Crowdsourcing, curating and network power : towards a critical crowdsourced cultural archive

Reynolds, Alexandra (2016) Crowdsourcing, curating and network power : towards a critical crowdsourced cultural archive. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis explores the use of the crowdsourced digital archive in contemporary museological and cultural projects and investigates ways co-creation can be used more critically and meaningfully by museums, galleries and wider cultural initiatives. A primary focus of the project is the inherent relationship between the archive, curator, power and politics, particularly in relation to the performative mechanisms through which hegemonic power produces, mediates and consolidates cultural norms and ideals. Specifically, this project seeks to explore the complex relationship between the crowdsourced cultural archive and contemporary capitalist power, defined variously as New Capitalism, Network Capitalism or Inclusive Neoliberalism. Referring to a range of contemporary crowdsourced projects, the thesis argues that many existing participatory digital archives performativelt replicate and consolidate hegemonic cultural norms, mirroring historical archival forms in this way. Further, I argue that particular structuration of contemporary capitalism requires that attempts at critically or political action tend to be reassimilated into hegemonic power. Nonetheless, responding to calls for critical digital networks by theorists such as Jodi Dean (2008) and Geert Lovink (2011), the thesis aims to identify new models for the design and structuration of future critical crowdsourced archives. The project looks to Tactical Media, Hacktivism and Critical Digital Art to explore effective online criticality within New Capitalism, while an investigation of alternative architecures for critical collaboraion is undertaken with reference to Free and Open Source Software (FLOSS) and Net Art. Through this research, tenets for future critical crowdsourced cultural projects are delineated, paying particular attention to the role of the curator within the co-created project and critical approaches to digital architecture and design. The thesis primarily employs interpretive research based in Cultural Studies, but also includes findings from nine interviews undertaken with prominent digital project leaders. It is hoped the research will contribute to knowledge within Digital Humanities, Art and Design History, Museum and Gallery Studies, Design Theory and Cultural Studies, as well as contemporary curatorial and archival practice in museums and galleries.

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