New Forms of Interaction between People and Culture, Art and Society

The closing day of the Forum activities appeared to be very busy for the Open Lectures 'Culture 2.0'. On November 16, at once several meetings devoted to innovative technologies in culture were held in the Manezh as part of the special project of the Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum.

Participants of the discussion 'Where is This World Heading?' presented their vision of the present and the future in view of the technological ideas to the wide audience and discussed how the artificial intelligence, neural networks, virtual reality and robots change our life and determine creative abilities all over again.

The future of culture and arts was in the focus of the discussion held by the following international experts: Tandi Palmer Williams, Founder and Managing Director of Patternmakers; Jasper Visser, Strategic Designer and Senior Partner of the VISSCH+STAM consulting boutique; Richard Ellis, Managing Partner of MTM; Richard van Wageningen, Senior Vice President of Orange Business Services in Russia, and Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe. The event was moderated by Gunilla von Hall, international reporter of Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden).

Over the past ten years, technologies have radically changed human interaction with the field of culture and art: world museum collections can be viewed online, and theatre tickets can be bought using a smartphone. Richard Ellis, Managing Partner of MTM, one of leading European consultants in field of research and strategies suggested how technical advancement might change the world in ten years.

'Not so long ago The Economist published a report on how technologies would enable availability of culture and cultural life. 2/3 respondents in Russia, 40% respondents in China and 50% in Great Britain said that over the last half a year digital technologies had let them see what they couldn't see before. The figures are absolutely amazing, and they will be critical for the next 10 years. I used to work for Google — the company which is often considered 'a bad guy'. Not everything Google does is seen as a good thing, but they have YouTube. It's a unique platform! YouTube is available for everyone, it's the biggest educational platform in Africa. And in the world in general. Any country with YouTube has access to education. It's the same with culture and arts: YouTube is the biggest European platform to publish lectures, speeches on literature, theatre, dance and so on. Despite multiple problems Google faces it makes wonderful things. I think, it's a change of interaction between people and data which will be one of the most important shifts in the next 10 years,' Richard Ellis said.

Cultural institutions are also keeping up with the times. Museums and creative platforms actively implement new technologies and study their visitors. Tandi Palmer Williams, Managing Director of Patternmakers, consultant for studies in field of culture, creative work and social sphere, shared her experience in field of working with museums.

'I used to work in the Nesta Innovation Foundation, where I was involved in researches and developments. We implemented 52 projects in both educational and cultural establishments, and every time we monitored implementation of those projects. Successful projects has clear goals that could be changed if necessary. When projects were launched, everyone wanted to write programs for applications — there were times when mobile devices were developing dynamically. But no one downloaded those applications. Many cultural institutions created them just because it was fashionable, but they didn't really need them. Sometimes it was enough for a museum to make a good website instead. And one museum even brought paintings to the university to show in hallways - so that students could see what actually was exhibited there. So, instead of making applications they used a creative approach. It's vital for cultural institutions to understand their goals. What problems do they want to solve? What are people around concerned about? How can we help these people?' Tandi Palmer Williams shared.

Richard van Wageningen, Senior Vice President of Orange Business Services in Russia, reflected on how technologies would transform our cities.

'The Smart Cities Project is not about technologies. It's about communities, about how people interact with each other, and how technologies help them interact. A 'smart city' helps us create the community: let's say you've come to some city for the first time, you've bought a city guide and downloaded the application, but you'd better meet people who have the same interests as you do, right? There is Artefact, the Russian application, where you point your phone on the painting to see the information about it. The same can be done for people: you're sitting in a cafe, and there's Peter or Jane sitting next to you, and the application knows that you have shared interests, so it offers you to have coffee together. That's how you can meet new and like-minded people. Technologies help us create new ways of communication,' Richard van Wageningen said.

The position of European politicians concerning new technologies was expressed by Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

'The artificial intelligence has a potential of influence on our lives, but at the same time important ethical issues should be raised regarding its impact on the rule of law, human rights and democracy. I'm glad that at the last meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Helsinki issues of creating the regulatory framework were considered so that it could allow regulating design and use of artificial intelligence. It will make us sure that the use of artificial intelligence doesn't violate human rights, but supports and strengthens them.

We work on a few directions in this area, including culture. It's difficult to predict the future. Particularly so, if you try to predict creative, artistic or cultural tendencies in fields that are prone to technological changes. However, we should be confident that such changes take place within limits. Europe doesn't want to limit or direct culture, even if it were possible. We want culture to thrive in the context of human rights, democracy and the rule of law,' Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni noted.

Jasper Visser, Strategic Designer and Coordinator from the Netherlands and Senior Partner of the VISSCH+STAM consulting boutique, who specializes in digital transformation projects and local cultural community management, tried to answer the main question of the discussion.

'Over the recent years we have been working closely with libraries all across the globe, and we try to answer the question: 'Where is this world heading?'. We've been provided 16,000 opinions through online meetings. Technologies helped us create a consistent system to work on this problem. We managed to identify specific problems in regions and cities. Participants of our program are 15,000 people all across the globe and 150 countries.

And when you come to think of where technologies move us, we'll understand that they give us new opportunities and a freedom of choice. Today the Internet has made cultural interchange much easier. Not all technologies serve this goal, but some of them are perfect for the open dialogue between people and culture,' Jasper Visser noted.