DMC Session 02: Participatory Platforms

Digital Media Culture / Digitaalinen mediakulttuuri (KDVCL01)

02: Torstai 20.11.2008 13:00 – 16:00

Participatory Definitions

"to join in, to take part, to involve oneself"

To 'partake of' something else..
(as you partake of food – people all eating from the same bowl – partaking of the source)

To 'partake in'
(to make your contribution – acceptance of your participation)

In ownership terms, it can mean sharing something in common with others.
It is also a synonym for profit sharing.

In social, economical and political terms, it suggests the ability to directly engage in decision-making..
i.e. "in decisions directly proportional to the degree that particular decision affects him or her. Those not affected by a decision would have no say and those exclusively affected by a decision would have full say. Likewise, those most affected would have the most say while those least affected would have the least say".


David Bohm's ideas of 'Participatory Thought'

David Bohm (2004), 'Participatory Thought and the Unlimited', On Dialogue, Routledge Classics, Oxon.

He says..
Early Human / Indigenous Cultures: “people felt that they were participating in some of the things that they saw – that everything in the world was participating, and that the spirit of things was all one.”

People today(in Western Philosophical Tradition): “We've developed a more objective kind of thought which says, “We want to have thought which says 'We want to have a thought about something where we don't participate, where we think about it and know just what it is.”

These are different ways to think.

Literal Thought fragments and Participatory Thought brings together

“Society is not an objective reality – period. It is a reality created by all the people through their consciousness”

Participation in the context of Art

References from
Claire Bishop, Ed. (2004), Participation: documents of contemporary art, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

'social dimension of participation': the history of artistic practices since the 1960s “that appropriate social forms as a way to bring art closer to everyday life”

longer historical trajectory..
folk performances?

Accordining to Bishop,
“Most important precursors for participatory art took place around 1920. The Paris 'Dada-Season' of april 1921 was a series of manifestations that sought to involve the city's public, the most salient being an excursion to the church of St Julien le Pauvre which drew more than 100 people despite the pouring rain. A month later, Dada artists and writers held a mock trial of the anarchist author turned nationalist Maurice Barrès, in which members of the public were invited to sit on the jury. André Breton coined the phrase 'Artificial Hell' to describe this new conception of dada events that moved out of the cabaret halls and took to the streets.

At the other extreme from these collaborative (yet highly authored) experiences were Soviet mass spectacles that sublated individualism into propogandistic displays of collectivity. The Storming of the Winter Palace (1920) for example, was held on the third anniversary of the October Revolution and involved over 8,000 performers in restaging the momentous events that led to the Bolshevik victory.”



Nikolai Evreinov: 'The Storming of the Winter Palace' (1920)

“The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia brought with it a desire for art and performance to break out of galleries and theatres onto the street. In attempting to determine the role of the arts in post-Tsarist Russia, artists were particularly preoccupied with the question of the utility of art, constructing the arts as relevant and vital to daily life. Under the Soviet system, cultural movements sought to become useful agents of the Revolution.

This motivation is reflected in the artistic activities of groups such as Proletkult (Proletarian Culture), who played a dominant role in post-Revolutionary popular theatre between 1917 and 1920. Amongst the many activities intended to bring theatre into popular life, Proletkult placed a particular emphasis on the mass spectacle. These open-air productions took place across Russia and featured thousands of participants and spectators.

Nikolai Evreinov's 1920 production The Storming of the Winter Palace is a good example of one such event. Staged outside the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, the performance featured approximately 10,000 performers and was attended by 100,000 spectators who witnessed a theatricalised re-enacting of the events of October 1917.”

“'The Storming of the Winter Palace' was directed by the famous theatrical professional Nikolai Evreinov and was subtitled a "mass action." This indeed it was, as the list of actors required for the right side of the "stage" (the production took place outdoors on the steps of and square adjacent to the former Tsarist palace in which the provisional government officers were meeting when the Bolshevik takeover occurred): 125 ballet dancers, 100 circus people, 1,750 supernumeraries and students, 200 women, preferably students, 260 secondary actors, and 150 assistants. Props included flags, tanks, armored cars, etc. Spectacles such as these were not merely designed to commemorate Soviet power. They were meant to usher in a new kind of theater, one in which the distinction between actor and spectator was broken down.”
More pictures:


