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Stories & Ideas

Tue 14 Feb 2023

A Changing World: Future cities, civic and technological infrastructure, and creative practices

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Your museum of screen culture

In this decade, as climate effects grow and the models of State, private and venture capital investment in technologies shift, how might arts and culture be affected?

Professor Jean Burgess (QUT), Professor Dan Hill (University of Melbourne), Katrina Sedgwick (Director & CEO at Melbourne Arts Precinct Corporation) and Professor Andrea Siodmok (RMIT) join a wide-ranging discussion about how new creative practices are emerging, utilising new technologies and civic infrastructure across cities in the Indo-Pacific region.

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In this second to last panel, we're moving from the actual and the current to the aspirational, the imagined and the future. As ACMI's CEO and Director Seb Chan has put it, our hopes and dreams for the future in the arts are often still based on the infrastructure of the late 20th century. What does it mean to think about future infrastructure? And what does it mean to consider the very real impacts of those infrastructures on our climate and on our collective futures? To get us towards answers to these questions, we've brought together three esteemed guests here to talk about future cities, civic and technological infrastructures and creative practices.

I'm going to give you their bios and then they're going to come up and join us on stage and we're going to have a chat. So first of all we have Professor Jean Burgess, who is Associate Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision Making and Society, where she is the co-leader of the data programme and convener of the QUT node. Jean's research focuses on the social implications of digital media technologies, platforms and cultures as well as new and innovative digital methods for studying them. Our second panelist is Professor Dan Hill, who is Director of the Melbourne School of Design, the graduate school in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne. Dan is a designer and an urbanist and he's worked around the world holding roles in the Swedish government's innovation agency, Vinnova in Stockholm, Arup in London and Sydney, the Helsinki Design Lab for the Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra in Helsinki and the UK's Future Cities Catapult in the BBC in London. And last but certainly not least is Katrina Sedgwick, the inaugural director and CEO of Melbourne's Arts Precinct Corporation, where she's leading a $1.7 billion transformation of the area. Prior to going to Mapco, Katrina was Director and CEO of ACMI, where she led the museum through a period of expansion and transformation, culminating in a $40 million capital project that funded an architectural, technological and programmatic renewal, delivering a multi-platform museum that you see today. Please join me in making Jean, Dan and Katrina welcome. Can you guys hear me? Yes, excellent. So contemporary cities are of course more than the material and the geographic. They extend into the platforms and the communities in which we congregate online to develop, distribute and consume culture.

Jean, I wondered if we might invite you to start, to tell us about your work on platforms and online communities and how we might use this work to start thinking about the future of cultural production and audiences. Well, it's a long question. I might just give you a bit of a history. Give us a podded history of Jean. Well, I was born at an early age. So I guess it's kind of 20 years that I have been looking at what we now call platforms, but we absolutely didn't, or at least in the same way, 20 years ago. 20 years ago, I was just saying to Indigo, actually I do work on cities because 20 years ago I was doing a master's project actually on contemporary chamber music as a subculture in the postmodern city, looking at the group that might be known to you called Topology and the way that it was using the space of the Brisbane Powerhouse. And it was a slightly odd project to be doing in an English department and the web was really coming alive as a place where I think people were finding each other, like grad students were finding each other around the world through these things called web blogs. And I had a blog called Creativity Machine, which I still have that domain name and in fact my blog was a big fan of Dan's blog, City of Sound. And it seemed to me, so this was my kind of transition out of being a musician and to doing cultural studies and all of that, and it seemed to me that there was kind of something going on with just the way that the roles of what we used to call cultural production and consumption were being remediated by this thing called the internet, the people in the English department disagreed and thought if I wanted to study digital cultural production I should be studying what artists and writers were doing and not what amateurs were doing. So I went to this funny little place called QT and started studying what I call vernacular creativity and along the way realised that from kind of being technologies that enabled people to make their own stuff, share their own stuff and find like-minded communities, they were aggregating a lot more functions and becoming I guess, I might have even used the word platform for the photo sharing website Flickr, which is I guess a proto social media platform. I was noticing how people were kind of occupying it like a space, they were using it like a game in fact, it was built on in-game architecture for web chat and so there was this kind of coordination of play that was also about sharing culture that was also generating new cultural forms in fact and so I was kind of hooked on this interplay between everyday practices, the link between everyday life and creativity, human agency and what was going on with kind of the macro digital economy and that's what I've been doing ever since. Amazing. You mentioned vernacular creativity. At the Centre of Excellence there's a lot of interest in