DMC3 02 Participatory Cultures and Social Media

DMC3: Session 02: Participatory culture and social media
Ti 21.09 - 13:00-15.30 teaching session: H103 (kuvapaja)


To participate; historical interpretations; Art theory; Allan Kaprow: Elimination of the Audience; Happenings; Participatory Arts; Platforms; Web 2.0; Crowdsourcing

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".


Typology of Participation in Community

Leida Schuringa (writing about Dutch Society):

"People may participate in groups, in their neighbourhoods and in society at large. They may contribute by performing paid work or volunteering. In neighbourhoods, people may be involved with housing planning, designing playgrounds, traffic, green provisions, youth facilities, and so on. Being involved in these activities can contribute to social cohesion and integration. In practice, we can distinguish three main categories of participation:

Horizontal participation refers to stimulating social contact between people living in communities, social cohesion and social inclusion. It is focused on involving different (groups of) residents and increasing the interaction between these.

Vertical participation refers to taking part in the formal decision making processes of (governmental) institutions and to the contact between (groups of) residents and workers of these institutions. Effective vertical participation is built upon well-organised horizontal participation. If residents don’t know each other or don’t cooperate, they cannot elect representatives to speak in their common interest.

Individual development. Many interventions and policies are meant to stimulate the individual participating in society by following courses about child care, being supported in financial problems, interconnecting people (becoming a “buddy”), attending school, having a job, visiting meeting places, learning Dutch, and so on."

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.”



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)


Adrian Piper: Notes on Funk I (1983)

Funk Lessons (extract)


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 Miners Strike & The Bloody Battles Of Orgreave


Characteristics of Participation in Online Creation Communities

Mayo Fuster Morrell:

Online Creation Communities (OCCs) are defined as a collective action performed by
individuals that cooperate, communicate and interact, mainly via a platform of participation in the
Internet, with the goal of knowledge-making and which the resulting informational pool remains
freely accessible and of collective property.

"Participation is understood as an eco-system in six senses.

1) What is important is that the system is open to participation, but it is not expected that everybody participate and contribute equally;

2) Participation has multiple forms and degrees which are integrated: a critical mass of active developers is essential to initiate the project and maintain the content; weak cooperation enriches the system and facilitates reaching larger fields of information resources; and lurker or non-participants provide value as audience or though unintended participation that improve the system;

3) Participation is decentralized and asynchronous;

4) Participation is in public;

5) Participation is autonomous in the sense that each person decides which level of commitment they
want to adopt and on what aspects they want to contribute.

6) Participation is volunteering. Participation is not only deliberation but implementation."


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."

Gourinova, 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."

Gourinova, Olga (2007). p155.

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


According to Gourinova, Participatory Platforms (and hence Web 2.0) have the following features..

They are multiple-interface

  • navigate through personal pages, comments, links; decentralised
  • common type of activity (uploading and viewing videos)
  • administration: maintaining the overall healthy functioning
  • administrator: police, following the “rules” ||
  • visitor: researching individual pages, opinions, results of creative activities
  • user: optimising personal life, participating, creating, expressing
  • product: created in the browser window (not always)
  • usually large

Gourynova, Olga (2007). p156-157.


Michel Bauwens says:

“Sharing communities create the value, Web 2.0 proprietary platforms, attempt to monetize participation.

In a sharing environment, where individuals share their creative endeavour, it is the corporate third party platform which monetizes the attention space, and may control the platform to a significant degree.”


Call For Participation in Art and Cultural Projects

"The 'call for participation' - in recent times a common meme within socially engaged art and media projects - invites participants to act as both creators and consumers of the process, creating valuable cultural/institutional/social capital.

“Have I been co-ordinating peer-production; or have I been crowdsourcing?"

Online crowdsourcing examples as art projects

Phantom Captain: Art and Crowdsourcing

Learning To Love You More

The Sheep Market

Online video projects which exemplify participatory format

In Bb 2.0

Eternal Moonwalk

Johnny Cash Project

Starwars Uncut

Art Platforms

Media theorist Olga Goryunova has identified the following, reflecting on her own work and others..

"[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.
[e.g. ranking]

[A]n 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.

For example,
Run Me software art platform:
Alt Party for the creative Demo scene in Finland:
Pixelache Festival:

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."

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

Goryunova, 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."

Goryunova, Olga (2007). p156-157.

Goryunova 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."

Goryunova, 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."

Goryunova, Olga (2007). p15.


Other reading..

Andrew Paterson, Tähtikuvitelma: The Parable of Participating in the Night Sky 2.0
Essay published in 'PixelACHE Festival of Electronic Arts and Subcultures 2007' catalogue 03.2007,




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