“The Second Storming of the Winter Palace in 1920”

My example for what I call a mimetic re-enactment of the revolution is the 1920 mass-spectacle celebrating the third anniversary of the Storming of the Winter Palace. It was directed by Nikolai Evreinov, whose main target as a director, like in the case of Julian Beck, was to merge theatre into life. But this mass spectacle would go beyond the scope of all previous revolutionary festivities, involving 500 musicians in the orchestra, 8000 "actors" and 100.000 spectators who, as spectators, would in a sense also be participating by playing themselves, the revolutionary masses. Even the Winter Palace itself was to be be involved as a gigantic actor and emotional character in the play. So how do we have to imagine the whole spectacle? Let me quote from an article of November 30, 1920:

"…. Towards evening the rain died down and the inhabitants of St Petersburg arrived, perhaps not in the number that had been expected, but none the less, at an approximate estimate, at least thirty thousand. And this whole mass of people, who had streamed in from all sides of the city, stood with its back to the Winter Palace, facing the arch of the General Headquarters, where a huge stage had been constructed, consisting of two platforms - a white and a red - connected by a bridge and filled with structures and scenery … representing factories and enterprises on the red platform and a 'throne room' on the white platform.

At 10 o'clock a gun boomed and the commander's platform attached to Alexander's Column gave the signal to start. The arched bridge flashed and eight trumpeters gave an introductory fanfare. Then they vanished again into the darkness. In the silence Litolf's "Robespierre", performed by the symphony orchestra of the Political Administration of the Petrograd Military District, sounded splendid. And the show began.

It proceeded alternately on the white platform, the red or on the bridge between them.

The characters on the white platform were Kerensky, the provisional Government, dignitaries and grandees of the old regime, the women's batallion, the junkers, bankers and merchants, front-line soldiers, cripples and invalids, enthusiastic ladies and gentlemen of a conciliatory type.

The red platform was more 'impersonal'. There it was the mass that reigned, first drab, foolish and unorganised, but then increasingly active, orderly and powerful. Roused by 'militias', it turned into the Red Guard, made fast with crimson banners.

The action was built on the struggle between the two platforms. It began with the Bolshevik June uprising and ended with the square on which the fate of the powerless ministers was decided.

The bridge between the two worlds was the arena of their clashes. This is where people fought and killed, here people triumphed and from here they retreated.

The first light that illuminated the whites showed their triumph in caricatured form. To the strains of the 'Marseillaise', arranged as a Polonaise, Kerensky appeared before the expectant ladies and gentlemen. The actor who played Kerensky, dressed in the characteristic khaki, captured the premier's gestures very well and provoked particular attention among the crowd…

But meanwhile the revolution continued… The red platform became more organized after suffering losses; troops went over to the side of the 'Leninists'. And the ministers sitting at a table peacefully in their top hats, rocked amusingly in their seats, like little Chinese idols.

Then came the moment of escape and vehicles started rumbling near the steps leading down from the white platform to the wooden pavement.

There they rushed, caught by the beam of a searchlight, and artillery roared. The air resounded with the volleys fired from the Aurora, anchored on the Nevy, the rattle of rifles and machine guns.

Then the action transferred to the Winter Palace. Light would flash on in the windows of the sleeping giant and the figures of the people fighting would be visible. The attack ended. The Palace was captured. The banner of the victors appeared deep purple out of the darkness above the palace. Five red stars lit up on the pediment. Then rockets went up and diamond-like stars lit up the sky, and waterfalls of fireworks gushed down in a rain of sparks.

The 'Internationale' sounded and the parade of the victors began, illuminated by the searchlight and fireworks…

This is a general outline of what the spectators gathered on Uritsky Square witnessed in the course of an hour and a quarter."[*]

Now, this spectacle was taking place at Uritsky Square in front of the Winter Palace, but was there in any way a public space emerging, public in the strict political sense? Another contemporary observer did express this hope by saying that perhaps this was: "the beginning of a new road, a road which will lead across the square to the theatre of the future, and which may lead us back to the long forgotten Greek agora."[**] But he hoped in vain, for if the public in the radical sense is a public established by the event of antagonism, then a mere "representation" or restaging of that founding moment will not do the trick - the reason for this being, as simple as it may sound, that the dramatization of the storming is not the storming. And what is even more important, the staging of antagonism is not antagonism - as antagonism itself is, as we saw in Laclau, simply "unstageable", unrepresentable. Rather, we encounter a quasi-mimetic representation of antagonistic conflict, represented by the struggle between the red stage and the white stage, and a mimicry of the public, that is to say a quasi-public.