automation and increasingly conversations that we've been having over the last couple of days, chat GPT has come up a lot. I wondered if you could talk a little bit around the emergent practices that you're seeing around that. What kind of, what's something that I'm really interested in is the prompt engineering and peer learning stuff that's going on and what we can see around sort of creativity and practices there. Yeah, when Mid Journey and Dali first came out I was like right this is going to be the next thing I'm going to be studying because people are going to be playing with it and doing everyday stuff but about five minutes later people are already offering digital services in prompt engineering and monetising it and I just have kind of stopped and thought things have changed and sped up in kind of a terrifying way and then of course chat GPT comes along and people can use it to, you know, I don't know if you talked about this but you know you can use it to hallucinate a virtual machine basically and run an operating system through it and all kinds of stuff. We were talking about using it to write arts grants? Yeah, yeah well actually I mean I don't think there's nothing unique in me saying this. I think a lot of the smartest people are exploring ways to use it as a supportive tool that's embedded in existing practices and you know to use it as a reflexive and creative partner so that you know for example you actually try to write your thing and then you say summarise this and you go well the summary is not what I meant and that may be very much like what an actual human reader or grant reviewer might think when they read what you've written but there are always people at the edges of things combining these technologies in interesting new ways or critiquing using them to kind of self to auto critique their affordances and we see that with for example early on you know the watermarks for stock photography would pop up in like these really weird distorted ways in mid-journey images so people were deliberately trying to make that happen and using that to highlight something that these large language models or generative systems hide which is the source material which is I'm not you know I'm not a copyright advocate so that's not where this is going but especially in terms of chat GBT and things like not being able to say how you know what you think you know is pretty problematic when you're using it for information seeking.

Dan it sounded like you maybe had some agreement there. I think I'm going to take to academic moments of empathy because you can imagine it's sort of it's moving well I'm running a design school where we've had students writing essays for some time or making a model or doing a drawing as things that are then submitting and so we're trying to figure out well how does that work and how does that shift questions of authorship or understanding as Jean said you know and I'm obviously or maybe not obviously but you know coming from a background where technology is a core creative tool and in the wider sense of the word so technology also being a pencil or clothes or building and that isn't how it's often interpreted when it gets down to right how we're going to stop students cheating or not you know which is the large part of the discourse at the University of the Minute and to unpack that and say well let's have a chat about technology and what we mean by that it's like that's the last thing any of them want to hear right now so but that's where we need to go and to understand that I really like you know as you like Kayla Gwynne's definition of technology which is something along the lines of the active human interface with the material world so when you frame it like that it's like that's all the tools we've ever made to do anything including culture and many other stuff so yes it's pencil it's also GPT and mid journey and I'm fine with those things being used in the process accordingly I think it's great if a designer knows how to use a pencil and mid journey fantastic that they need to know the limitations of both what you can do with either when to deploy one or the other you know what you're building upon whether it's a tradition of drawing or perspective where you're learning those things from or in mid journey as Jean said you know the source material that you're mashing together in order well the software is mashing together to produce some kind of meaning so I'd yeah I think starting with that perspective of a technology is just this thing that we've used to create with and it's an incredibly wide field those higher order questions of higher orders maybe the wrong word those questions of understanding contextualizing facility with using and craft you know that's something I'd like to get to so the craft of using mid journey that would be an interesting discussion yeah absolutely and I wonder whether this also links to the national cultural policies call for sectoral skills and capabilities development whether this kind of purposeful mixing and building in of increasingly automated tools into work patterns workforces workflows yeah I think not to dwell on getting to that policy too deeply but um I suppose maybe underlying what sort of Jean's reflections on her earlier work there would be a little bit you should be dealing with those artists not that kind of artist but equally hang on isn't this IT and I remember when I first lived in Australia encountering IT as this kind of concept that just meant all of that stuff over there and that's quite different to culture and that is just doesn't hang you know I mean how Jean introduced her work clearly you can't separate them that easily so the idea of a cultural policy that isn't written by uh creatives that understand how to use technology which I suspect sometimes it isn't always the case let me put it that way that's really problematic you know and it sort of separates these things out into sectors and they're absolutely not sectors there's no such thing as sectors in that sense it's something that we've been talking a bit about the last couple of days of sectors or ecosystems yeah that we need to be thinking about sectors