model. Creators present to the community their project and the funding needs they are looking for on a crowdfunding platform (along with other projects). When the funding campaign becomes active on the platform, direct donations are possible. The funds collected are visible on the platform. If the project meets its funding goals, the producers commit themselves to reward his founders via, merchanding, etc… Similar exemples in Spain are Lánzanos y Verkami.

Crowdfunding existing project (also blogs and websites) business model is a donation system based on voting the sites you wish to support. The user registers to the online platform and set the amount of money which will be distributed among all the projects that he will click on. Always loged on, the user clicks on the platform’s button everytime he wants to fund a site. The money is then distributed to these clicked sites according to the number of clicks per site during a predetermined period of time. Kachingle and Flattr are two exemples.

This business model, in comparison to the previous ones, takes into account the reality of the browsing activity of the cybernaut and reflects better what his/her interests are.

Prefunded project: The platform allows institutions and artists to produce cultural projects together which will later be exhibited in said institutions. The institution is active in the creation process as it contributes to its completion. This model allows artists to freely develop their projects and do not rely on intellectual property to get paid for their work. Goteo is an exemple of this type of business model category.

The key for direct crowdfunding, crowdfunding of non-exhisting project and crowdfunding of existing projects is again the community. Platforms need to have developed, prior to go online, a community that will be strong enough to fund the projects.

These business models are lightly participatory: the community affects the project creation by supporting it financially, giving feedbacks and opinions.

One negative point of these models is, I think, that they only support the initial stage of a cultural project: the funds to produce it but not the rest of the process: distribution, marketing, communication and sales. In a future, these platforms, I believe, must go beyond and try to assist via the crowd participation the creators in the entire cultural process.

To go further, these platforms will need to know the profile of its community to understand why it supports the projects in order to reinforce the values and beliefs of the community. Following are few questions that will need to be answered: to make the community stronger, rewarding it by giving away merchandising, exclusive gifts, etc. is enough on the long term? When the hype around these new platforms will fade away, does the community will be strong enough to keep funding projects only giving away money? Is giving money a level of engagement strong enough to make sustainable these platforms on the long run? The crowdfunding comes from the US as the charity business being quite developped. Will it work as well in Europe as people give less in general and will it last on the long run?

The prefunded project seems to me the most interesting from a participatory point of view and complete: the artist is free to create his/her work after having designed the outlines of his/her project with the institution and is guaranteed to have an earning for his/her work. On the other side, the institution gets the chance to have a tailor-made exposition for its premises and collaborates with the artist in the design process of the exhibition from inception to realisation. The collaboration brings an equal interest for both sides and the artist is accompanyed during the entire process of his/her work: production, implementation, marketing, communication, sales. Both parties brings their respective community. It is the highest level of participation: co-creation.

In most cases, Free as a business model consists in generating revenue via advertising. The companies using this model create an online platform to enable users to generate content so advertisement can be placed on the platform.

There are subcategories for this model that require the participation of the users:

The Freemium business model is a mix of free and paid offers for the users via an online platform. The small percentage of clients that subscribes to the paid service subsidizes the large base of users that do not pay. Flickr, the photo-sharing site of Yahoo! is a well-known exemple: users enjoy a free basic account while users who pay for a pro account benefit from additional features.

The Open-Source Fremium business model enables the customers to enjoy a free product while this one has been developped for free in open source by experts. The entity that serves both parties earns money by offering paid subscription to companies that want a full professional service of the product (client support, maintenance, etc..). Red Hat is an example of this business model. In this business model, the keys are the platform and a strong community of users-creators whom a small percentage will transform as clients by subscribing to the paid service.

In the case of Flickr, the user participates in the content-generation of the platform but not from a co-creation point of view. The content-generation is for its personal use. For Red Hat, there is co-creation from the users as they work together to build a product. It uses the philosophy of open source.

The companies that use Open business model open up its research process to collaborate with outside parties in order to create and capture value. There are two subpatterns recognized for this business model: The Outside-in approach brings in external partners to leverage internal R&D resources. Procter & Gamble is the first to have exploited this method successfully. The Inside-out approach consists in offering the results of intern R&D to organizations in other industries that may need it. GlaxoSmithKline made use if this last pattern.

