The Ways of being in a digital age review conference is currently underway at the University of Liverpool. The conference closes the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) project Ways of being in a digital age. The project was commissioned by the ESRC in 2016 to help identify and prioritise future areas and methods for research on the social, economic, political, psychological and cultural impacts of digital media and technologies.
Amongst the delegates at the conference is Centre for Social Informatics PhD student Alicja Pawluczuk. At the conference Alicja is presenting a paper that she has co-authored with the members of her supervision team: Dr Gemma Webster, Dr Colin Smith and myself. The paper is entitled ‘Digital culture co-creation: capturing the social impact of small-scale community projects’. The slides are available on SlideShare and below.
The abstract reads:
The applications of mediated, participatory approaches to cultural formation have been recognised as important contributions to the field of community education. Co-creative digital culture projects provide communities with a collaborative infrastructure to explore and share their ideas and beliefs (Russo & Watkins, 2005). While co-creative experiences have been defined as empowering (Cornish & Dunn, 2009; Füller et al., 2009), innovative (Nambisan & Nambisan, 2013; Mühlbacher et al. 2009) and engaging (Chowdhury, 2012; Matzler & Jawecki, 2009), both positive (Deuze, 2006; Russo & Watkins, 2005) and negative (Hand, 2016) impacts of participation in digital culture, can be found in the literature.
Despite extensive research on the societal impacts of digital culture (for example Buckingham, 2013; Deuze, 2006; Miller, 2011), the outcomes of cultural co-creative processes have been described as unpredictable and ‘challenging to measure’ (RICHES, 2015). The use of traditional evaluation approaches has been critiqued for primarily “pre-empting the outcomes” (Lockie, 2001, p.281), and addressing funding criteria (Adams & Garbutt, 2008). Therefore, it has been argued that new tools should be developed in order to understand the impact of small-scale participatory digital projects which are “process oriented and creative in nature” (RICHES, p.6).
The aim of this paper is to review current understandings of the social impact of digital culture co-creation. The analysis presented here has been gathered from secondary sources, as a part of a doctoral research project’s literature review, which includes the current scholarly debates on digital culture, co-creation, and social impact evaluation. This paper identifies a research gap in this area and aims to contribute to the ongoing scholarly discussion regarding the measurement of the value of digital culture. Emphasising small-scale community projects, it proposes that a more holistic and participatory approach to evaluation could enrich the current practice and understanding of the social impact of digital culture co-creation.