is like a really convenient approximation you know which doesn't bear any reality um to the way things actually might work just as well as we have simplified ecosystems into things like transport separate to housing separate to environment separate to planning again that makes absolutely no sense I think it's worth noting though that you know we have been talking about ict or it being you know a thing a box and in fact you know digital needs to be thought far more expansively as as a series of tools which could be applied in a whole lot of ways um and yet a lot of things haven't changed and there's still many many organisations who still sort of pigeonhole these different areas you know digital is about ict and marketing but it's not it's actually about embedding digital so much to the point that I really find it weird that you should have to write a digital strategy in fact it's just your strategy and digital permeates everything and it is a wonderful tool to be applied for certain outputs which might be how you collaborate and work together as an organization or as you're making work or it might be a platform for a creative work or and you know in the in the case of sort of ai tools I mean I met somebody for the first time the other night who was talking about how they use it they've got a very small organisation they're under a huge administrative pressure to do really um burdensome grant applications and they're using ai really kind of cleverly I think to respond exactly as you said here's the guidelines this is what I've written what do you think and they come back with kind of comments in their version I mean in terms of access if we think about how we're taught to do grant speak and the kind of uh elitism of that not even elitism the kind of um bias that that delivers in terms of who can actually harness that kind of language in order to express an idea which really is what you should be funded for you shouldn't be funded for how well you write the application but what you're actually going to make or create or aspire to or experiment with and if ai is able to step in and break down a whole of those barriers my goodness how how thrilling you know because it's going to take decades for our inherent biases that we've all grown up with to to be broken down generation by generation generation the way my children think about technology engaged with it is utterly different to me and I feel like I'm a pretty open thinker around digital but it's utterly different to the next generation and it's going to take years for digital to really seamlessly be be part of what we can do and if we can use in the meantime things like ai in a clever way not be too frightened of it of course we don't want people to you know in the same way that I don't want to have my children paying somebody to write their essay and submit it it's the same thing except it's free but if if we can use ai as a tool to to you know remove hurdles and barriers when it comes to kind of literacy or a particular time type of expression um I think it's fantastic can I please oh with the oh with the essay thing I just I just have to say you know if we're worried about about people cheating by getting chat gpt to write their essay and the essay is successful that chat gpt wrote then we need to just look at how we're assessing learning I think that's what all the smart educationalists would say yeah and the same goes with creative practice absolutely but um just think I was just thinking about um you know your fabulous and very important digital inclusion work indigo and the concept of capabilities which is applied to professional domains and the concept of literacies which is applied to deficits usually in in young people or old people they're all linked right but I think there is a powerful case um for really rethinking what we mean by by literacy in terms of capabilities that are meaningful to people in the context of their everyday lives um and in that context if you understand that all chat gpt does is predict that given this word this is probably the word that will come next and that grant grants like nothing other than a really predictable formula um then that should empower us to use them not be afraid of them and really and also really kind of not get um trapped into much magical thinking about ai yeah um because it's really just a it's just a really dumb machine that um you put a lot of stuff in one end and it uses that to know what would come out the other end given a particular import yeah yeah I don't want to harp on about it but I do feel like the digital inclusion work that you mentioned there jean do we run the risk of the unevenness just perpetuating and compounding further because if we look at who's got access who's got the abilities to do this kind of work I'm just going to leapfrog ahead ahead ahead and enormous swathes of the population remain perhaps better connected than they are today but still not gaining the efficiencies or the advantages that we're talking about here how do we deal with that I mean that's not the topic of this conversation but I think it's something that that needs to be kind of centered in how we're thinking about this great yeah I think maybe um one of the words there are cities or maybe the other one civic as well kind of forces us to address that because when you start applying those systems to things like water or transport then clearly one one ought to have a very equitable approach to that dealing with inclusion and we have in Australia by the way and we haven't in the uk or places but but that would be the whole point wouldn't it like forcing it into that public domain um really raises the bar on the social equity question so that's the same conversation is applied to like our schools or whatever then yeah central infrastructure for civic life exactly um and it is heading that way it's kind of you know those same that same software variations on it would be running through planning applications they'll be coordinating water infrastructures and things like that so deeply problematic unless before grants inclusion and social equity I want to pick up on civic infrastructure for everyday life.