Maybe the place within Evreinov's arrangement which comes closest to the public in the radical sense of antagonism is the bridge as that which separates and simultaneously connects the two opposing forces. But as a bridge it still remains within field of representation. And as a representational device it can be translated easily from theatre into very different artistic genres. For instance into sculpture, as in Nikolai Kolli's "The Red Wedge cleaving the White bloc", exhibited on Moscow's Revolution Square at the occasion of the First Anniversary of the Revolution in 1918. Or into other media like posters, as in El Lissitzky's famous poster for the Western Front of 1920: "Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge". Abstract as this may be, it is still representational - representing the Civil War between Whites and Reds - and its meaning is more than plain.”

From: Oliver Marchart, Staging the Political
(Counter-)Publics and the Theatricality of Acting, (2004).

[*] quoted in Vladimir Tolstoy, Irina Bibikova, Catherine Cook: Street Art of the Revolution. Fetsivals and Celebrations in Russia 1918-33, London: Thames and Hudson, 1990.
[**] quoted in Robert Leach: Revolutionary Theatre, London and New York: Routledge 1994, p.49.


Allan Kaprow: Notes on the Elimination of the Audience (1966)

“The emergence of Happenings in New York in the lates 1950s was in part a response to the general expressionism of Jackson Pollock's paintings. Allan Kaprow sought from the Happenings a heightened experience of the everyday, in which viewers were formally fused with the space-time of the performance and thereby lost their identity as audience.”
(Bishop, p.102)

“Happenings, a term coined by Allan Kaprow in the late 1950s, define an art form in which an action is extracted from the environment, replacing the traditional art object with a performative gesture rooted in the movements of everyday life.” (

“It follows that audiences should be eliminated entirely. All the elements – people, space, the particular materials and character of the environment, time – can in this way be integrated. And the last shred of theatrical convention disappears..” (Kaprow, 1966)

For example, reconstruction of 'Giveaway' (1969/2008)

For example, reconstruction of 'Labor Day' (1971/2008)


Joseph Beuys: I am Searching for Field Character (1973)

Notes on Beuys by Randall Packer


Adrian Piper: Notes on Funk I (1983)

Funk Lessons (extract)


Carsten Höller: The Baudouin/Boudewijn Experiment: A Deliberate, Non-Fatalistic Large-Scale Group Experiment in Deviation (2000)


Jeremy Deller: The Battle of Orgreave (2002)

ECE-5: The Battle of Orgreave: On Re-enactment and Protest

BBC news Miners strike picketts fight police 1984

The battle of Orgreave

The Miners Strike & The Bloody Battles Of Orgreave


Break 15mins



  1. A raised stage from which speeches are made and songs are sung.
  2. A political stance on a broad set of issues, which are called planks.
  3. A raised structure from which passengers can enter or leave a train.
  4. (automobiles) A set of components shared by several vehicle models.
  5. (computing) A particular type of operating system or environment such as a database or other specific software, and/or a particular type of computer or microprocessor, used to describe a particular environment for running other software, or for defining a specific software or hardware environment for discussion purposes.


Historical and political term

"In a historic and political sense a *platform* means a program, an outline of theories or beliefs, future prospects and organisational guidelines on which a number of people can agree. An early example of such usage of the term can be found in a pamphlet entitled 'Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists' published by a group of Russian Anarchists, Dielo Trouda (Workers' Cause), in exile in 1926, which set out to establish a number of common ideas and working principles.

Since then, a 'plaform' generally meant a set of resources that could be material, organisational or intentional, which inscribed certain practices and approaches in order to develop collaboration."

Gourynova, Olga (2007). Art Platforms: the constitution of cultural and artistic currents on the internet, DA thesis, TaiK, Helsinki. p12.

Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists


Participatory Platforms also known as web 2.0

A renewal of the usage of the 'platform' term is noted by Gourynova, originating from Tim O'Reilly's article where he describes "the (new) web as platform".

