One of the channels of research in WP4 is to look into how we might nurture more meaningful dialogue about sensitive topics related to heritage and identity — in formal public spaces such as museums, galleries, heritage sites — as well as in more informal public spaces such as festivals or cultural houses.
Take a topic such as “coexistence.” We have always been confronted with the difficulty of living with others, and as we move closer and closer together, into cities and tightly confined spaces, we need to consider what it means to coexist with people who are different from ourselves. Do we want to live in a mosaic? A melting pot? How do we deal with possibly uncomfortable differences in religion, culture? These questions burn right now in Copenhagen, Denmark (literally), where we are based at CIID.
Now say a museum is trying to exhibit art that “reflects and addresses current political, social and cultural issues”, as Nikolaj Kunsthal seeks to do. In an exhibit of work such as that of Julian Rosefeldt, we are exposed to provocative art that makes us think about the difficult topic of immigration. This is fertile ground for dialogue — we are all milling around the room, looking at beautiful and challenging videos — but there is no invitation to a dialogue, no mechanisms for discussion amongst ourselves (though of course, if you are brave, you could always just ask). Maybe you could put something on twitter with a hashtag. Or take a few minutes and write your input in a visitor log. As you read this, you might be rolling your eyes. Because each of these tools has its own problems and delights.
Instead of whipping out our phones and tapping out a response to the exhibit, while being distracted by notifications and texts, we decided to design an experience that would focus on specifically capturing visitors’ reflections and enable visitors to also listen to others’ opinions or thoughts that they have left in the same space, related to the same topic and exhibition. Furthermore, we explored the potential of asynchronous and semi-anonymous communication for discussing difficult topics — the idea being that you can reply in your own time (asynchronously) and share some of but not all of yourself (semi-anonymous). Could alternate forms of communication (rather than synchronous / face-to-face / purely text-based) lead to more meaningful and open participation+listening?