Katrina you're currently working on an enormous infrastructural project I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about your vision for the future of cultural infrastructure that mapco is building at the moment what does it look like where's it going well it's an interesting job because I started in April and of course this is a project that's been in development for probably a decade with a lot of a lot of creative minds and it began out of two institutions arts centre Melbourne and NGV each working independently around ambitions for their organisations to to to expand grow deepen be maintained some of its really kind of critical infrastructure maintenance stuff but as those sort of ideas began to kind of build more momentum and get more traction government through creative Victoria became more involved and kind of brought those two projects together and began to think more in a kind of precinct context given their proximity and the fact that they're plonk right in the middle of the city of Melbourne in the middle of one of the most densely populated corridors of creative activity when the word ecology comes up again but you know places of of learning of making of presenting of researching of collecting um you know performing exhibiting um all of those things are kind of played out um in different ways through a a precinct that's kind of grown organically um sometimes with really significant government interventions sometimes not um for a number of decades and of course acknowledging that it's on ground where there has been cultural practice played out by the people of the cooler nations for you know 60 000 years so anyway this um this job i've got now map co was kind of invented by government to um i'm with a kind of responsible officer for that large swathe of cash um and so we're working with ngv with art centre melbourne with development victoria um and of course government through creative victoria to to make sure we deliver that capital project which includes really significant um improvements to art centre melbourne and within ngv international and the ngv um contemporary gallery which is is going to be spectacular um but i think one of the really exciting things about this vision is with its kind of precinct view it also includes 18 000 square meters of public space and that public space isn't just going to be a street or a thoroughfare or a road or a connector it's going to be a garden which is a highly creative highly designed act in and of itself and that garden also provides a connector and a thoroughfare for the for the people of melbourne for those workers residents uh visitors to move easily through from the city down through past hammer hall and down to south bank and sturt street and all those kind of amazing institutions and it provides a connector in an area that's always been frankly opaque we had acne x there in the ballet center we we were there from 2016 we with my acne hat on um and it's very tricky to get around um it's it is hard to get down um to to mrc and anchor and malt house the uni of course you can walk straight down south bank um to st kildall road but it's it just feels very kind of disconnected and disconnected from the city so this is a game changer i think a huge opportunity to connect right across the river and as part of the creation of matco fed square got brought in who had you know fed squares been a remarkably successful again government intervention to create a town square for melbourne something that this city yearned for again for decades um it's been hugely successful people go there it's got amazing institutions in it but uh it also needs to be rethought for in a range of ways and so it's now become officially an arts organization and it sits in this corporation and part of the challenge that we have is to connect fed square to the arts precinct and make it feel whole and make this feel like a kind of a journey and an exciting place for people to come and engage with all sorts of elements of of creative practice and process and presentation and when we define that area it's exciting because it's not just the built form it's also not just our garden i the my music bowl sits in the gardens across the road these heritage gardens that are very old-fashioned models of what an ecology can be um housing not just my music bowl and of course government house but also the botanical gardens and the shrine which are also places of really interesting cultural and creative activity along with lots of kind of science and memory and um really important work so so with all of those sort of ingredients together i think it's not only the job of kind of looking after this sort of very significant amount of of money to deliver this really significant piece of infrastructure with it a fairly constrained triangle it's about how do we leverage that benefit out and how do we use this remarkable moment of i think it's the largest amount of money ever invested at a single time in this nation's history in cultural infrastructure so it's amazing how do how do we use that to leverage out and bring benefit to that broader suburb and to each of those institutions and create a kind of environment that sort of underpins and allows those parts to create an even greater whole and um it's very exciting and then so to take it back to this kind of idea of technological infrastructure that's a whole challenge in and of itself because you've got this kind of cluster of organisations in very different kinds of buildings doing very different kinds of practice using different systems again how do we find a coherence between all of those things without mucking up the dna of what works so well within them how do we kind of add enhance expand support um and there's a range of ways that we look into kind of find this coherence across across the precinct which i think will involve some kind of combination of of um wayfinding planting lighting storytelling of course a very clear through line through all of those things acknowledging the place which is this place this land that we're on in of the Kulin nations and then i think digital sits across the top of all of that but how that plays out is something that we've really got to think about we've got to have a sort of intuitive digital layer that enables a visitor a participant to easily navigate and explore those parts that aren't just about the biggest marketing campaign but about what can i discover what are the nooks and crannies what's the kind of amazing dazzling moment the show pony moment and then a really tiny very cool thing down in this corner that both things i want to go to how do i get there right now right now and i think i think that's going to be very exciting and of course the other opportunity i just caught the end of the previous panel is collaboration of course and how do we kind of foster and support collaboration inherently in a arts context everybody needs more funding we're competing for the same dollars there is inherently a kind of there is competition there's also territory there's also old-fashioned ways of doing things there's a little bit of looking inside how do we kind of break that apart and enable a kind of opportunities for possible collaboration or at least at the minimum conversation that is cross-sectoral cross-platform and one that is open and inclusive diverse and and therefore enabling new exciting things to happen.

