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UK.gov: Name a more iconic duo than 'culture' and 'digital'. We'll wait

Matt Hancock once again calls app Britain

By Kat Hall

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Minister for fun Matt Hancock, of eponymous app fame, has unveiled a report titled "Culture is Digital" (PDF), aimed at boosting the "ultimate power couple" sectors via "an ambitious framework".

The report from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DDCMS) is supposedly all about "using technology to drive audience engagement, boosting the digital capability of cultural organisations and unleashing the creative potential of technology". Well, quite.

In a foreword, Hancock explained the ambition thus: "The UK technology and cultural sectors make the ultimate power couple but more action is needed to make sure that they share the same interests.

"By focusing on the synergies between culture and technology – where the UK has dual competitive advantage – this Digital Culture Report focuses on the use of digital technology to drive our cultural sector's global status and the engagement, diversity and well-being of audiences."

Got that? Good.

He goes on: "We heard that a number of cultural organisations feel held back by a lack of infrastructure or resources, that they need better digital skills and to focus more time on leadership training."

But how to solve this pressing issue? Thankfully, museums, galleries, theatres and heritage organisations will be given access to "cutting-edge technology and digital skills training" to help them reach new and diverse audiences. Whether that means the government will itself hand out additional cash remains unclear.

Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund are to splash £2m "to build the digital capacity of their sectors" (whatever that means).

Meanwhile, the National Gallery will create an Innovation Lab to examine how museums and cultural organisations can use immersive media, such as virtual and augmented reality, to enhance visitors' experiences. Just walking in and looking at the masterpieces is so last century.

But this was no back-of-the-fag-packet plan, oh no. According to DDCMS, the report was formed out of an "online open conversation last year and was borne out of the government's Culture White Paper commitment to review the digitisation of our public collections and enhance the online cultural experience".

While there may well be some genuinely cool examples of immersive exhibitions, what Hancock's 64-pager hopes to achieve remains a bit hazy. But then maybe that's the point. ®

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