"Web 2.0, is an umbrella term, that has even been claimed as a trademark, designed to address the diversity of platforms enabling Internet users to participat, exchange, link, map, upload, post, and comment, - all in all, to create online within a certain social dimension.

Web 2.0 was coined by O'Reilly Media in 2004 to market the rising phenomena of online collaboration, sharing and communication with the interfaces of wikis, blogs, collaborative mapping or tagging platforms."

Gourynova, Olga (2007). p153.

Shift in technical production of online content.. platforms support anyone creating, uploading and editing data within the browser, without the need of own desktop software, HTML, ftp or server capacities.

However the term has been criticised for being merely a technical upgrade..
"what the Web was supposed to be all along" as WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee said.

"The term 'Web 2.0' was created as a business slogan, a logo, so it came as little surprise to hear that O'Reilly had applied for a patent on Web 2.0 as a trademark in 2003. The patent was pending the whole time O'Reilly was promoting it as a generic term. Despite the term's poverty, its success subsumes all the attempts to talk about social software, a participatory web, collective creation and other, different and pre-existing models."

Gourynova, Olga (2007). p155.

What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software


Convergence Culture

Henry Jenkins says:
Convergence culture “occurs when people take media into their own hands…”

“extension”: their efforts to expand the potential markets by moving content across different delivery systems

“synergy”: refers to the economic opportunities represented by their ability to own and control all of those manifestations

“franchise”: refers to their coordinated effort to brand and market fictional content under these new conditions

Jenkins, Henry (2006), Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, NYU Press, New York.

Authors@Google Talk by Henry Jenkins, November 5, 2007 at Google in Cambrige, MA.


Art Platforms

"[A]n art platform is a web platform that solicits, induces and contributes to the creation and development of a cultural or artistic practice. It may indeed provide its major technical, cultural and communicative infrastructures and manifestations.

An art platform is aimed at supporting and stimulating creative initiatives and work, and it provides a possibility for the continuous exhibition of artefacts, often accompanied by reactions to them, variously framed and working as productive feedback and as a distinction mechanism. Serving as a quality reference pool, an art platform builds upon a history of a practice, creating a context as well as enabling its current developments, adding a social development to creative work. Sometimes there is also a set of instruments for particular kinds of creative work available. An art platform also often puts efforts into translating digital creative processes to offline or more official cultural scenes. Different ways of establishing connections between cultural movements of different times and orders may also be developed. Most art platforms organise (ir)regular 'real-life' gatherings such as festivals, concerts, workshops or those of a less formal nature.

Art platforms can be clearly differentiated from archives and databases aimed at collecting and historicising media art.. Such archives are attempts to document and preserve digital forms of art, aimed at constructing durable systems of contexts and links, at building histories by selected theorists or artists. While classifying and preserving digital media art is an immense topic in itself, that produces radicially different experiments, archives and databases of art that tend to work primarily with the catergories of the past, future, art, theory, education, museum, collection, exhibition, and others. In contrast to that, art platforms focus on the living practices in their blurry and 'dirty' forms and aim at mapping widest possible assemblages of radical ideas, unknown territories, and invisible practices in their becoming."

Gourynova, Olga (2007). Art Platforms: the constitution of cultural and artistic currents on the internet, DA thesis, TaiK, Helsinki. p12-14.

Gourynova, Olga (2007. Swarm Forms: On Platforms and Creativity. MUTE Magazine Vol 2 #4, January 2007:

New Climates for Curatorial Practice: Exhibiting Art Across Distributed Networks


Differentiating from 'Web 2.0' interpretations of platform..

Art Platforms: single-interface vs Participatory Platforms: multiple-interface

~single interface platforms ~multiple interface platforms
navigate through taxonomy, common staircase; centralised navigate through personal pages, comments, links; decentralised
common theme, construction of cultural trend common type of activity
administration: control over the development of the entire system administration: maintaining the overall healthy functioning
adminstrator: curator filtering, following “personal” ideas administrator: police, following the “rules”
visitor: researching the entire resource/researching a cultural current visitor: researching individual pages, opinions, results of creative activities
user: developing an artistic current, cultural practice user: optimising personal life, participating, creating, expressing
product: created on the desktop product: created in the browser window (not always)
usually small-scale usually large

"Single-interface platforms have a single entrance, a point of concentration, of maximum understanding of the resource. Such an interface may include a list of categories, whether a quite straight-forwards toxonomic database interface.. If you visit a multiple interface platform there is no homepage or main entrance for everyone. In the blogosphere, you navigate through personal blogs, through photographs and cross-references, by means of usernames, friends, comments and links. Although banal, this distinction reveals a further, more fundemental one: single interface platforms are devoted to a single 'theme', a shared aesthetic, creative, and political horizon.

