Telematic Governmentality: Digitising Theatre, Intensifying Policy

Digitisation offers a way of understanding the micro-stakes of artistic practice in the macro-tensions of cultural policy. European cultural policy has arguably undergone four transformations since its inception in the 1960s and 70s: 1) emphasising excellence and democratisation, 2) increasing decentralisation and regionalisation, 3) including entertainment culture and the cultural industries, and 4) characterised by the “tendency to justify cultural policy on the basis of its contribution to economic growth and the balance of social diversity” (Menger 479). An interestingly similar development is discernible across the arts: the nineteenth-century aesthetic notion of art which created “the grounds for a sensus communis” is being replaced by “micro-political approaches … privileging the inscription of the artist … into a given social fabric” (Ruffel 117).

In the various directives issued by the Swedish government on the digitisation of culture, there is a tendency to view digitisation as a way to increase accessibility to art and to intensify the effects of art for social cohesion and economic development, rather than viewing digitisation as a new dimension in/of art. This tension left open in policy, but intensely experienced in the workings of an art institution, and is transforming the role and place of art in the institution. Our case study is the policy demands of digitisation to the Malmö City Theatre, both from the state and the market. Working with Actor-Network Theory, we trace the how the demands are translated at various policy articulation nodes, and observe how they impact the artistic activities of various kinds, as well as the everyday business of a theatre.


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