I think that connects up with so many of the conversations that have been happening here particularly around the possibilities for leveraging shared infrastructure pieces and what it means to build off and to provide access to those things and i wanted to to link back to your work dan around katrina mentioned walkability and access through gardens and things like that what does it mean for a city to be walkable for the arts and culture that happens within it i mean most cities have been walkable forever except for the last couple of generations perhaps so it's not that much of a stretch that doesn't mean everybody walks obviously there's numerous ways of getting around but um in a way i think with cities like melbourne we're trying to remember what it was to some extent i used to some in this context of a show a film from 1920 and then places like melbourne a lot of other cities around the world you'd see kids playing in the street you'd see people having a chat right in the middle of the street someone walking into the street reading their newspaper without looking it's quite hard to watch you're kind of looking through your fingers most of the time because you're assuming it's a there's going to be a traffic accident of course those cities were often much safer than when traffic came in because they were basically humans and horses kind of navigating around each other and neither of those things are particularly inclined to bash into each other so and so there's a certain speed up to that and there's a certain what jane jakers are called the ballet of the street which is this kind of everyday aesthetic and cultural experience and yeah also highly pragmatic and functional at the same time um yeah while i'm rolling out quotes i'd also go for rebecca solnit talking about the magic of the street being the combination of the errand and the epiphany which is really nice when we think about infrastructure actually um errand being just the sort of functional side of the job to be done i need to get to third square by six o'clock or whatever um how am i going to do that but then the epiphany is as you say on the way i saw this amazing thing you said showpony and then this very small thing here and a great street has all of that stuff it has you bumping into people who might be you know your future partner and whatever or the last person you want to see right now um it does all of those things as well as being functional stuff as in milk's got to be delivered shops are going to open people are going to do their things so the balancing act of things like walkability or streets or infrastructures is in precisely that errand and epiphany the challenge is because we've separated those sectors out we usually say streets are for errand type things and we're going to give that to the department of errands otherwise known as the transport department um and if you give the street to you know the traffic department you get traffic the clue is in the name isn't it so uh if you gave the street to gardeners you'd get gardens it's really about who do you bring together around that idea this it can do all of those things and so where we are right now with design and then design in particular around the world in places like paris and barcelona and yes melbourne too as we've been used to see well it can be about gardeners as much as its traffic engineers and it's about school kids as an artist all at the same time on the major street retrofit project around in sweden we got brian eno to write a set of design principles for the street and that was me deliberately saying well his voice is equally valid as a traffic engineer because it's errand and epiphany you know so that's really powerful when you think of what katrina's dealing with here i think in terms of this balancing act of all of those things they're all public and they're all civic and so they've got all of those disparate needs and desires jostling around and we might need to manage your errands like it needs to handle the water like this or it needs to be safe and secure or whatever but it's also about epiphanies and that's what cities are about this tangle of cultures in a place where natural systems intersect and that's totally what they are so it's not just a utilitarian errand thing at all it can't be run by the traffic department it needs culture to the table just as much could i could i interfere please interpret oh just listening listening to both of you um the so there are citizens in this picture as well they're doing their errands they're having their epiphanies there that's me yeah that's me that's a good summary of everyday life i love it they're they're you know they're wayfinding through these beautiful interconnected spaces but actually they've all got mobile phones on them and they're doing things with them those errands are mediated by mobile devices is their epiphanies may be shared using it so 10 years ago we would have been like saying oh we need to have big screens where we show all the instagram posts from this space to activate it like where is that sort of piece sitting in the in these imaginaries do people have phones people have phones they do i mean this this is the work you know i just dropped mine on the floor so it's like that russian pedagogical technique where you drop a big book on the floor to get someone's attention to pay attention wonder what it was no i mean this is the stuff that was so important you know that we were working on in the renewal was you