The circuit of culture, cultural citizenship und participatory culture
That culture can be understood primarily as a lived daily practice can be traced back to Raymond Williams‘ often cited statement of culture as a “whole way of life“ (Williams 1972 (* 12 ): 17, zit. n. Göttlich 2006: 97) (* 3 ). The field of cultural production by Pierre Bourdieu has been described as such: “Bourdieu’s theory of the field of cultural production covers […] both the material and the symbolic production of cultural works, which entails taking into account the multiple mediators which contribute to the work´s meaning and sustain the universe of belief which is the cultural field” (Johnson 1993: 20) (* 5 ). In this project we aim to grasp these “multiple mediators” in the field of cultural production in relation to Richard Johnson’s model of the circuit of culture to demonstrate in how far the production, but also the reception of cultural content are influenced by cultural context factors within a matrix of cultural production.
In further developing Stuart Halls Encoding/ Decoding-Model, Richard Johnson (Johnson 1985 (* 6 ), 1986 (* 7 ); Johnson et al. 2004 (* 8 )) assumes that culture can be understood in a circuit of production, products as meaningful texts, their readings, the embedding of these products and their meaning in lived cultures. In this „circuit of culture“ all these elements are interdependent. Paul du Gay et al. (1997)have extended this circuit model by adding the term “articulation“ and they describe the model in relation to five levels of articulation, namely: representation, identity, production, consumption and regulation. In the context of this circuit cultural meaning is produced, the consequence being that culture is to be understood as a process in which viewpoints and attitudes are produced, received and distributed in a public circulation process and, at the same time, are continuously reproduced and renegotiated in society. It can be concluded that societies, groups and individuals are therefore continuously involved in processes of cultural production.
The concept of „cultural Citizenship“ (Stevenson 2001 (* 11 ), Klaus/Lünenburg 2004a (* 9 ), 2004b (* 10 )) is central in this circuit of cultural meaning production in today’s media society. Cultural citizenship “is comprised of all such cultural practices which unfold against the background of unequal power relations and which allow a competent participation in the symbolic resources of society” (Klaus/Lünenburg 2004a: 103, authors’ translation) (* 9 ). Competent participation in the symbolic resources presumes the possibility to acquire cultural production in society (Klaus/Lünenburg 2004a) (* 9 ). In the context of art it is not about participation as a naive paradigm of co-determination and a matter of reproducing dominant discourses and simulating participation (Ziese 2011: 77) (* 14 ) but, as we argue with Maren Ziese, about participation which enables intervention (ibid.). We understand such interventions through artistic strategies – meaning: the conscious and active part in the circuit of culture – to be a main part in the process of cultural production.
Such competent and interventionist participation involves an active moment of co-determination and an active shaping of cultural meaning production by the individual and through various publics. This aspect of lived cultural participation and the meaning of civic engagement have also been explored in the context of the concept of a „participatory culture“. Henry Jenkins et al. (2006) (* 4 ) describe the concept as such:
“A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).” (Jenkins et al. 2006: S. 3) (* 4 )
While this concept has been mainly discussed within media pedagogy and in regards to online developments with a focus on youth, in this project it is related to “real“ space and to possibilities of interventions in the field of contemporary art. The overall challenge lies in making the step from cultural consumption to active cultural production which may lead to social and civic engagement. However, as we argue, artistic interventions can play an important role in opening up new viewpoints and opportunities for participation and collaboration of various publics.