The company Innocentive uses both methods thank to its online platform by connecting the companies in need of solving a problem with experts willing to solve this problem.

The open source philosophy is the best exemple of co-creation.

The last type of business model that calls on external participation is the multi-sided platform business model. The platform is the intermediary that connects two interdependant groups of customers. Both groups’ interests must be served simultaneously. Nintendo used this pattern to create its Wii video game console. They earn money from the sales of its consoles and also from game developpers who create games for its console via pockets royalties. The App Store of Apple would be a similar exemple.

The challenge for the platform is to attract sufficient customers on each side, one side being able to answer to the needs of the other and vice versa.

It’s a participatory business model as the platform invites creators to build a product.

We notice that the more participatory the business model is, the more rewarding it is for the community. Some business models are still very capitalists as they take advantage of the knowledge of the crowd but do not give back all the fruits of the collaboration (they keep the revenues within the company and the impact of the success for their brands). For participation to be a learning experience, to last and be beneficial for the society in a whole, it will have to be a co-creation process and no less.

Emmanuelle BRESSON


Credits of photographies: Blausaure http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=people+together&m=text
- FCForum http://fcforum.net/sustainable-models-for-creativity/declaration
- Javier Megias http://www.javiermegias.com/blog/2010/08/algunos-modelos-de-negocio-innovadores/
- Book Business Model Generation of A.Osterwalder & Y. Pigneur



The Renaissance introduced creativity as the search and construction of a universe that addresses the human faculties. Finally providing a first emancipation of human thought, from a 1200-year long theological overseeing, the Renaissance character intended to address every facet of what being human meant. To that end, in just 200 years of reinterpretations of human nature and its senses where held as the precious description and definition of reality.

The camera, arriving 300 years after the Renaissance as a first introduction of Artificial Intelligence provided to the emerging modern of looking a new freedom. This new freedom advance by getting ride itself this time of the Renaissance premise that extended its representativeness for centuries, with progressive signs of imitation of nature.

Two scenes that allow us to delineate more precisely the new frame that the concept of creativity require today. It brings about an update of the term which integrates and does not differ in any way with its previous descriptions.

At last, the camera is can be see of a forerunners of the process that allows us to tell describe how, gradually, the relationship between man and reality has been finally taken over by the machine. Initially, the camera allowed the artistic research to focus on the construction of the modern individuality, freeing the subject of the object to be represented. Thus began a story that has continued with us during the last hundred years. Starting from the unconscious, reason and emotion it has successfully completed a sufficiently complex and comprehensive characterization of the modern individual. The second coming of the machine as an interpreter of reality, places us in the most immediate present. And I think, it proudly boasts of being able to open a new episode, where the representation is structured around the visualization of structures and associative designs.

Now, in each of the episodes mentioned, I emphasize the practice of art as a source of knowledge, of the apprehension of reality, of comprehension. It is a way of in-vocation of a metalanguage for the emergence and visualization of reality. In the case of the Renaissance age, we are talking about the discovery and recognition of a codification that is able to answer, as we said, to every facet of what being human means. In the modern episode we see a practice that seeks to deepen the gap between subject and object. This divergence measures the description of an individuality that the modern hand of temper required strong leaders with ideological goals.

Artificial Intelligence today proposes a new challenge with respect to creativity. A new proposal to search. We are abandoning contemporaneity, and I think it appropriate to contribute with a new description of the value enclosed in the term creativity. It combines aspects of its activities, which correspond to new responses to the situation of the moment.

Various investigations in the field of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are providing us with interesting contributions from the complexity of the machine, to simulate shapes and aesthetics, which are intended to be artistic. Precisely, these signs of Artificial Intelligence is what allows us to remark that creativity does not lie in the skill, the craftmanship, or the reproductive success of a project or achieving a predetermined purpose. Just as art pays no tribute to the aesthetic fact, creativity, prides itself as a recognition happening after the action. Once it has emerged, as by chance, and from an awareness that it seems to concede validity to creativity, as in front of something that is approved because it is recognized.

