Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Manchester arts venues dig social media


Increasingly, arts organisations and cultural institutions in Manchester are getting all mixed up with social media. It's not just about reaching younger and more tech-savvy audiences - though it will certainly help them do that - but taking part in the wider cultural conversation that is taking place in Manchester.

The Bolton Octagon has an excellent blog which provides behind-the-scenes peeks at their productions. Because I follow Bury Met on Twitter, I've been reminded about gigs I would have otherwise missed. The Library Theatre is on Twitter. So is Contact., Urbis and The Oldham Coliseum, which also uses a link sharing account on delicious to track coverage of their current production.

And that's just the heavy hitters. Really, one of the best things about social media is how it allows small underfunded collectives and artist groups to get the word out about their work without paying through the nose for PR. I've written about this phenomena in the Manc literature scene loads, but for a glimpse of similar things happening on the visual art side check out Exocet and Interval.

Sure, social media is another channel on which to promote your stuff, but savvy arts orgs understand that it's a tool that works both ways. It can also allow punters to participate in their work, from deciding what band should play a festival to getting involved in creating artistic content online. So the relationship becomes less one-sided and (hopefully) engenders a broader sense of ownership around these institutions.

Cornerhouse has embraced an interesting new "open source" approach which aims to engage the public more in programming, and abandon the traditional model of a head curator/programmer determining cultural output. The ensuing staff reshuffle which saw longtime film honcho Linda Pariser and Visual Art Director Kathy Rae Huffman depart caused a bit of a kerfuffle on the Manc arts scene.

Cornerhouse's new world order is laid out for your persual in The Art of With - an essay, seminar and a conversation that will potentially shape what the institution does in the future. The C-house commissioned We-Think author Charles Leadbeater to write an essay on how arts orgs can successfully incorporate this approach. And it's all just as collaborative as you'd expect: you can comment on the essay at the wiki here, and get involved in the seminar June 24.

And in July, Manchester Museums Consortium are launching a Wordpress-based online magazine to promote their activities and the city as a cultural destination. I'll be helping MMC involve the city's cultural bloggers in creating content for the site, so if you're doing reviews or criticism on your blog, drop me a line.

7 comments:

Stuart Childs said...

Similar topics were discussed at the recent 'Art of Digital' learning lab held at Urbis - indeed many arts organisations across Manchester and the wider North West are making valuable use of social media. There was much food for thought at the session - an informal presentation / discussion forum. May well be worth checking out their crowdvine site for upcoming similar events [I'm not affiliated]:

http://artofdigital.crowdvine.com

Very interesting to see how businesses and arts venues/organisations are starting to grasp the power of online social power now. Nice post, was a good read.

yankunian said...

thanks, stuart! will check it out...

Sally Boyd said...

Thanks for the mention! Hope you are well nad still Rammy in the glorious weather...

Vaughan said...

What I've found interesting is 'the other side'--how bloggers and others react to institutions using social media. IME, there's often some considerable surprise when one reacts (through comments, tweets or dropping an email) to a review/post, as though the blogoshire is 'their' world and that of the institutions is quite separate, and the latter shouldn't be responding to the former (certainly not to take to task for inaccuracies...I had one response along the lines of 'why are you bothering about my post on my small part of the interweb?'--'well, because it'll be archived for anyone anywhere to see. Oh, and because I'm a control freak.').

Its almost as if social media-ites still have an unconscious view of the cultural world (however much big-toe dipping in that sea is going on) as run by people in suits who just don't get it and therefore have no right to respond or interact.

Kate Feld said...

Excellent point, Vaughan. If socialmedia folks clamour to be taken seriously and considered on an equal footing with cultural heavy hitters (because everyone's on a level playing field now), they need to *act* like it.

Also: blogoshire. Love it.

Caleb Storkey said...

Like the sound of Cornerhouses' approach- thanks for that!

R. Concord said...

This is a really interetsting article and i think it is important to stress that these methods of communication are two-way streets and this is the real value of them. It allows you as a gallery, museum etc to let people know what you're upto and also for people to respond to the work that you are doing ans to shape how you apporach things in the future. Working for a small organisation I am constantly trying to push the use of these free media as a way of connecting further, and in different ways, with our audience. On a personal level, if I had not been on twitter ( www.twitter.com/typograph )I would have missed out on loads of events recently, gigs, openings etc so the tweeting is already paying for itself.