A new challenging path for european research policy on culture after 2020.

Author: Annalisa Mombelli

The cope and merit together of the pandemic was to bring out both the weaknesses of a system that was not entirely effective and the strength of culture and the arts as vital elements for society and the economy. What emerged was how cultural policies today are more than ever an effective tool to address global challenges, to build bridges between the business world and civil society, to innovate, to acquire knowledge or to generate intercultural dialogues and collaborations, with the aim of creating basic conditions that can improve the quality of life of individuals, making the world a peaceful and cohesive place. There is a growing realisation that cultural policies have the task of ensuring that the arts and humanities are present and prioritised in the current debate to define the terms of a future society that is more empathetic, and rich in beauty and imagination. Talking about cultural policies means considering the impact of biotechnology and computer algorithms not only within the production system of cultural goods and services but also in the process of creating and developing the future society[1]. Moreover, the COVID crisis has accelerated major trends in digital, and the CCIs need to increase efforts to develop new content and new business models[2]. In effect, the impossibility to distribute and disseminate content physically through traditional channels (cinemas, theatres, museums, etc.) has sped up the adoption of digital solutions, not only to ensure continued access to culture but also to generate alternative revenues that could partly compensate the large loss of income.

Technological developments such as AI, AR, VR, and IoT are a field full of potential for CCIs in terms of content creation, services, distribution, and relation to end-users. By 2030, immersive content has the potential to add about EUR 1.3 trillion to the global economy and Europe has an advantage thanks to its large cultural diversity and heritage as well as its highly skilled professionals[3]. The impetus for innovation can be nurtured by a new approach outlined through creativity. Research and experimental development (R&D) comprise creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge – including knowledge of humankind, culture, and society – and to devise new applications of available knowledge[4].

Horizon Europe, Creative Europe Programme, and The Digital Europe Work Programme 2021-22 are the key tool to advance in innovation, in particular, creativity-driven innovation (e.g. Cluster 2) and in digitization, e.g. through a Media Data Space to support advanced solutions for the creation, distribution, and consumption of new media products; a Creative Innovation Lab to supports ideas to design and test innovative digital solutions with a potential long-term impact on multiple cultural and creative sectors and to foster innovation in the VR/AR Media field; greater support for XR technologies. New recommendations from dance-house networks are addressed to Member states and European Union to include more support for performing arts in the next work plan for culture 2023-2026[5].

On the other side, in March 2022 Commission has published two studies to map the challenges and opportunities for cultural and creative sectors in the digital decade: the Study on Opportunities and Challenges of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technologies for the Cultural and Creative Sectors[6] and the Study on copyright and new technologies[7]. Both, commissioned by DG Connect, these two studies aim to provide creative entrepreneurs, academics, national policymakers as well as EU policymakers with concrete ideas as well as avenues for further exploration. The first one[8] explores existing and potential business opportunities (so-called “use cases”) for AI in the CCS and examines some of the new challenges that need to be addressed, considering the needs of each sector, and in particular the needs of small European players, from performing to visual arts, from architecture to museum and cultural heritage, from film, music, new media, and video games. The second study[9] presents the use of artificial intelligence solutions in four creative sectors (visual arts, music, audio-visual and film, and gaming), before exploring possible emerging legal questions related to the interaction with the copyright legal framework. With the same purpose, the European Committee of the Regions launched an online map of good practices in the fields of culture and education on the 27th of April 2022[10]. With more than 100 examples and contributions provided by local and regional elected representatives of the European Committee of the Regions and its partners, its purpose is to serve as inspiration for further ideas and valuable projects, while also providing various opportunities to share experiences, exchange knowledge and initiate cooperation.

Cultural and creative industries can therefore legitimately be considered laboratories of development and innovation, and dance is one of the possible testing grounds for a new relationship between man and technology, in which the dancing body and the user/ spectator body become both users and promoters of new methodologies.

Significant, for example, is the change of perspective on the part of performer-choreographers since the production and execution of performance is not the only output required. The main challenge is to act as a fertile innovation driver for technological experimentation in the creative context, which does not only mean using a certain type of technology in a different way by creating new expressive languages but to increasing the TRL (technological readiness level) of technological solutions e.g. in immersive reality. It is therefore required of both parties to step out of a kind of comfort zone

On the other side, as enlightened in the recent study “Opportunities and challenges of artificial intelligence technologies for the cultural and creative sectors”, while some collaboration is already taking place from the ground up, a key problem lies in the fact that the CCS is not the most lucrative target market for AI developers, who would rather focus on applications in fintech, healthcare, manufacturing, retail/e-commerce, and others. Except for video games, cultural and creative sectors do not pay well and are less attractive for AI engineers or entrepreneurs, which is another barrier to technology development. AI startups need to be incentivised to develop solutions for CCS. Demonstration and test projects showing the viability (and profitability) of using AI in CCS also for AI developers could help overcome such reservations[11].

In conclusion, an awakening of awareness seems to have taken place. Culture and art seem to be coming together again, and communities of researchers are putting forth new energy to give an impetus to innovation. Maybe it will be a hard task for European Cultural Policy to steer this impulse well and not lose the thrust of an interdisciplinary dialogue.

[1] https://keanet.eu/opinions/una-politica-culturale-per-lunione-europea-trasformare-leuropa-attraverso-la-culturae-possibile-philippe-kern/

[2] A sub-effect of the abrupt halting of all (non-essential) economic and social activities (and of the increasing appreciation of culture at the societal level) was the pressure to reach audiences in alternative manners, which has led many organizations and freelance workers to promptly react in this sense”. See: IDEA Consult, Goethe-Institut, Amann S. and Heinsius J. 2021, Research for CULT Committee – Cultural and creative sectors in post-Covid-19 Europe: crisis effects and policy recommendations, European Parliament, Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, Brussels

[3]Commission staff working document, Annual Single Market Report 2021 Accompanying the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Updating the 2020 New Industrial Strategy: Building a stronger Single Market for Europe’s recovery, SWD/2021/351 final https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52021SC0351

[4] Frascati Manual (7th ed., OECD 2015) https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/randdef/manual.htm

[5] We regret that the current Work Plan for Culture did not include any specific topic on performing arts, while it did address other sectors (such as cultural heritage, audiovisual sector and music). The performing arts sector is the largest European cultural sector in terms of employment [1], and it suffered the most from the COVID-19 pandemic, with 90% turnover loss in the first year of the pandemic [2]. Therefore, the performing arts sector undoubtedly deserves a greater focus both at the EU and Member States level in the upcoming years. https://www.ietm.org/en/advocacy/policy-papers/policy-statement-recommendation-for-the-work-plan-for-culture- 2023-2026

[6] https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/study-opportunities-and-challenges-artificial-intelligence-aitechnologies-cultural-and-creative

[7] https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/study-copyright-and-new-technologies

[8] European Commission, Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, Izsak, K., Terrier, A., Kreutzer, S., et al., Opportunities and challenges of artificial intelligence technologies for the cultural and creative sectors, 2022, https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2759/144212

[9]European Commission, Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, (2022). Study on copyright and new technologies: copyright data management and artificial intelligence. https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2759/570559

[10] https://cor.europa.eu/en/regions/Pages/EIR-map.aspx?view=stories&type=sedec

[11] European Commission, Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, Izsak, K., Terrier, A., Kreutzer, S., et al., Opportunities and challenges of artificial intelligence technologies for the cultural and creative sectors, 2022, https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2759/144212

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