After three years of exciting debates and fruitful exchange the SmartCulture project officially ended with the International SmartCulture Week in Lille. ECBN Head of Board Bernd Fesel had the honour of being invited to hold the keynote speech there. We document the speech here in a slightly overworked version.


Why SmartCulture?

This is the first entry you read when you visit the SmartCulture webpage. And this question was my starting point for many subsequent questions I want to share with you – and I want to propose some more fundamental questions and outlooks to you.

Today’s conference is the closing conference to the exciting and avantgarde project SmartCulture, but: The digital revolution has just begun. SmartCulture has just begun.

To look ahead means

– to look beyond the project

– to see where SmartCulture can take cultural heritage

To look ahead

– is my aim today

– and is hopefully my contribution to a sustainable follow up to this project

– like ecce and ECBN have experienced it after the European Capital of Culture, RUHR.2010: to change from a temporary project to a permanent structure.

For a trend analysis on SmartCulture we have to take a step back and understand three originally separated trends:


I. What is the digital revolution?

Where does it take us to – not only technically, but as a cultural phenomenon. Yes – the real question is NOT how the digital enables us to share cars or start our toaster at home in Lille from New York via app.

The real question is how does the digital revolution shape our behavior, our values, our perceptions.


II. What is our understanding of audience today – and in the future?

Are persons in the culture space an audience and users or are they citizens using their own public space? Are they both?


III. And of course: What is culture?

A set of sectors policy definies to fund it? A set of values? Or does it mean diversity and freedom of actions?

Of course these questions easily fill lectures for a whole semester – of course I am pinpointing now and picking out these elements relevant to discuss the future of SmartCulture. It will take us 10 minutes to go through this.


I. A Digital Revolution

Revolutions are not new in the history of mankind – yet this digital revolution has a characteristic none had before: Moores’ Law.

As Moore stated in 1965 the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles every two years. This leads to an exponential growth of capacity – and it is hard for the human brain to grasp this growth.

When you have the feeling of speed today, you must realize that this is only the start. The speed of one year will take place in one month in a few years ahead.

This applies to all sectors of economy – an example:

A car worth today 100.000 Euro you can buy in 10 years for 3.000 euro – on the same level of performance and technique. Or vice versa: the technical capacity has increased 30x-fold.

Even innovation managers in sectors like mobility and cars and energy realize today that audiences or clients can not learn as fast as technology develops.

Philosophers even argue that we are losing the capacity to learn – here a thought experiment:

If you have no time to review and look back in a period of time – where the status is not changing – how to learn? Can you learn without a stable zero time point, without standing still ? Without the patience to look back at history?

Indeed the question arises if a time line documenting daily change and action – like in many softwares today – is the same as a tradition, as history, as heritage as we know it today.

Tradition and History today is a mediation and transformation from the former dialy presence to a selection and readout from forgetting and not-forgetting. It is not the past presence in total – all alive today.

To understand the force of the digital that is – unfortunately without greater notice – changing our concept of heritage, here some figures for illustration, to make the point:


Today this means at Facebook: 350mn photographs a day, 4.5bn likes and 10bn messages a day.

For the future: The amounts of electronic data being generated around the world doubles at a rate roughly every 18 months. (This is latest data published by the Gurdian on Sept 25.)

Now: History is unmediated – it is just another element of all data all the time and everywhere.

Will history thus lose its meaning to give orientation, will it lose its authority?

And will cultural heritage just be part of the data stream? Does it want to be? Or can it provide a fix point in the constant flow of ever accelerating change?

Do we – as a society or as avantgarde project makers – want SmartCulture to be a digital space of meditation and slowness – just as a real visit to Chartres or the Acropolis ?

Are these questions relevant to make an app or reach new audiences? Yes, indeed they are!

The way audiences were reached and what audiences were addressed in the 19th or 20th century reflected the understanding of the elites of their time. To reach audiences today in the digital era is also a decision how to develop our society in a digital future.


