In 2014, Research Council Norway launched a new research programme, KULMEDIA. The programme was directed towards research on the culture and media sector, and it was partly funded by the Ministry of Culture. Before the launch of the programme, a number of reports and studies had underlined the need for research-based knowledge to enable policy development in the field of culture. This was considered to be especially pertinent in a time when these sectors are undergoing fundamental changes, fueled by digitization, globalization and altered economic frameworks. The original five-year programme was prolonged with a new five-year period from 2019-2023.
The primary objective for the current KULMEDIA programme is to «promote high-quality research in the cultural and media fields». The plan for the programme says the following about the ambitions for the research: «Knowledge accumulated under the programme is to be of relevance for policy development and public administrationas well as for stakeholders active in these fields. The programme will generate knowledge about the challenges and opportunities associated with technological and economic changes, and about media and cultural policy.» Our project, Rapids and backwaters, received funding from the programme in December 2019, with the formal start-up date March 1, 2020. The project is covering two of the thematic and scientific priority areas for the programme: the relationship between change and stability, and the relationship between digital and analogue. Furthermore, it also covers two basic areas for the programme: digitization and cultural policy.
During this spring we have had two meetings to discuss analytical perspectives in our paper on the effects of COVID-19 on the arts and cultural sectors across the countries represented by our project team members. Our meetings are still digital, but hopefully during autumn we will have the chance to meet physically.
We have also conducted a large survey in on the consumption of digital culture in Norway. This exciting data has been discussed by our project members and will be used in one or more articles at a later point. In this survey we have also seen some effects of COVID-19. For instance, 21 % of our respondents state that they during this last year have seen a digital live concert for the first time.
Our project partner Christian Handke, from Erasmus University Rotterdam, has published a working paper together with Carolina Dalla Chiesa. The paper concerns how cultural economics provide a useful structure to explain much of the crowdfunding phenomenon.
Digital meetings has been the norm for this project, although it reads from the minutes from this meeting that “we still miss people”. The third meeting was held on November 13th, and the main point was to keep everybody updated on the progress in the different work packages, as well as discussing analytical perspectives in the further work.
In addition to the meeting, we had a digital Christmas toast on December 18th. All of the partners received a small bottle of Norwegian Aquavit (physically of course) by mail, and we were able to toast (digitally). As pleasant as this was, we hope to make future toasts entirely physical.
After initial planning, the formal starting date of the project was set to March 1, 2020. We had originally planned to meet in Oslo for a joint workshop and kickoff meeting from March 31 to April 1. This turned out to be difficult. In the middle of March, most countries were put in Covid-19 lockdown, making travel impossible. This made it necessary to go for a plan B, which was a digital kickoff meeting, which we had on April 1. The topics of the meeting were an introduction to the project and the participants, a presentation of the progress plans for the different work packages, and a more open-ended discussion on how we should deal with the new situation, in light of the pandemic.
The second general meeting in the project was also a digital one. This was held on June 4, and the main point of the meeting was to discuss the empirical strategy for WP1. This was the work package dedicated to analyse the knowledge and state of the art, regarding both policy and relevant research. All partners presented some points on the situation in their respective countries, both regarding the state of digital cultural policy in general, and regarding the different adaptions to the Covid-19 situation in the cultural sector.