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3rd Conference on Digital Development in the Cultural Sector

Digital Sovereignty, Working in the Lab, IT Security and Digital Complementary Structures, Participation, Open Access, Digital Skills: Look up the topics and contributions of our 3rd kulturBdigital Conference online – reported by our conference observer Franziska Walser.

Szenen aus der kulturBdigital-Konferenz
Impressions from the Conference 2020

In terms of content, the 3rd kulturBdigital Conference, which took place on 2nd of November 2020 and was funded by the Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa, was marked by an interim assessment after three years of digital cultural funding. At the same time, 2020 marks a moment of departure into a new phase of networking with the digitalisation push triggered by the Corona pandemic-measures. “We’ve come further than I could have imagined,” praised Culture Senator Klaus Lederer in his keynote speech, “but we’re still at the very beginning with the idea of a Berlin cultural data platform.” Nicolas Zimmer, Chairman of the Board of the Technologiestiftung Berlin, added in the run-up to the conference: “The challenges for cultural workers are currently particularly dramatic and accelerate the process of digitalisation in the cultural scene. We want to enable everyone to act in an informed way. But we don’t just want to impart knowledge, we also want to enable practical application.”

What common digital services and structures can usefully support Berlin’s cultural sector? What is part of the digital sovereignty of cultural workers and what does a resilient infrastructure look like that is protected against IT attacks, for example? These considerations were the focus of the 3rd kulturBdigital Conference on the Digital Development of the Cultural Sector and were explored in depth in ten expert presentations and a discussion round. The programme included experts from museums, theatres, libraries and archives from many areas of the Berlin cultural sector. Contributions from Düsseldorf, Potsdam and Stuttgart broadened the perspective beyond the capital’s culture.

Talks to watch & read:

The lectures addressed topics and trends that are of particular concern to many actors in the cultural scene – but they also questioned some of them: Does an improvement in IT security automatically mean that even small cultural institutions have to invest vast sums in security software? When does a lab function as an innovative place of learning and when is “lab” simply an euphemism for chaos? How is it possible to keep an eye on the analogue programme in addition to building up a digital offer? And how does a digital theatre festival actually finance itself if participation is free for all visitors?

Vortrag von Prof. Dr. Christian Dörr auf der kulturBdigital Konferenz 2020
Conference-live-Setting: for corona reasons reduced to speakers, Photo: Gregor Fischer, CC BY 4.0
IT-Sicherheit im Kulturbereich Vortrag von Prof. Dr. Christian Dörr auf der 3. kulturBdigital Konferenz 2020
Prof. Dr. Christian Dörr about IT Security, Photo: Gregor Fischer, CC BY 4.0

In his keynote speech, Senator Klaus Lederer summarised the state of affairs as following: “The digitisation of Berlin’s cultural scene is a balancing act between urgent problems for which quick solutions must be found and long-term work on forward-looking digital infrastructure”. One example of such forward-looking infrastructure would be the central data platform for Berlin’s cultural scene, which was called for several times at the conference. This project, which is currently being developed as a prototype by the TTechnologiestiftung Berlin, would bring numerous advantages: Data sovereignty, less effort for data maintenance and independence from commercial solutions. “We want data collectives instead of monopolies,” said Nicolas Zimmer, Chairman of the Board of the Technologiestiftung, in his talk on digital sovereignty.

Digitale Infrastruktur im Kulturbereich - Diskussionsrunde auf der kulturBdigital Konferenz 2020
Discussion with Maj-Britt Jungjohann, Dr. Esther Cleven, Dr. Klaus Lederer, Tina Pfurr and Dr. Benjamin Seibel, Photo: Gregor Fischer, CC BY 4.0
Birgit Lengers (Deutsches Theater) und Marcel Karnapke (Cyber Räuber)
Analogue & digital on board: Birgit Lengers (Deutsches Theater) and Marcel Karnapke (Cyber Räuber) talk about the Festival Radar Ost Digital, Photo: Gregor Fischer, CC BY 4.0

Breaking new ground, breaking down barriers, allowing mistakes – much of what was called for at the 3rd kulturBdigital Conference also applied to the conference itself. Due to the rising Corona infection numbers and the associated restrictions, the event, which was originally planned as a hybrid format, had to move completely to the digital space. This caused some technical complications, especially in the beginning, because the HopIn platform was not compatible with all browsers. However, a digital participant survey also brought positive aspects to light: of the aprox. 260 participants, a large number was taking part in the kulturBdigital conference for the first time ever. “This is a sign of how digital offers also break down barriers of time and place,” said Nicolas Zimmer in his keynote speech.

Moderatorin Maj-Britt Jungjohann auf der kulturBdigital-Konferenz
Moderator Maj-Britt Jungjohann, Photo: Gregor Fischer, CC BY 4.0
Nicolas Zimmer zum Thema Digitale Souveränität
Nicolas Zimmer (Technologiestiftung Berlin), Photo: Gregor Fischer, CC BY 4.0

The organisers of the conference also broke new ground in terms of networking and feedback: parallel to the ongoing discussions and lectures, visitors could comment and discuss in the chat. During the programme breaks, visitors were able to get to know currently funded digital projects from the cultural sector in the “Free Space”: the makers of KuDiBa (Kultur Digital Barrierefrei) presented plans for an accessible hackathon in November 2020. At DigitalStage 5G of the Music School, the focus was on how the work on the tool for latency-free collaborative music-making is progressing. And at Stage / Twitch, visitors met as avatars who could talk to each other and navigate through a digital labyrinth together.

Selfie aus VRChat: Team von "Neue Bühnen in VR"
Virtually connected: The team of the “Neue Bühnen in VR”
Virtual Reality-Test auf der kulturBdigital Konferenz
And live from the Technologiestiftung in VR: our speakers, Photo: Gregor Fischer, CC BY 4.0

Even though the 3rd kulturBdigital Conference could “only” take place digitally this year, the participants were noticeably grateful for the input and the opportunity to look beyond their own horizons at a time when crisis management is the order of the day. Julian Kamphausen, artistic director of, summed up his feelings at the end of the event as follows: “How nice to see in the list of participants all the actors who you hope will continue when Corona is over”.

Text: Franziska Walser

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