Thursday, 1 October, 1998
Welcome Address

Andrea Ellmeier / Veronika Ratzenboeck
Österreichische Kulturdokumentation. Internationales Archiv für Kulturanalysen

Cultural Competence. New technologies, culture and employment

Cultural competence is designed to position and discuss the cultural dimension of new technologies, structural changes in cultural fields and employment aspects of cultural work and work in the arts/culture area in a European context.

The aim is to examine the structural framework for art/culture production and distribution in the context of current social transformations, i.e. to question focuses in cultural policy and measures taken at a national level with respect to their relevance to European structures. In general events involving information on and discussion of culture (policy) and the EU sooner or later come down to the extent to which the EU can provide financial resources for culture. This may well be an interesting and instructive question but it does not adequately address structurally important issues such as copyright, taxation or local conditions. With this in mind, "Cultural competence" is a continuation of the discussion process initiated during the British EU presidency with "A working culture: culture, creativity and employment" (London, May 1998). The production and distribution of culture in smaller European countries will be a particular focus.

On the second day of the conference discussion will concentrate on three areas: Content and distribution: the electronic challenge (music, literature) (Working Group 1), Cultures of electronic networks (Working Group 2) and Informal knowledge cultures: repositioning culture in an employment context (Working Group 3).

The important and highly equivocal question of work forms and relations in a cultural and artistic context will be dealt with in Working Group 3. The transformations in (professional) work cultures and consistently high unemployment rate present major challenges to individual governments and, since the Amsterdam Summit in 1997, to Europe as a whole.

The anticipated growth in culture and particular in related industries was noted in a working paper entitled "Culture, cultural economics and employment published in May this year by Directorate General V "Employment, industrial relations and social affairs" in co-operation with Directorate General X, which is responsible for culture and audiovisual media. There are said to be some three million jobs associated with culture (culture-related jobs) in the EU: practically as many as in the food and semi-luxury goods industry. Culture is not mentioned at all, however, in EU strategy papers concerning employment policy - not least because culture, as was emphasized, for example, at the informal meeting of ministers of culture in Linz in September 1998, is supposedly the responsibility of the individual member states. Apart from the general structural changes in the labour market, discussion in this Working Group will also focus on cultural workers/entrepreneurs and on the specific and demanding creativity mix required for jobs in the culture/arts field and the new training requirements that this might involve. The development of the culture sector as a job creator will be examined on the basis of examples taken from Great Britain and Germany. The aim of this Working Group is to continue discussion of culture and employment with particular account of the effects of new technologies.

Working Group 2 Cultures of electronic networks will look at the cultural dimension of new technologies, in particular the so-called "new cultural initiatives" that have arisen in the 1990s within the cultural platforms in electronic networks, and the perception of these initiatives in Europe.

Euroepan best-practice models will be presented and the structural difficulties of a technology policy that ignores the cultural dimension will be discussed. The change in "public space" produced by the digital culture will be examined in Debate 3. A particular focus in this Working Group will be the shortcomings in national and, more especially, European cultural policy concepts with respect to subsidies and awareness of network initiatives and media art as new artistic forms of expression, with a view to integrating them more actively in the European discussion process.

Content and distribution: the electronic challenge is the title of Working Group 1, which will deal with current structural changes in culture production and distribution, as exemplified by music and literature. This issue - of critical interest in both cultural and economic terms - will be examined in four debates, which will look at the following questions: culture production cyberspace, copyright, distribution and locality and employment. Respected representatives of European and national interests will discuss the politically relevant aspects of this highly controversial issue.

On the opening afternoon the themes of the conference will be addressed in a number of distinct ways: the approach to and combination of cultural and general policy issues will be reflected in a presentation of new economies (economy of attention), a historical commentary on work and love, which looks at visible employment policy aspect in the context of privacy and public life, the successive changes in basic democratic rights - an extremely critical subject in our society - of the new possibilities for access provided by information and communications technologies (civil rights and ICT), and the often discussed question of the cultural and social significance of copyright, an issue that legal experts have all too frequently tended to keep to themselves. This wide spread in the plenum presentations gives an idea of the vast range of possibilities for discussion of the conference theme and of the need for stronger general reflection in society on the developments in Europe. It would be useful if all European were to would integrate cultural issues as a matter of course in their work, not least since European economic co-operation not only results in structural changes in the economic sphere but also influences and significantly changes political cultures in the individual countries.

The conference reader provided for you here contains biographies of varying lengths and abstracts written by the presenters themselves. A record of the conference is planned to make the contents of presentations and position papers available to a wider public. The interaction of economic, social and political aspects of cultural policy decisions will at all events be one of the central and most interesting challenges of the next few years.

On behalf of the concept and organization team we wish you an interesting contextual conference.