Cultural consumer-experience in the social media era
The exponential development of technology, internet infiltrating into our everyday lives, the spread of social media platforms, and the altered, user-friendly consumer culture caused radical changes not only in an economic and societal way. Due to the aforementioned progresses, the idea of art as such, museums, galleries and exhibition spaces has been, in fact, completely redefined.
In the course of time museal institutions have gone through a progressive transformation. In today’s world, museums are under the necessity of using a different kind of language and try to fit into the social media-dominated world by taking communication-strategic standpoints into account – and they do that for the sake of being capable of reaching out to the public.
The word »museum« is remindful of a few definitions set up by the past times that do not quiet characterize this atmosphere anymore:
- grandiose, deterrent
- intimidating milieu that causes contradiction and ambivalence
Today’s museums are rather:
- ready to be discovered
- filled with stories and history
- in possession of an indubitable character
- alive, animate
Instead of the initial elitist-like environment, by this time museums have become institutions that not only provide cultural resource but do ensure a home for experience-gaining and entertainment as well. The reason behind their transformation hails from the presence of the infinite number of programs, events and consumer goods, the proximity of large enterprises and the uncountable impulses that influence the museal world from the outside – in fact, in order to survive, museums must compete with these elements.
Within the limits of the supersaturated market, being competitive and finally getting into the winning position becomes possible only through the transmission of unique experiences – experiences that can only be handed over to the public directly by the institution itself.
The act of involvement and »initiation« has become an essential element of cultural istitutions’ strategies elaborated for improving visitors’ statistics. Nowadays most of the organizations of the cultural promotion sector are constantly working on making their visitors part of their everyday lives, and they often do that presenting them exclusive behind-the-scenes processes. The »initiated visitor« may obtain such a particular experience that allows them to identify themselves with the exhibited works, and through this identification not only do they have the possibility of getting closer to their own selves but to feel more familiar about the museum’s institution as well.
As well as museums like sharing content via social media, visitors also fancy the idea of publishing some demanding »culture content«.
One of the many ways of visitors’ participation and engagement consists in the documentation of the things they have seen and experienced on the moment. The online presence of the photo posts that were generated as a result of the documentation-process is also welcomed by the institutions as they often repost the images themselves on their own social media profiles.
#artmuseum hashtag added to photo posts on Instagram
In 2018, photographs determine our lives in an essential way: we detect and digest the world through them and we arrange a significant part of our communication through them. The phenomenon of »photo-documentarism«, that has widely spread by a broad scale of users via social media platforms, is highly going beyond its boundaries and aspires to excessive individuality, and in this manner, in fact, it happens to turn against itself. Since photos can be interpreted as moments and experiences that get to materialize through the act of getting captured, by the mean of them we perfectly represent ourselves. Today’s »photo-content« is the most personal statement that exists: it is sort of an opinion, a commitment, an opportunity to express a user’s identity, as well as it is the transformation of collective reality into an individual one.
Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins; Chiostro del Bramante, Rome, LOVE. Contemporary art meets amour exhibition, 2017.
Thinking globally, modern and contemporary museums do not necessarily focus on their collections, history or mission anymore, but happen to emphasize their brand image more and more often: the definition of »contemporary« tends to equal to the latest, the popular, the trend-setter, the photogenic, the well-designed, the stylish and the economically viable. According to this, the facilities of art address the culturally-interested members of our society by emphasizing the aforementioned elements.
Art museums today consciously exploit their aesthetic abilities and the fact that their cultic buildings are greatly photogenic, “Instagrammable” and worth posting on any social media. The spacious halls of the exhibition spaces with their exquisite lighting and modern design, such as the spectacular installations provide just a perfect source for hundreds – or thousands, even tens of thousands – of likes under any photo posted on the World Wide Web. In addition, they also bestow creative themes and artistic concepts for the phenomenon of »selfie-culture«.
On the left: MACRO (Museo d’Arte Contemporanea), Rome, Anish Kapoor exhibition, 2017.; On the right: MAXXI (Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo), Rome, 2017. Architect: Zaha Hadid.
Constantly documenting reality sets up an interesting question… As a result, when entering museums, instead of living an art-centered, individual revelation, we rather just get enchanted by the bewildering nature of space and perceive art only marginally – marginally, and in an indirect way, closed into a Smartphone-screen.