II. What is the audience today – and in the future?

Here at this conference we are all aware of the development from Consumer to Prosumer – the shift in the late 20th century. Today with the digital transformation of the internet of things and Big Data the user turns into a producer more and more as well.

Of course users produce meta-data by using culture and society – meta-data used for marketing.

But the next step is that the user produces literature, films, design – today’s users are already the main producers of fotos and porn- All professionals are outdone by the amateur communities.

Even in times of war and crisis news, amateur fotos and videos make it on prime time TV news. The Twitter amateur community reports quicker than Bloomberg or the German Press Agency.

What happens if millions of users have 3D Printers? Will they make their own shoes? This would be the end of fashion as we know it.

Looking for active audiences in culture heritage will turn these audiences also into producers of heritage news on a daily basis – which in turn can be used by amazon to produce best-sellers on cultural heritage or other digital majors to develop services based on cultural heritage – without the cultural heritage owners.

Audiences and users are not free in acting out their communication – it is governed by internet prodivers and search machine programs. For the future of cultural heritage institutions it is necessary to engulf into governance and ownership of heritage data – not just sticking to producing and stimulating audiences.

Digital audiences are not loyal. Digital cash flow from audiences is loyal – for example to platforms and search engines.

If SmartCulture shall lead cultural heritage into a future financing its existence, its pioneers and avantgarde makers today must lobby for a Digital Single Market protecting their ownership of data.

These might be worthwhile actions following this project.


III. And finally: What is culture – in the context of SmartCulture?

Culture Meets Tech – from book printing to theatre in TV or media art: We have seen many phases where culture uses the latest media to reach audiences.

Is digital media just another case?

No – it is not as you might expect. The ZKM exhibition GLOBALEin Karlsruhe serves here as an example for the trend called Renaissance 2.0:

Experience 300 days of GLOBALE The New Art Event in the Digital Age. Step into the all-encompassing, otherwise invisible infosphere in the museum-scale, audio-visual installation by Japanese media artist Ryoji Ikeda. Though perhaps not »sitting on a cloud« then by means of a conversion you can experience the way in which art and science complement one another and, with new tools, transform things into a reality that one had previously thought as impossible.(Source: Webpage ZKM.)

Let us review a concrete work of art like Remote Words. The artists position words on roof tops – you never see them as a visitor in the building, you realize and experience them only via Google Earth – delayed and digital. We see: Culture in the Digital World will be new cultural works and new perceptions – fully mediated, non-existent without a cloud or data.

It will not be ageing.

It might be governed by Moores law – in this case we will see an explosion of culture production.

It will need no tourism to be visited – just high speed data lines, as the Google Art Project demonstrates: Millions can see the Mona Lisa now.


So: What would a global cultural heritage be like in the ZKM?

It would be part of the Culture Renaissance 2.0.

This is not to imply that cultural heritage should be part of it, but it is a MUST that the cultural heritage community opens up a debate about in which kind of digital culture it wants to be heritage.



Now I lead you through three fundamental topics of our time in a high-speed train – to say it in a non-digital phrase – and reveal three meta-trends governing our immediate future in 5 to 10 years.

The allover presence of history

Audience: The allover DIY-production (of increasing amounts of formerly professional production)

Culture: The allover transformation of invisible info-sphere to offer new experiences.

Each kind of reality today is at the cross-roads of these trends, but SmartCulture is addressing these crossings with a different dimension than of just another product and cash flow.

Cultural heritage has been defining the perception of persons and whole nations, of cities and places – just think of the Palio in Sienna.

SmartCulture – the smart synergy of Digital/Audience/Culture – can lead to strengthen cultures power of identity in the digital age. Or can it be limited – can it be lost ?

You all here are defining answers – as users and/or producers in this project – everyday!

You are not only inventing apps and products – (the iPhone is not just a phone!) You are shaping our future culture and society.


Good luck!

Bernd Fesel – Head of Board ECBN

(With special thanks to Pier Luigi Sacco – and to SmartCulture for the pictures used.)

To keep in touch with SmartCulture you might want to follow the SmartCulture ClusterFeed.