I’m back from the one-day seminar held on the arts & new media at Dublin Castle, sponsored by the Arts Council. It was a lively day full of interesting discussion and presentation– for me the best aspect was meeting others in the Irish blogging community, and hearing how various organisations in Ireland are utilising social media and other web 2.0 technologies in their work. Damien Mulley and Fearghus Ó Conchúir have already recalled their experience at the conference on their blogs. Others appeared to be blogging the conference live, but I haven’t yet found their sites or responses… in principle it’s an interesting idea, but sitting next to a blogger furiously tapping away during a presentation (or indeed surfing the web or checking email) reminds me of the kind of things we kick undergrads out of lecture for doing! A bit irritating, to be honest.
To my mind the discussions based around the opportunities offered by web-based media to organisations were more productive than those that focused on their potential within art practice. Also I have an interest in the deeper implications of web 2.0 on processes of social interaction and creativity within organisations, which were addressed sporadically but not with any particular rigour. That being said, the initial fiery exchange between keynotes Andrew Keen and Charles Leadbeater was particularly enjoyable owing to the strong feelings and ideas it provoked. Leadbeater’s boulder and pebble metaphor seemed to resonate particularly well and was repeated by others throughout the day, but I suspect many in the audience found themselves surprisingly in sympathy with Keen’s point of view. I myself am concerned about the overly American-centric view of the world presented by web 2.0 utopians, and worry about the social inequalities and new hegemonies it tends to gloss.
In terms of the ‘open’ sessions, I was a bit disappointed to realise that they had been predetermined, and not left open for participants to decide, as in true Open Conferencing style. I suppose this is more achievable in a 2-day conference environment, but given the unusual diversity of attendees it felt like an opportunity not seized. Finally, I would have loved to have seen policy addressed in a more concrete way, which the last session promised but did not deliver. I suspect many in the audience were not actually that interested in discussing policy (fair enough), and although I appreciate Andrew Taylor’s response to my question, I would have much preferred a response from the RTE and Arts Council reps on the panel, who are more familiar with the Irish policy context and the giant ‘boulders’ in that arena. So much of the conversation on the day seemed to need more time– it often felt like folks were just getting started before it was time to move on to the next session! Clearly there’s a high level of enthusiasm out there for the subject, and I’ve heard from several people disappointed there was no space for them to attend (though they plan on catching up on the streaming audio).
I find it difficult to criticise any new initiative, mostly because I’m so delighted anything’s been done at all! Indeed the large turnout to the event is testament to the hunger for these conversations, but I also think it led to the conference ‘vibe’ feeling somewhat diffuse and unfocused. That’s a personal response of course– but I think the most productive work at these events gets done when a smaller group of participants are united around a central agenda and set of concerns, though their views, approaches and experience may differ. I hope a more concentrated series of events or get-togethers will emerge out of this first effort, and that the dialogue begun yesterday will translate into a more vibrant online arts community in Ireland.
Finally a big kudos to Annette Clancy and her team who put the whole event together– well I know the difficulty in managing such an event, and it was superbly organised and run.