• Ika Szope at smARTplaces | INNOVATION in Culture

Ika Szope on the first smARTplaces conference: “What at first was the biggest challenge also turned out to be the biggest success.”

26.04.2018 by Hester Gersonius

Keywords: audience development, conference, innovation, recap, ZKM Center for Art and Media

On the 1st and 2nd of March smARTplaces partner ZKM Center for Art and Media hosted the first smARTplaces conference: smARTplaces | INNOVATION in Culture. Dominika Szope, Head of Communication and Marketing at the ZKM, shares her experience in organising and hosting the event.

Ika, can you tell us more about the conference?

The conference at the ZKM in Karlsruhe was the first of three conferences within the smARTplaces project. The key topic of the project is audience development. What is the importance of and what are the possibilities for audience development in the 21st century? There are many questions, so we tried to cover as many topics as possible in this first conference.

What kind of topics did you try to cover?

Against the background to the digitalization we are facing the main issue is: how to deal with data. We expect open data to play a very important role in the next five years. How can we use it to know more about our visitors and our target groups? In the 80’s one could observe a decrease in the strength of traditional bonds and of extensive ‘destratification phenomena’. An individualization process was set in motion, which is growing in structure-changing intensity due to more free time, more money, more mobility, education, etc. Today such a pluralization is observable in surveys of current media use based on demographic data.

But going beyond demographics – social-geographical data right up to psychographics show us that the current society is oriented strongly towards performance and efficiency, pragmatism and utility. Sustainability, new syntheses of values, and a selective idealism are also playing a greater role than 30 years ago. As the visitor landscape becomes more and more pluralistic and manifold, the visitor at the same time know what they want and are more vocal about it, so we have to change our way of thinking and working.

We have to ask about the experience of the visitor in our cultural institution. How digital do we need to be to attract and not to loose our visitors? Which technologies should we use to communicate our content in a current and accessible way? And what does all this mean for us and our working structures? How can we change to be more agile, to react faster in regards to the visitor and his needs? A lot of interesting and challenging topics, so we invited speakers from Europe from different fields, who tried to give answers to our questions, showed new perspectives, talked about their approaches and their experiences.

How did you promote the conference?

It was very important for us to promote the conference across Europe. We decided to set up the promotion in a digital way. There were no printed products. We produced a trailer that was distributed along the partners and on both websites (the ZKM and smARTplaces website). The program was available via the websites as well as via the app experience_zkm, which was developed in the context of the smARTplaces project. It was amazing, because it was absolutely sufficient. We had 200 applications that came from all over the world, including Germany, France, Great Britain,Turkey, as well as South America – Argentina, Chile – and even Japan/ Tokyo.

How many people joined the conference?

Around 100 participants attended the conference. Unfortunately many people were hit by the flue and therefore unable to attend in person. But around 1.000 people joined the livestream, what was really amazing. I would always recommend a livestream for a conference. It’s very current and an easy way to spread our knowledge and experiences.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

I wouldn’t say there was a big challenge. Finding the right speakers was probably the most challenging part. All project partners have their interest and the challenge was to cover all these interests. The feedback in the end was very positive and good.

What was the biggest success of the conference?

What at first was the biggest challenge also turned out to be the biggest success. There as a lot of positive feedback of the participants and the speakers. We had a lot of questions and we didn’t find all the answers, but we did start a good discussion, for example with the Manifest.

Is there anything you would do different next time?

We made some mistakes with the organization that were visible for us, but the participants didn’t notice. We didn’t have any negative feedback, so next time I would like to include a section where we can have serious feedback from the participants. For example a board where you can ask your questions and share your comments.