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Social Networks: 60 minutes with Chris Csikszentmihalyi

ERA Chair at M-ITI, University of Madeira and former Director, MIT Center for Civic Media and Computing Culture Group

Date/Time: 9th October 2014

Venue: Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building

The arts and culture matter, whether measured in changed moods, changed ideas, changed lives, or changed societies. But cultural producers often underestimate their ability to influence large social issues. Moreover, they often still think in terms of symbolic transactions, forms of expression that were optimized during an epoch of expensive communication -- peaking in the 20th Century, when cultural producers sought to be shown in museums or played in halls, distributed through print, wax, or airwaves, and widely discussed in the media.


What opportunities do cultural producers have now, in an age of cheap communication and networks, where a video of a kitten can be made with a phone on Monday and viewed by millions of people by Friday? How can cultural producers leverage the new power of global networks, mediated collaboration, and a new cultural commons?

In this lecture, Chris brings together his theoretical knowledge of networks, technology and social change with his experience in shaping, designing and leading projects that would strengthen communities through culture, arts and political engagement. He takes inspiration from his experience on the ground, and shares the possibilities of seizing and re-framing networks and technology for higher ambitions.

This lecture was the opening address in the Culture Action 2014 Conference. Organised in collaboration with the Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice.

About the speaker

Chris Csikszentmihályi has been a professor at colleges, universities, and institutes, including Distinguished Visiting Professor of Art and Design Research at Parsons the New School for Design. He cofounded and directed the MIT Center for Future Civic Media (C4), which was dedicated to developing technologies that strengthen communities. He also founded the MIT Media Lab's Computing Culture group, which worked to create unique media technologies for cultural and political applications.

Trained as an artist, he has worked in the intersection of new technologies, media, and the arts for 16 years, lecturing, showing new media work, and presenting installations on five continents and one subcontinent. He was a 2005 Rockefeller New Media Fellow, and a 2007-2008 fellow at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

He was recently appointed European Research Area Chair at M-ITI in Madeira, and directs the RootIO project, a technical system to enable and promote connected low-power radio in rural communities, currently launching in Northern Uganda.