Russia is ripe for creative exchange with the UK, says Abhay Adhikari, after working with 22 of its cultural entrepreneurs Getting Russia in on the digital cultural conversation. St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
Think Britain's going through a cold patch right now? It's got nothing on Russia in December. But when it comes to digital development in culture, both countries are warming up – and fast.
engagement specialist Abhay Adhikari has just returned from running two
days of strategic communication workshops with a group of 22 young
creative entrepreneurs, as part of the Cultural Leadership programme run
by British Council Russia.
The participants included independent startups as well as
communications and marketing professionals from various public and
private sector institutions in Moscow and St Petersburg.
is buzzing with the energy of its many creative entrepreneurs working in
theatre, film, performing arts and heritage," says Abhay. "They are
using digital and social media to solve problems that are very similar
to those faced in Britain at the moment. The differences in culture and
availability of resources means that unique approaches are being
developed in both countries to address key concerns such as revitalising
physical arts venues and digitising cultural artefacts."
creates interesting possibilities for skills and knowledge exchange, he
adds. And with the widespread use of social networking by practitioners
at both ends, there are no barriers to getting the conversation started.
Here are some more observations from his trip.
Starting from scratch
current generation of Russians tasked with the activity of making
culture and heritage more accessible by using digital technology have
the unique privilege of starting from scratch. So the stereotypes from
the Soviet era are no longer relevant. And in this moment of building
something new, some elegant ideas are being developed and put into
Voxxter is one such example.
It has created a product for visitors who don't speak Russian to
navigate the city. It is a paper map of the metro with all the stops
listed in English, and it comes with a free SIM card. This simple
solution combines print with mobile technology to enable foreign
visitors to use the Metro, which uses Cyrillic script in its signage.
This product also gives cultural institutions across Moscow an
opportunity to increase tourist footfall.
Symbolically, Voxxter is
quite important as it represents the aspirations of many to open up
their city to outside influence and create new thinking. While the
product itself is ingenious in its simplicity, there is plenty of room
for growth. This is where British expertise in creating as well as using
geo-social services can play a significant role.
Using technology to talk about tradition
isn't a lack of cutting edge technology in Russia. And some of it is
being used to re-imagine physical spaces that hold a very significant
place in the country's cultural history. For example, the international
foundation Stage Technologies
in St Petersburg used 3D video mapping projection to celebrate the
180th anniversary of the Alexandrinsky Theatre constructed by Italian
architect Carlo Rossi. This seven minute performance included a brief
history of the venue and showcased some important performances it
One of the most significant aspects of the project was the
negotiation of key relationships that made the event a success. For
example, the company persuaded the local authority to switch off the
street lights and stop traffic in a city centre location so that the
presentation could have maximum impact. The gumption required to pull
this off should inspire artists from both sides to create managed
disruption to engage wider communities.
A clear case for exchange
UK constantly innovates when it comes to the marriage of culture and
digital. This is through the work of both the major players as well as
independent practitioners who are pushing boundaries as well as
embracing new ways of working driven by social technology. Take Kickstarter as an example.
This crowdsourcing platform has only recently been launched in the UK,
but it has already raised $3.3m in pledges for more than 400 projects.
is a very clear call for such skills and expertise in Russia. And with
the burgeoning culture sector, there are many different ways to enter
into collaboration. For example, museums are looking for international
partners to develop content for young people. And other sector
specialists are keen to up skill by working alongside their UK
counterparts to manage and launch new digital projects.
Kickstarter has shown, the digital ecosystem for arts and culture in the
UK is thriving and conducive to collaboration and support. It is just a
case of extending the reach of this ecosystem to create room for
practitioners from Russia to join the conversation.