Sejul Malde, Issue 118/01, p16, 01.01.2018
Responding to a changing society
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s #CultureisDigital initiative explores how digital technology can be used to drive audience engagement and boost cultural organisations’ capability.

It’s an important initiative for museums as they grapple with digital change, yet its emphasis on embracing digital as a tool to affect change ignores a far more existential challenge – how to respond to a changing society influenced by digital culture.

If museums are vital civic organisations with a role to play in society, it is imperative they can speak to and for a society that is changing because of digital culture. This social shift is far more profound than more people surfing the web or using smartphones. It’s about fundamental changes to our identity, our wellbeing, the information we consume, the democracy we participate in and the communities we connect with. Digital culture presents new opportunities for democratic expression, building communities and challenging existing power structures. Yet it also exacerbates mental health issues, creates filter bubbles that fuel division and provides forums for misinformation.

Given these new parameters, all museums must ask how they can become relevant to lives now massively influenced by changes in digital culture. Of course museums can change lives, but reflecting and responding to lives that are being changed remains the fundamental digital challenge.

Sejul Malde is the research manager at Culture24