know the lens you know having a piece of cardboard that means you don't have to hold your phone and take pictures of everything in the incredible exhibition which i hope everybody's spent hours in so me so story of the moving image but you know to have a piece of cardboard that is your device rather than a phone so you lose that kind of distraction and so on but of course phones are there and you know i mean we're talking about how do we how do we use them without having another app to help you discover and explore and you know that's something we've we've got all sort of work on together over the next little while but it's interesting screens i mean you know fed square we've got two really big screens and it's and it's a really interesting kind of it's a great opportunity in some levels and we just screen the soccer rules games for the world car oh my goodness like what a gift to have that you know we got it up my poor team like each time they kept winning it's like oh my god i'm gonna do it again and we knew the crowd would at least double and anyway it was felt part of that not in the even even people um not in melbourne yeah who exist um like we felt part of that through social media yeah it was thrilling like it was genuinely thrilling i mean my son came out from the middle of that pack i think after the third game pale he's 18 like absolutely pale going that's the best thing i've ever done in my whole life just you know who would have thought a screen and and a crowd of people in that kind of thing would do it but then it can also be really annoying you knew it stopped before the quarterfinals though you knew it stopped before the quarterfinals well we did we did but um but you know the like having having screens is it is noise it's visual noise and you know you've got this remarkable architecture here with federation square and then you've got this kind of thing that commands your attention all the time we've talked we've talked about a lot about that how do we move back and forth you know between these moments where you really want to look at it and there's something really engaging and important or it's enhancing something else that's happening around it and when is it like really discrete wallpaper or almost invisible and and we've really got to look at that kind of nuance so how screens play out like i i i don't want to stop any creative conversations i want to be a yes and person as we do the workshops but i'll be surprised if there are a lot of screens around the precinct i just don't think they are uh certainly in the sense of you know large glowing things that are capturing your attention i would be surprised if there is a great deal of them in the way that that like the gigantic screen in fed square is a joy and a burden yeah um all at once i think you know we've done bits of work on this in the past but that's sort of more more subtle use of displays numerous sizes different types e-ink through to big screens small screens i mean there's there's a that diversity of approaches there and i think i also think your mention of garden as well both literal and metaphorical i think that the acts of gardening involves a ton of technology different types um there are apps that i use as a really bad gardener you know to hover over a which weed is this well literally that kind of thing like how much um picture this the app i use that too picture this there we go so there is a mobile phone based app that we're using in the most hands-on thing you can do which is putting your hands in the soil and trying to make something out of it so i think there are ways that you can like to touch use technology but the point is to make a garden not to make an app and do it that way around but and you know that's the role that mobile media play in in the errands and epiphanies of everyday life so yeah kind of curious to hear yeah well everyone's got the kind of powerful computer with them yeah so how much do you i mean we had a conversation actually early on um uh with with dan and seban rory actually just talking about because we were talking about what infrastructure needs to be in there so if we you know in 10 years time you know everyone's got 6g what does that mean in terms of everyone sorry well whatever it is i don't know whatever it is i would have said it a lot of people but but whatever it is so so you've got this kind of opportunity to to do stuff with technology so what do we need in terms of pipes now with what we're building for what we don't know could be possible for artists who are like harnessing these tools and doing really kind of amazing stuff with it that no one's even thought of what do we need to put in the ground now so that we can be ready for it and it really it's just a pipe you know and some places you can plug in i mean you need power and you need the opportunity to have a lot of data potentially that's sort of it and then design it to be adaptable because then you don't know what you're going to need in 10-15 years yeah exactly and it's that those words of openness adaptability all of those things diversity they enable the kind of resilience that we'll need in something like the arts precinct there and it's focusing then on um again to borrow the first principle that you know came up with for the streets that we did in sweden he said think like a gardener not like an architect design beginnings not endings and it was just that sense of you can get going on this now you can start you can start with the beginning