Kick-off of the ANR COLLABORA

The kick-off of the research project COLLABORA funded by the French National Agency (ANR) will take place the first April 2019.

Abstract of project

Considering the growing interest in participatory approaches in the cultural sector, the COLLABORA project aims to develop a theoretical, empirical and political reflection on new participatory digital platforms for the creation, documentation and enhancement of cultures and heritage.

In recent years, the development of digital technologies has encouraged the figure of the “amateur”. The web, first with blogs and then with social networks and collaborative platforms, has offered new spaces in which the pro-amateur can find an open and democratic ground where he can express himself and gain recognition alongside the expert officially responsible for the construction of knowledge. This phenomenon has particularly affected the field of culture.

Coping with this new situation, cultural institutions have become increasingly interested in the creation of participatory approaches and in the role that digital technologies could play in the mediation and communication activities. The concern of cultural institutions is not only to better understand these phenomena of participatory construction of knowledge, but also to convey the energy and enthusiasm of amateurs towards the walls of museums, archives, libraries, theatres, etc. Cultural participatory platforms have emerged as a response to this need. With the term “cultural participatory platforms”, we refer to any digital device that allows amateurs, or more generally citizens, to contribute to the construction of knowledge related to cultural objects, by interacting with one or more cultural institutions (archives, libraries, museums, theatres or directly a central administration such as the Ministry of Culture).

Although a number of cultural participatory platforms have been launched to invite amateurs to participate in the “construction of Culture”, the relationship between institutions and amateurs is not always linear and transparent. If the institution feels the need to interact with these key actors, at the same time it struggles to give them a place that would preserve their freedom of expression. Similarly, amateurs who start their activity independently, are often attracted by the institutional framework in order to give recognition or visibility to their action. Yet, in this institutional framework, they are not always comfortable.

Today, academic research on this subject, particularly in France, is not yet sufficiently developed to be able to assist the associative and institutional world of culture in this opening action towards the citizen. In particular, there is not yet a scientific and technical expertise that can allow the dissemination of digital platforms as a means to build a collaborative approach for building knowledge.

Starting from this analysis, the COLLABORA project will federate in a single interdisciplinary team the necessary expertise to reach for the following three objectives: theoretical objective (platform epistemology); empirical objective (uses of platforms); political objective (platforms in action). By questioning the epistemic and political models of these platforms, between citizen science and “amateur” practices, this project aims to decisively facilitate the opening of digital contributory projects within cultural and heritage organizations and to improve their efficiency in the transmission and sharing of knowledge. From the reconstruction of the state of the art and the analysis of the uses of the existing platforms, this project foresees as an ultimate step the collective definition of recommendations and their validation through the co-construction of a platform, by engaging in this process institutions, researchers and amateurs.