Cultural Conversations: #artconvo in Leeds

Cultural Conversations

Cultural Conversations at Project Space Leeds

It had been at least a week since I last attended a conference on social media, so it was clearly time for another one. And so it was with enthusiasm I found myself at the ‘open space’ conference on cultural conversations being organised by The Culture Vulture at Project Space Leeds yesterday.

I was pleased to receive an email beforehand telling me I didn’t need to print off my ticket. This meant I could avoid an unhelpful cultural conversation with my temperamental printer. I then noticed the same email invited all us creative types to make our own name tags. I hate name tags, but throwing a creative challenge at me is like throwing freshly killed meat into a lion’s den. I was inspired to screenshot clip my Twitter header, but was then forced into unavoidable confrontation with the bolshy printer, which spat out a name badge of embarrassingly large proportions. No matter. No hiding from the crowds for me yesterday.

Open Space Agenda

Open Space Agenda: suggest your own thing and stick it up there...

The conference was described as  ‘open space’ and I wondered in what way this would be different from the ‘unconference’ of the other week. It transpired I could count myself as an experienced ‘open spacer’.  They both work in much the same inspiring, sharing and participative way: reality communal Twitter. The only difference in fact was that the open space format eschewed a whiteboard for tabling the conversation session options and instead invited people to write down on bits of paper their suggestions for conversations, wave them in friendly fashion at participants and stick them on the wall. With an agenda thus democratically sorted, we were off.

There was a thought-provoking selection of conversation topics throughout the afternoon. Emma Bearman (@culturevultures) established a twitter hashtag (#artconvo) at the start, so we could all tweet happily as we went along and engage in conversations in cyberspace. I reflected that even two years ago, it would have been the height of rudeness for participants meeting face-to-face to sit tapping a mobile device the whole time; but social media practice has overturned such polite convention.

Highlight discussions for me included one on the implications of social media commentary/amplification for exhibitions. Sarah Brown of Leeds City Art Gallery talked of the blogging preview event before the Northern Art Prize, and it is exciting to consider the possibilities of reviews by bloggers not part of the ‘art world’.  As regular readers of Life and Art will know, I am enthusiastic about anything which will enhance the effectiveness of communications about art in intelligent but intelligible language to a wider public.

Other sessions touched on the concept of social media as a medium for art in itself. The paradigm shift within society created by social networking holds interesting challenges for investigation through art, and I am fascinated by the possibilities social media itself may have for making art:  it was good to find others excited by this. Interestingly today I heard about the first ‘Facebook” film (no, not the one you think I mean) which will be distributed and viewed exclusively on Facebook

I love the open-ended potential and stimulating environment of open space/unconferences. Events of this kind are a wonderful contribution to cultural discourse in Leeds. Thanks to all involved.

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