Pille Pruulmann Vengerfeldt: Proof of concept. Affordances of civic and cultural engagement?

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Pille Pruulmann Vengerfeldt, Professor of Media and Communication Studies. The title of the seminar is:

Proof of concept: Affordances of civic and cultural engagement?

It will take place on Wednesday, September 19 at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara.

Here is an abstract for the talk.

I am planning to put together a proposal for a European Research Council (ERC) grant (https://erc.europa.eu/funding/consolidator-grants) concerning museums and public broadcasting organisations, the project aim being to develop an inventory of affordances that relate to cultural engagement. At the seminar I would like to discuss with you:

1) whether the research can be considered frontier and ground-breaking, and

2) whether there are colleagues in K3 who could consider this topic something they would like to contribute to.

Here are the rudiments of the idea:

The context:  In today’s media-rich cultural landscape, one could argue that with the raise of user-generated content, do-it-yourself movements and increasing number of cultural activities to diverse tastes and preferences, there is also continuing discontentment and feeling of lack of possibilities for engagement. On the one hand, we have an increasing number of digital cultural resources that are made available to the public, on the other hand, these resources are not used to the extent that their creators imagined. On the one hand, we have a diversity of opportunities to engage with different media outlets or create your own media; on the other hand, there is an increasing group of people who justify their actions by arguing that their voice is suppressed. These contradictions make me ask if there could be a way to investigate what kind of engagement opportunities are offered by the different content creation organisations and how these offers are received and understood by the public. Can we identify specific affordances that address people well in concrete contexts, where the affordance of the programme is recognised, and engagement possibilities are perceived by the audience members?

The cases: The investigation would draw on two sets of similar, yet very different cases – museums and public broadcasting organisations. Both of these organisations are publicly funded, and there are perceived public duties, among which is upholding the democratic order within society. Both of them are increasingly facing the challenge of digitalisation where their existing practices are both undermined and vastly enhanced by the idea of digitalisation. They both need to address large societal groups and need to create content that is engaging to the highly demanding audiences. Both organisations are losing on their traditional standing in society, but are in general agreed to be a valuable part of societal structures. Both organisations are turning to public participation as a way to overcome the above-listed challenges and have successes and failures to account. Both also deal with highly specialised knowledge for which they have had authority for a long while and at the same time that knowledge is challenged by digitalisation making skills more easily accessible.

The how: The project will consist of case studies and being inspired by grounded theory, the iterations of data collection and work with theory and literature, will allow the building of analytical framework that supports understanding as well as designing affordances for cultural participation.


Makers Receivers Non-audiences [Programme]
Interviews with selected programme/content makers about their imaginations about the affordances Interviews/focus groups to discuss the perception of the affordances of cultural engagement. Where possible, people with different degrees of engagement Focus group studies with non-museum goers on investigating their perceptions about the invitations to cultural engagement Content/discourse analysis of the programmes provided by selected museums to explore the affordances


Theoretical premises: Audience engagement discussions from audience theories as well as civic engagement and cultural engagement discussions. Affordances in design studies. Democracy and cultural institutions as part of their democratic assignment. The broader sociological framework through societal domain theories from Layder, discussing how individual choices and practices can lead to societal change.

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