To conclude this brief note, namely that the maximum divergence that we have unveiled, is in the the difficulty of the machine to cope with the dilemma of being and non-being of reality. The machine, excommunicated the fact at issue before the living and non-being of reality. But its strangeness with respect to reality lacks the perception of what is absent surprise with no real perception of what is absent, what reality owes us, that that still hasn’t happened but precisely because of we know it is not there, somehow becomes part of the reality. That is, the machine lacks the assumption, the conditional, the dream that allows human beings to recognize, in what emerged as the action, the value of something unexpected but that is validated as creativity. We will say then, that with the arrival of Artificial Intelligence, creativity is a recognition, a discrimination. And again with this we would return to the camera. The photographer, the artist or the researcher know that value is in the selection of the response. From all the real attempts, from all the photos, value is in the selection. From all random gestures the artist knows that value is in the selection. Therefore, with the Artificial Intelligence we see how value is in the selection of results, data and cascades of records, which would otherwise become uninterrupted disinformation.

Jordi Güell



Credits of photographies:


From Interaction to Co-Creation

Some days ago we had a long discussion among several members of A+C+C CoCreation about the differences between the various projects that we have been reviewing.

It helped us to ask ourselves about what characterizes the different labels that are being used by several projects and cultural institutions where new forms of relationship with the public are experienced. We also wondered how the public is no longer a passive element and to what extent each institution or project dares to change.

Each one of the used terms has its difficulties and ambiguitie. Certainly each one can evolve on a different scale. But for the time being, the scale of co-creativity that we present helped us in thinking about several projects and cases. Somehow, we have simplified the scale of participation that can be found in “The Participatory Museum“. We tried to introduce our own vision to go a little beyond participation. At least if participation is understood mostly as the promotion of social relations between the members of the communities around a project or a cultural institution. That is, we go a little beyond the concept of contribution, contributory projects and try to see how to characterize co-creation.

So here are some adjectives that we worked with.

Interactive: These are projects and institutions that promote participation in a limited and predefined way. Much of traditional science museums that were created or renovated between the 60s and the 80s fall into this category. Clearly, this was an important step for museums at that time. A paradigmatic example in the field of science is the Exploratorium in San Francisco. In art, the concept of interactivity is perhaps wider, but it could be identified with a tradition of interaction with viewers. We can book this definition for all projects in which the user does not provide content and reacts to the content prepared by others who are not part of the group of viewers/users.

Open: These would include projects or institutions that intend to show their work processes that are needed to prepare their contents or activities. For example, the MOMA in New York is inviting the public to see the “props” of preparing exhibitions. Halfway between the observation and the collection of interests and needs of the audience, the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey has opened a part of the exhibit design process to users, who may participate in meetings of museum professionals. This could be the zero level of participation.

Participatory: The institution or group leading a project invites participation, with great variability of what is required in this participation. Here sometimes it is worth making a distinction between what is “participatory” and what is “contributory” as Nina Simon remarked in her book. Participatory actions can simply consist in giving opinions, However, they can be more than that and eventually affect the decision making process of the project itself (event, exhibition, etc.): these are the ends of the famous scale of participation of Sherry Arnstein. Contribution also evolves from the simple action of minimal interaction, provision of feedback in the form of opinion, to the contribution of content.

An possible example in the participatory category would be the exhibition organized by Barcelona Center for Contemporary Culture, CCCB, “La ciutat dels horrors” (“The City of Horrors”) where they asked viewers to contribute with photographs of their town that would show some show some “horrific” aspect of it. We have analized this case and we will discuss it in more detail on a future post.

Another example would be the exhibition organized by Mediamatic in Amsterdam around the concept of travel. Mediamatic developed several cycles of invitation and group curation. They created a website on cities around the world, imitating the typical site of a travel agency informative website. They invited local artists of the different cities to act as “guides” in their own city. Travelers scored the artists according to their proposals as guides. This was the basis for selecting an artist from each city to produce an exhibit about his or her city (which should occupy a space of 2x2x2 m in the final exhibition venue). Finally, the  global exhibition was held at Mediamatic. The process was not designed by the participants but by the institution, that is, Mediamatic. Contribution by each artist was done on an individual, apparently there was no much cooperation between artists working on the exhibit of different towns. The institution acted mostly as a promoter of the initiative and as a content aggregator. It was not clear if there was interaction between artists and the public during the process conducive to the final exhibition other than in the “tourist guide” phase.

