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Democratising the Museum

Reflections on Participatory Technologies

Pille Runnel and Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt

Democratising the museum is a collection of articles reflecting upon the problem of how participation, technologically mediated or not, can support the museum in the process of becoming more accessible. The open museum shares power with its visitors while negotiating professionalism and the role of the museum in a modern society. The book looks at the roles and struggles of audiences/visitors and professionals and the role of digital technologies in supporting the participatory museum. While different chapters draw on a variety of empirical examples, the main analytical backbone of the book comes from an extended participatory action research study conducted at the Estonian National Museum. This book aims at both academics and professionals working in the museum field.
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Facing the Death of the Author. Cultural Professional’s Identity Work and the Fantasies of Control


Nico Carpentier

1. Introduction

Barthes’ Image Music Text (1984) contains the seminal essay The Death of the Author, which pointed to the convergence between the producers and receivers of discourses at the level of interpretation. The death of the modernist Author was a metaphor, not be taken literally, implying that there was no privileged vantage point that fixed the interpretation of a text. But it also referred to structural power changes in society, where members of cultural elites could no longer claim control over their writings. ‘Ordinary’ readers became (seen as) more and more capable of producing their own interpretations, which might structurally diverge from the intentions of the Author. As we have more recently witnessed an increased convergence between the producers and receivers of discourses at the level of the production process, we could say the Author died a second time. The old Author is no longer solely in control of the production process, as the ‘produser’ (e.g. Bruns, 2007) has overcome the rigid separations between both categories. Again, this is seen as a major step towards the democratization of our cultural realms.

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