The Open Culture Studio is a laboratory space which supports the public mission of cultural institutions through bringing audiences closer to open digital heritage resources. The studio facilitates sharing knowledge, building competences and creating tools.
The studio brings together representatives of cultural institutions, social scientists, designers, developers and users to work together on developing innovative and effective ways to share digital cultural resources.
The studio is not a physical space – it is an opportunity to meet, a platform for collaboration and a way to share experiences. The process of joint work by people with various skills, with its own structure and methods, as well as access to necessary support at all stages of the process, is crucial for it, along with the space for experiments and testing the solutions being developed.
The Studio is an initiative of the Digital Centre, carried out by the Open Culture Team.
The Open Culture Studio connects people with heritage resources.
In the recent years, digitisation of the resources of Polish cultural institutions has been carried out on a large scale. Many of them have been made available online, and some institutions have chosen an open model of sharing, taking steps to address the needs of audiences. However, access – including technological and legal openness – is only the first step. In order for digital cultural resources to circulate online and reach their potential users, solutions are needed to build active engagement and based on understanding their needs, habits, motivations, and embodying the mission and tasks of public cultural institutions.
The Digital Centre has for years been conducting research analysing the circulation of resources online, the methods of digital participation in culture, the process of digitisation and sharing cultural resources, as well as studies of digital literacy. As a team of experts, it also supports institutions in openly sharing their resources. The knowledge and experience gained thanks to this are the context and basis for the creation of the Opening Culture Studio and defines its perspective – focused on the recipient and aware of the missions, specificities and tasks of public cultural institutions.
For the Opening Culture Studio, the key value is openness – broadly understood as openness to the recipient, openness to people with specific needs, technological and legal openness of products and resources (which guarantees their accessibility and the ability to use and process them) – which enables free sharing of knowledge and openness to changes and readiness to adapt to new circumstances. It translates into inclusiveness of the solutions created, transparency of the process for all involved, cooperation and equal access to knowledge, as well as mindfulness of the needs of the users.
Because the Studio was created and works to support cultural institutions, its important distinction is also the support of the ecology of institutional practices. This translates into care for the rational management of public funds, the preference for long-term solutions, adaptations and updates, as well as care for the consistency of solutions and products with a mission, specificity and social role of public cultural institutions.
The inspiration and reference point for the way the Opening Culture Studio works are the working methodologies used by the creators of innovations and technologies. We believe that in designing solutions that serve the needs of the recipients, we must start with understanding the needs, motivations and habits (this is why we draw on user-centred design). At the same time, our hypotheses about what can be an answer to a defined need require constant verification, so in the next stages of work, it is necessary to test small working wholes and consult with potential customers (this is why we draw on lean product design). We work in interdisciplinary teams, which give us the opportunity to look at a problem from many perspectives, generate a variety of ideas and adopt an attitude of empathy towards the needs of the target audience (this is why we draw on design thinking). The interdisciplinary team combines research, design, coding and curatorial approaches. Because learning through experience and is extremely important for this project, we learn and draw conclusions from each stage of work and the verification of its effects. To make this possible, we need transparency and readability of the entire process for all involved, examining the progress of the work in the context of the objective and openness to adapting to changes, should it prove necessary (this is why we draw on agile). If order for all team members to learn, acquire new skills and share knowledge – including the so-called silent knowledge, which can be difficult to capture – the process includes meetings aimed at capturing and describing the factors that influenced the quality of the work and its results (this is why we draw on the method of conducting retrospective meetings).
At the same time, at every stage of the work, we come back to the question of whether the solution we are creating fits the mission of the institutions the resources of which it is to make available.
Structure and process
In 2017, the Opening Culture Studio invites four institutions to cooperate, including three selected in a competition, which will join the Partner of this edition – the Polish History Museum. Four teams, consisting of employees of the institutions with different competencies, as well as experts working with the Studio (developers, UX specialists, graphic designers and additional specialists whose expertise will be needed during the project), will work during four meetings in a medialab format, as well as between the meetings, under the guidance of two experienced mentors, on four prototype solutions that make the digital resources of their institutions available. Next, in an open competition, two solutions will be selected from the four prototypes, and next year, they will be created in the Studio with the representatives of the two teams that developed them, and which will then take them over and use them in their institutions.
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The Partner of the project is the Polish History Museum.