The theme for the conference is “The Digital in Cultural Spaces”.

The prefix “digital” has long been used to indicate that something was produced with a computer and was maybe digitized or accessible through a computer interface. As a prevalent contemporary condition, the ‘digital’ in all its myriad manifestations has meant that the computer has become an invisible appliance, a transparent interface that has fundamentally changed the way we interact with the world – defining how we learn as children to how we connect with our friends and communicate with the world around us. And yet, as digital technologies become ever more pervasive, cultural workers rarely take stock of these rapid changes and strategically map out how digital media is changing how we perceive and work with culture.

Social media in particular has redefined what it means to be social. Communities, once defined by long standing ties to a place or a heritage are now also defined by the tendentious connection of a ‘like’ on Facebook. The 24/7 economy of news and media, means that the individual’s access to knowledge in the digital era is unparalleled to any other time in history. This creates new challenges for engaging an audience that increasingly has a shorter attention span, is highly mobile and easily influenced by what it reads and sees without critical reflection.

Cultural institutions have had to change in this new environment. Furthermore, they have had to stay ahead of the curve and break free from traditional moulds of inspiring their audiences. From digitally enhanced displays to web portals such as digital museums, digital media has cultivated a world of interactive education and user generated content that have re-defined how we understand ‘public’ institutions. New developments in media have changed the face of research in the humanities presenting us with artefacts we have never been able to see in public before. Developments in big data analytics have provided cultural institutions the means to identify their audiences and respond to them specifically to improve their experiences.

However, not all have benefited from the digital revolution; some communities who lack access are often left out and over time, left behind. Furthermore, the monetary cost of employing cutting edge technology is often beyond the means of cultural institutions and it is often taxing on organisational structures to keep their cultural workers abreast of the latest technological developments.
In an increasingly digital world, what is the role of cultural institutions in helping communities embrace technology, learn to use it beneficially and bridge the digital divide? How can cultural institutions themselves embrace and maximise the potential of digital technology in their efforts to be more accessible and inclusive to the multi-faceted communities they serve?

This conference thus attempts to take stock of the current stakes and applications of digital media in cultural institutions, focusing on how cultural institutions have used technology in their work and how they innovate, democratise and cultivate existing and new inclusive communities of users and producers. The conference ends with a Roundtable that discusses the potential of new and upcoming technological innovations that can change the face of cultural institutions and how we fundamentally define culture.

The Digital in Cultural Spaces conference will address the cultural shifts that digital technology has catalysed and provide a broad and in-depth survey of how the digital has redefined the fields of arts and heritage and how administrators, professionals and leaders in the arts and culture sectors can remain relevant to a digitally connected global world.