From “Access” to “Creativity”: Shakespeare Institutions, New Media and the Language of Cultural Value
The Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 This essay examines the appropriation of new media by UK Shakespeare institutions. It argues that a significant effect of their online self-presentation is not to alter the way people consume “Shakespeare”, but to inflect his cultural value. The positive discourse of digital technology – “interactivity”, “participation”, “creativity” – is inflected by the policy and business imperatives that shape the work of cultural organisations. UK cultural policy has shifted from promoting “access” to culture, to encouraging “participation” and increasingly, fostering “creativity” in visitors, while business discourse increasingly focuses on marketing the user experience. These changing narratives relocate value from something residing intrinsically in an object at the center of an institution to something created during, or after, a visitor encounter. Institutions founded as gatekeepers of culture are thus recast as facilitators of value creation. The essay traces the double maneuvers by which Shakespeare institutions celebrate their value-generating potential but also strive to capture and reinscribe value within their walls. It detects, within their innovative engagements with “experience” and “creativity”, a tendency to resort to the intrinsic value of objects; it reveals that this older language of value is permanently inflected by new media. It concludes by proposing a newly evaluative role for Shakespeare scholars.