Co-Creative: In these processes, it can be difficult to tell who is the “public” and who is the institution or the artistic or scientific leader of the project. At the top of co-creativity, the public creates as much as the institution or there is not institution to speak of (apart from the fact that the relationships between the public conducive to the project are a set of norms that can be understood as a temporary institution). The public helps defining the process, its content and its outcome. It is difficult to find fully co-creative projects either in the field of arts or in science. CoCreative processes have some similarities to the processes of meta-design (or P2P Open Design, for example) in which participants (“co-creators”) decide how the process will proceed and then, they join the project playing various roles at different levels of commitment and responsibility, building and providing knowledge in the process. In the project “From contemplation to participation and beyond,” participants co-created the exhibits, but the design process was defined by the leaders of the project. MediaLab Prado has several open formats in which the objective of the project, its process and the contributions are defined by working with the “public.” In these cases, collective creative dialogue is generated.

Traditional institutions are rethinking where they stand in terms of these categories. There is a wide range of response from those who believe that traditional forms of the museum should remain as they are to those who believe that these institutions, both in science and art, must work in more open spaces and weave co-creative relationships with the “formerly called” public. The question is whether or not each institution wants to evolve towards symbiosis (a concept of the A+C+C CoCreation Contextopedia which we will comment in the future), or explore other possibilities in between.


Credits of photographies:
- Alaskan Dude: http://www.flickr.com/photos/72213316@N00/
- La Mandarina de Newton S.L. 

A + C + C: one step after another in the culture of co-creation

The workshops organized by Co-Creating Cultures last fall, within the CCCB I+C+i cycle of activities is having other outcomes besides its success in participation.

A group of participants in the workshops thought at the time that something else could be done in promoting a reflection on participation and co-creation. We have come together and start working on stabilizing a project and a group around the concept A + C + C: Art, Science, Culture and Technology in their Catalan and Spanish initials.

We start with an evidence: the total hybridization of the various practice fields from art to technology that is amplified and reinforced by the emergence of new forms of creation and knowledge sharing provided by technology and specifically, the culture that Internet has spawned.

The field is wide and offers room for many actions.

We have focused on co-creation as a present and future space for at the intersection of Art, Science and Culture. Yes, we know that Science is part of our culture in our society, but it seems we still have to refer to the different components in A+C+C. We also want to stress the many possibilities for interaction between all of them.

“Co-creation” is a term used in a restricted sense in the field of user-centered design but A + C + C takes a more broad and open view on it in order to study and promote the process of collaborative creation and everything that connects with it. And there is much that is related to this concept, from new ways of organizing to new forms of production. At this point we need to find influences and concepts and practices of many different initiatives from the Open Source to Design Thinking through the ArtCiencia in order to connect with them and turn them into productive partners of A+C+C.

We have defined our “Contextpedia” to better understand some terms that correspond to these actions and to new possibilities. Some of them are old terms to which we give our precise meaning, others are new inventions. For example: “symbiosis”, “open earning”, “dialogical action” or “knowledge brokers.”

It is a first step in framing the new action reference space.

The first phase of the workplan we have put in place “under the radar” since last fall includes a clarification of the scope of “co-creation”, a collection and case studies of initiatives ranging from interactive to the co-creation through participatory experiences in art, culture, science, technology and design.

We acknowledge the assistance of various individuals and entities that have agreed to share their knowledge through direct interviews. Amasté, Liberty Science Center, CCCB and the Museum of the History of Immigration are some of our patient “observed” people and entities.

Ww will continue interacting with them and with other groups and organizations that, in one way or another,  explore and promote the field of co-creation.


Looking around the world



Press clipping

Working Groups


@CoCreatingCult Tweets

Follow @CoCreatingCult on twitter.