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Sofia Elamson

Sofia Elamson received her Master’s degree from the University of South-East Norway, where she developed her thesis side by side with the Erasmus+ project Heritage Training for Young Adults (HETYA). The HETYA project as well as the thesis explored the museum institution as an arena for inclusive growth and lifelong learning, and allowed Sofia to combine her knowledge on European policy with studying the cultural heritage field. Her experience as a scientific assistant with an interdisciplinary perspective encouraged Sofia to continue her career within research and project administration under the Horizon 2020 programme, and she is today working as an adviser within renewable energy research. Sofia is passionate about environment and sustainable development, and committed to integrate aspects of equality, democracy and inclusion.

The societal potential of culture – visible in both policy and practice?

Abstract

The European Union’s cultural policy has not received much attention by scholars and has remained relatively anonymous also to the public. It is not perceived as crucial to European integration, and its contribution to the economy and other societal areas has not been acknowledged by policy-makers. On a local level, however, many European cultural heritage institutions assume a social role, and perform actions that affects the community in outside the cultural sphere. The museum institution, for instance, is seen using its resources and framework to become a societal actor.

The potential of culture is now starting to gain recognition in the European Union policy. An ideal within the union is lifelong learning, where learning happens not only through formal education but also on other societal arenas and through the whole life, in non-formal and informal ways. Lifelong learning is perceived necessary to stimulate active citizenship, which is a pre-condition for a vital democracy. The museum institution could be one of these non-formal arenas, where active citizenship is promoted, and there are also other societal areas where culture could make impact.

This thesis performs a document study to investigate the concept of culture in the European Union’s cultural policy during the last ten years, to find out how it is defined and what suggestions for the use of culture there is. The thesis also involves a case study of two Nordic museums, and their activities in democratic learning, to answer how the museum institution could be an arena for promoting active citizenship through non-formal learning. At last, other potential societal effects coming from the museum are also considered, and the relation between museum practice and European Union policy is explored. The results show that there has been a constant progress in the European Union cultural policy, where the concept of culture has carefully but steadily been expanded during the investigated period. Culture is still highlighted as essential to the promotion of a common, European identity, but the possibility of spillover to other societal arenas gains more and more recognition. Meanwhile, on a local level, the investigated museums show several examples of being more than institutions for conserving and exhibiting heritage. The museum activities promote integration, social cohesion, and welfare, and cooperate with non-cultural institutions such as hospitals and housing companies. While this practice often follows European Union cultural policy, the museums have in some cases also taken their actions one step further. The museums in the case study take their democratic task seriously and show examples of how a cultural institution can be an arena for promoting active citizenship. The results suggest that there is more to culture than what meets the eye, and that the potential of culture is beginning to unleash in both policy and practice.

Read Sofia’s Master Thesis


Athina Gramatikapoulou

Ms Athina Grammatikopoulou holds a BA in Computer Science (AUTH, Greece), a M.Sc. degree in Educational Technology (School of Informatics, AUTH, Greece), and  a M.A. in Museology and Cultural Management (School of Engineering, AUTH, Greece). She is a research associate at the Information Technologies Institute at CERTH – ITI since 2016, where she has participated in various national and European research projects. Her main research interests include Human Computer Interaction (HCI), User Experience (UX), Sensimotor Learning and Game Design. Her involvement with those research areas has led to the co-authoring of several scientific papers for international conferences and journals.

Curating the Invisible

Abstract

One of the emerging themes in modern European societies is that old approaches to the management of cultural diversity are no longer adequate. The Cultural Heritage sector has time and again acted as catalyst in allowing groups to co-exist harmonically by investing in intercultural dialogue. However, the vast majority of the cultural experiences offered by cultural institutions are usually designed to address the mainstream audience and rarely take provisions for making these experiences inclusive for groups with diverse socio-cultural characteristics. Considering that by making visitors co-creators of the offered museum cultural experience could increase their interest and foster their cultural inclusion and cohesion, one solution to address this issue could be the adoption of Web 2.0 tools and adequate design patterns that could facilitate the public’s participation.

In this context, the current thesis proposes the design and the development of an efficient technology-based solution that could facilitate the creation of an online learning community for museum staff and museum visitors, aiming to enable information sharing and many types of interactions among them. Specifically, the proposed tool could be used by visitors as a self-guided tour tool with Augmented Reality features for exploring museum exhibitions. However, the audience is not expected to remain passive, but on the contrary is encouraged to adopt an active role. The main aim of this study is to test the hypothesis that the educational use of such a social media tool could help museums transform in more democratizing, inclusive and polyphonic spaces by enhancing knowledge sharing, social learning and knowledge assessment attitudes.

Initially, the thesis’ theoretical background analysis is presented focusing mainly on the analysis of social educational theories. Next, a current state of the art analysis is conducted by reviewing related research works. The two aforementioned analyses provided both direction and impetus to the design process and research inquiry. Following, the key functionalities of the proposed tool, designed and developed in the form of a social media mobile application, are presented. Experimental results, obtained from a small-scaled assessment experiment conducted in an Art exhibition to assess the proposed tool’s potential, showed that its use could be efficient as positive feedback was obtained.

Read Athina’s Master Thesis