The Open Culture Studio is a laboratory space which supports the public mission of cultural institutions by bringing audiences closer to open digital heritage resources. The studio facilitates knowledge sharing, competency building and creation of tools.
The studio brings together representatives of cultural institutions, social scientists, designers, developers and users to work together on developing innovative and effective ways of sharing digital cultural resources.
The studio is not a physical space – it is a meeting opportunity, a collaboration platform and a way to share experiences. At its heart, there’s collaboration among people with various skills and methods, with access to necessary support at all stages of the process. It is also a space for experimentation and testing of the solutions being developed.
The Studio is an initiative of Centrum Cyfrowe, carried out by the Open Culture Team.
The Open Culture Studio connects people with heritage resources.
Digitisation of the resources of Polish cultural institutions has been carried out on a large scale in recent years. Many have been released online, and some institutions have chosen an open model of sharing, taking steps to address their audiences’ needs. However, access – including technological and legal openness – is only the first step. In order for digital cultural resources to effectively circulate online and reach their potential users, solutions are needed to build users’ active engagement. This needs to be based on thorough understanding of the audience’s needs, habits and motivations. Moreover, the solutions should embody the mission and responsibilities of public cultural institutions.
Centrum Cyfrowe has years of experience in conducting research on the topics of resources online circulation, methods of digital participation in culture, processes of digitisation and diffusion of cultural resources, as well as digital literacy. As an expert team, it also supports institutions in enabling open sharing of resources. This knowledge and experience form the basis for the creation of the Open Culture Studio, as well as define its perspective – focused on the users and aware of the missions, nature and responsibilities of public cultural institutions.
Openness is Open Culture Studio’s key value. It is 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); 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 users’ needs.
Because the Studio was created and works to support cultural institutions, its important distinction is also the support of the institutional ecosystem. 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, nature and social role of public cultural institutions.
The inspiration and reference point for the way the Open Culture Studio works are the working methodologies used by the creators of innovations and new technologies. We believe that, in designing solutions that serve the needs of the users, we must start with understanding their 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 gives us the opportunity to look at a problem from many perspectives and 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 is an extremely important part of the project, we learn and draw conclusions from each stage of work and from the verification of its effects. To make this possible, we provide transparency and readability of the entire process for all involved, examining the progress of work in the context of the objective. We are also open to adapt 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 work and its results (this is why we conduct retrospective meetings).
At the same time, at every stage of work, we come back to the question of whether the solution we are creating fits the mission of the institutions and the resources that it is to make available.
Structure and process
In 2017, the Open Culture Studio invited four institutions to cooperate: three selected in a competition, and one that partners this edition of the project – the Polish History Museum. Four multidisciplinary teams, consisting of employees of the institutions, as well as experts working with the Studio (developers, UX specialists, graphic designers and additional specialists whose expertise was be needed during the project), worked on four prototype solutions that will enable popularisation of the digital resources of their institutions. The creative process took place during four meetings in a medialab format, as well as between the meetings, under the guidance of two experienced mentors. Next, in an open competition, two solutions was selected from four prototypes, and in 2018, they will be created in the Studio with the representatives of the two teams that developed them, and which will then take them over to be used in their institutions.
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The Partner of the project is the Polish History Museum.
Under the patronage of National Institute for Museums and Public Collections.
Cofinanced by The Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.