Any institution the existence of which is largely warranted by the existence of an audience is eager to understand what this audience is like, to assess the number of participants and, mainly, their frame of mind. Hence we were very enthusiastic when we received a proposal to take part in a research project entitled creating culture. A study of participation in culture which focused on Malta Festival Poznań and, primarily, on its audience. It is interesting to note that the project was designed not only to study the audience of a specific cultural event, but also to present a more democratic and civic conception of participating in culture adapted to the present day technological and social reality, in addition to proposing a research methodology for participation thus perceived.
“Participation in culture is not only a special situation which requires people to wear their best shirts and shoes. Participation in culture is an everyday matter and this notion incorporates sets of relationships that interconnect knowledge, norms, meanings, material objects and people,” write the study authors.
Most evaluation projects are based on quantitative assessment logic, but in this study the researchers developed a series of non-standard methods. They proved that visual research methods (visual journals, event maps and photo-voice) and socialising ones (workshops and a card game) are as valid as traditional ones (qualitative and quantitative) and are useful in the evaluation of cultural events. Owing to these methods the Malta foundation could see how the festival audience perceives and uses the cultural content (also corporeally and sensually), how they use it to create and disseminate new content, how the festival becomes a part of their life and how the events produce the nodes of social networks.
The study comprised six research projects some of which were of educational and socialising nature. The participants were invited, among other things, to observe the festival life and record it on film, to take walks in their districts with photographic cameras and dictation machines, to watch the shows and discuss them, to take part in photographic workshops and to jointly design an ideal festival. Consequently, the study was also interesting to the respondents.
The participation-based methods turned the research activities into yet another Malta Festival Poznań event whilst providing room for reflec tion on taking part in the festival. The respondents had to ask themselves several questions, for instance: what ‘being at Malta Festival’ meant to them, with whom and why they participated in the particular events, how they availed of them and what additional action they took. Creating culture is an open project.
The increasingly popular phrase ‘good practices’ can definitely be applied to collaboration between many institutions (in this project these were the AMU Foundation, The AMU Institute Of Sociology, The Malta Foundation and Kuratorart) and, above all, to sharing knowledge. The study results are available on www.tworzeniekultury.pl. The research tools, methodologies, results, ratios and concepts can be used both by institutions and people who participate in culture.
The study was conducted with the support of Narodowe Centrum Kultury (National Centre for Culture) as part of the programme Obserwatorium Kultury (www.obserwatoriumkultury.nck.pl).