In his latest article, Alessandro Baricco claims that we are currently confronted with the first global emergency of the digital revolution. The peace of our lives is now much slower than usual. Society is paralysed and economy has come to a standstill. Perhaps, it is time to ask ourselves what are the global challenges we will be facing soon, and what is next.
It could be said that this situation, by forcing us to pause, is prompting us to reflect upon our individual choices, our lifestyles, and all those things we have always taken for granted, but seem so essential in a time of crisis. We feel that social balance is restoring. In this new phase, each of us, sharing the same, unpredictable destiny, is charged with a number of responsibilities, and feels the need to be supportive.
What if this behaviour is becoming an integral part of our culture? In fact, this emergency appears to be the prequel to the biggest challenge: that of saving the planet. During this crisis, when we can do nothing but stay at home, we are witnessing a collective turn.
Culture is one of the sectors more affected by the current situation. The freeze of the tourism industry urged to take immediate action in order to avoid the collapse of the entire branch. In the light of these circumstances, museums, galleries, foundations, and libraries, abiding by current social distancing guidelines, are promoting fundraising campaigns and other projects to entertain their visitors online.
All cultural institutions had to leverage technology to find new ways of sharing their heritage and to devise innovative communication strategies. Live streaming, virtual tours, and digitised collections are only few of the responses to this particular moment.
Artists, musicians, writers, and actors have partnered, united by the common purpose of keeping culture alive. They have been collaborating on different initiatives to be shared through social media channels. Cultural institutions such as Bologna’s Mambo, the Pinacoteca di Brera, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and Florence’s Uffizi, among the many, have been hosting online experiences, opening their doors to a virtual public.
The crisis has opened up a series of opportunities for the whole cultural sector. New mental, human, and economic resources have been employed and shared to create a “digital strategy”. These solutions, whose validity have been tested during this time of emergency, do not clash with marketing strategies but rather intensify the power of communication.
In order to get the most out of this situation, we shall, however, take a deep reflection on the role we want to bestow on culture. It is therefore necessary to reconsider our shared acceptation of the verb “to enhance”, as a way to acknowledge the value of our heritage and to become more aware of the many ways to promote it.
All of a sudden, even those of us less keen on technology, those who have always looked at it suspiciously, have started feeling less hostile towards it. It looks as if the current emergency prompted us to stop procrastinating and to finally open up towards changes.
We have made peace with digital culture, as Baricco holds. We have started relying on it and seeing digital devices as appendices of ourselves. This is a sign that innovation is redefining the whole meaning of being human.