Digital + Culture = Creative Economy

Departure Points @ Joburg CS……

With the sun beaming through The Hub’s wall to wall ceilings and our bellies full of energizing ‘smartfood’ salads, the afternoon of Culture Shift Joburg (Day 2) is brimming with great ideas, new friends, and a lot of neon post-it notes.

Groups have now been formed around six key ideas and are entering into the final evening of preparations before the highly anticipated pitching session tomorrow to a panel of revered panellists, including:

Stephen Rockman – Merism Capital, UK

Louise Willington – Founder of Unlimited, Johannesburg

Anne Shongwe – Founder of Afroes Transformational Multimedia

Sisa Ntshona – Head of Enterprise Development, Absa Bank

Let’s take a peek at what exactly the challenges are that the six groups are trying to tackle within the creative industries and/or cultural fabric of South Africa.

-Not only is there not enough sufficient online exposure to local and regional markets for artists and creative practitioners in South Africa, but there’s very limited ability for them to access mentorship around key issues such as promotion, distribution, market access, financial planning, models of creative entrepreneurship, and leadership skills. Perhaps some kind of online portal could collates these challenges and link creatives to local businesses which offer sustained support and mentoring. These ‘business mentors’ will be attracted to participate in the portal for their own branding and visibility, but also to tap into potentially investable ideas (and people).

-There are huge cultural chasms and class divides in South African society. What kind of cross-cultural offer could attempt to bridge gaps which, rather than work through a political or NGO platform,  are instead, based on a family-to-family support network? Is there a way to create a digital mechanism to encourage neighbourhood -based support systems, modelled off the project experiences seen between communities in West and East Germany? Expected outcomes would be improved cultural understanding, enhanced cross-generational relationships, and community building through culturally sensitive place-making and joined-up advocacy work.

-There is currently no effective way for audiences and artists to connect with each other online in South Africa. What kind of application could support the collation of cultural content, events, exhibitions with user reviews, links to similar work, and other multimedia feedback from twitter, facebook, online publications, etc.? How would centralizing this data benefit artists and their work? How would this help forge new connections with new audiences?

-I’m someone who wants to put on a cultural event in a given locality in South Africa. However, I have no idea what kinds of venues are out there, what their technical specifications might be, who their target audiences are, what certain external costs might occur, or which potential sponsors might be interested. Indeed, this Culture Shift group has identified a real need in the creative and cultural landscape for potential venues to be linked up with specific artists, agencies, promoters, performing arts groups, cultural organizations, community groups, etc., through a market-driven and highly informed online matchmaking tool.

-Folk stories and oral traditions are slowly being diminished in the face of urbanization, lack of culture-specific education and, let’s face it, enough interest within younger generations. So, how can traditional stories and cultural objects – and their connections to spaces, places and local heroes – be more easily understood and accessed? This group is looking at using QR codes around Joburg to take citizens on a digital journey of discovery about their own towns and its overlooked and increasingly forgotten stories and spaces.

-Early years creative educational curriculum is sparse, underdeveloped and often relegated to small demographics of South African society who can afford it. What kind of intervention could more easily equip families and informally trained educationalists with creative resources to make a difference in children’s cognitive development between birth and school entrance? What kind of ‘School in a Box’ could affordably offer child-led tools which enhance early reading, innovative play, imagination and creativity This group is looking at crowdsourcing funding options as well as attracting potential public and private sponsors around a revolving set of particular themes for their outreach ‘box’.

Watch this space to see what the next 24 hours bring to the budding ideas above! One thing is for sure – there is no lack of enthusiasm, talent and a palpable desire to create change in this room.



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