If, on multiple interface platforms, there are tools that help maintain the 'healthy' functioning of the system (for instance, 'abuse teams' in the case of blogs), with single interface platforms there is a need for moderators who are responsible for the development of the interface, which in fact means certain control over the content development of the entire system.

Such centralisation renders moderation very crucial, and is far from being 'automated curation'. It is taste-based individualised decision-making processes developed over time. Precise moderation, especially at the beginning, and the considered construction of a system is nessesary to the survival of the platform and success of the current. Moderation, together with the users' input, helps develop the cultural movement and its discourse.

Multiple interface platform users visit selected pages. With singular interface platforms. the user, interested in the current the platform is devoted to, can explore the entire database. Contributing to such a platform, the user enters and co-creates a content rich context. With such platforms it is possible to develop an artistic movement, to add some missing elements to a creative activity, giving it a theoretical, social or political dimension.

If the major quality of 'Web 2.0' platforms is delivering desktop-like applications in the browser window, which allows the possibility of creating data online, art platforms work with artefacts created over some significant period of time, with the use of various instruments, in a fashion similar to 'professional' artist' work."

Gourynova, Olga (2007). p156-157.

Run Me Software Art Repositary

However Gourynova notes that the actual difference between 'Art Platforms' and 'Participatory Platforms'..

In terms of how and what they (can) potentially produce, they use similar strategies, do complement each other, especially with the common "possibility of some genuine cultural and artistic production exist[ing] against a climate of mistrust on the part of researchers and intellectuals over the quality of the creative product produced on Internet platforms"…

"My claim in this respect is that. contra the critics of social network-based knowledge, the creativity of users across different kinds of platforms are, from digital folklore, the amateur, the creative and liberating practices of everyday life, subcultural expressivity, and graphorrhea to artistic production, capable of producing 'orginal' results, especially if certain human-mechanical mediations help channel the process not in the manner of 'limiting the power of the majority', but in terms of allowing for better expression, for self-unfolding of a diversity of concepts, practices, hierarchies, and values. Such potentials in fact also help re-create the figure of the intellectual. It is a figure that re-vitalises the zombie of the traditional intellectual specialist, making it more 'autonomous' and at the same time more intricately connected to production and the economy"

While traditional centres of knowledge are being challenged, due to their incorporation into corporate, business or political ambitions (eg. privatisation of universities), many internet users are gaining a new position, "fighting for a 'fairer' space or principle, trying to re-estabilsh creativity and autonomy through human-technical systems."

Gourynova, Olga (2007). p158-159.

Pit Schultz:
"Power users are the organic intellectuals who work between the frontiers on social implementations of upcoming standards, and expand and test their acceptability. They also socially develop new work disciplines, job models and cultural killer applications. The model of legitimation of the double bind of this emerging hacker class is symptomatic for the rest of society. In order to modulate and redirect power relations, the power user has to legitimate her access to power as a critical one. By referring to the forces of technical revolution and the crisis it led to, she is better on tactical reformism as an opportunity for individual freedom. At the centre of this double bind between technology and capitalism stands the relation to property and authorship, in which the power user works both on her own dissolvement as well as re-establishment."


What are art platforms for?

"Art platforms appear as experimental production and management systems focused on a certain format of cultural practice.. Most often, the cultural or artistic practice the resources chooses to contribute to and represent exists prior to and beyond the art platform in some more or less developed form, sometimes at the borders of art and culture, in 'grey' zones, or in the form of amateur practices. An art platform aims at fostering creativity, supporting, promoting, discovering, defining, shaping the field, contributing to its development, and, in sum, contributing to a more vivid materialisation or crystallisation of a particular artistic or maybe broader - cultural current."

Gourynova, Olga (2007). p15.

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