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Gail De Kosnik and the Challenges of Participatory Culture

Earlier this May, Gail De Kosnik (TDPS) traveled to Moscow, Russia to present at “Challenges of Participatory Culture: Methodologies and Perspectives of Research,” an international conference held by the IGITI Research Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the Higher School of Economics National Research University.

The conference introduced the concept of ‘participatory culture’ as distinguished from ‘mass culture’ and ‘popular culture’. ‘Participatory culture’ can be a useful theoretical frame for studying multiple forms of cultural products, practices, and norms of contemporary communication, sets of values and sources of creativity, beginning with fan cultures and participatory communities organized around different cultural tasks, and ending with charity and protest movements. Although primarily regarded as a phenomenon largely relying on new media as a tool, participatory culture can also take many different forms in urban space such as street art, flash mobs, musical events, festivals, etc. The idea of ‘participation’ lying at the core of the concept implies non-profit and non-professional (to a significant degree, even if not always entirely) communities and movements producing something beyond the existing cultural industries, while often relying on their products as sources, and sharing the results (knowledge, artefacts, texts, etc.) with each other and with anyone willing to join.

Gail discussed “The Media Crease: Traces of Reuse in Hard and Soft Copies” during a session dedicated to fan communities, their practises of communication, archiving, writing and translations. Other topics covered included: popular music fans and audiences, and changes in musical production; urban participatory cultures and public space; and post-Soviet participatory cultures in Russia.

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