and come to the beginning you can't possibly know the ending and it's a mistake to think obviously a garden is never finished the street is never finished and we you know we go crazy trying to imagine what your thing is in 20 years and get it or i'd get it horribly wrong so all you can do is say let's focus on the beginning make that as good as we possibly can and then like a gardener stay on board because nature's going to do things to it so i need to adapt that's not going to work there let's move it over here that that pipe needs to be bigger this one we actually we can take away um policymakers and governments usually hate that kind of thing because you can't promise you know that you they want to say yeah but how many tons of concrete do you need in 2029 and i'm like i cannot answer that question for you you know it's the wrong question actually i know some why they're saying it but it's you know we have to really hold back and say this stuff we can start with and be sure about after that we're going to we're going to make a garden that's constant adaptation yeah well and so you know the garden is going to be beautifully designed and then we're going to employ a key creative called the head gardener and they're going to be there looking learning changing adapted and being highly creative designing a living thing that will continue to evolve and change particularly with impacts of climate change which we're already trying to sort of predict in terms of what that original garden will be but it will obviously continue to evolve and in the same way you know when i came to ACMI one of the first things i did was get a chief experience officer because again it's a constant evolution it's not like it's done you've got to have that that that pushing of here's these tools what can we do with them how can we kind of work differently how can we engage with our visitors differently how can we make you know if i'm an you know from a theatre company or whatever how can we create work that's different how can we distribute it differently we've got to be thinking about that in a really sort of expansive open way that rely you know requires significant investment you know it's it's not about having an ict department and outsourcing it's about really investing in that expertise like you do a senior you know a senior curator an artistic director whatever it is it's like you've got to have that pay for it and invest because because it is a continuing conversation and that's what that's what brings benefit we're about to open it up to questions so get thinking put your hand up microphones will come and find you but i wanted to just pause for a moment and think about those people who don't live in melbourne gene the people who live outside of cities what does it mean for culture to be so centralized not that culture doesn't happen elsewhere but in terms of money infrastructure institutions it is heavily geographically weighted towards the city how do we move beyond that do you guys have any thoughts on that i i don't have someone not from melbourne yeah i'm from regional queensline actually technically representing the rest of the world gene good yeah yeah r.o.w. as they call it in publishing exactly i think culture is culture is everywhere and raven williams if we're doing quote fest roman williams famously says culture is ordinary which has two meanings one is that you know the practice of everyday life of course is cultural but also um and as i'm sure everyone here would agree the practices of well-funded cultural institutions are also ordinary like not rarefied or special or godlike like people go to work there and have jobs and try to do things and go for lunch and stuff so um have epiphanies i don't have epiphanies and errands that's my big takeaway so i don't know what we i don't know what we we do about that but i i don't know i like i'm just picking up on the gardening gardening vibe so i'm not going to answer your question but i'm going to say that one thing i've been thinking about is what's going what on earth is going on with the internet and what's going to happen next to it and you might know that twitter's been taken private by an odious individual who's destroying it by the second um meta's probably working out that social media is a dutch business model and there's probably better ways to make money so that big kind of dominant platform paradigm is kind of going away and i think that's a good example of kind of going away so this might be a useful analogy for kind of cultural institutions as well and the god i love hearing about the kind of garden almost like a community garden aesthetic and so i think that like that's one pathway that the internet could be taking and social media could be taking there are people kind of either revisiting blogging it's not just nostalgia thinking about that phase or using some of the new federated social media platforms or decentralized social media services like mastodon it's just one example where it is very much about openness interoperability absolutely not getting mortgaged to a particular technology a particularly a commercial one so you could sort of think about if twitter and facebook are like mega malls then i think one future for the internet is like a community garden and actually that those sorts of technologies are far less resource intensive they don't require you to have resource hungry apps and a super fast internet connection they're actually very lightweight and kinder on the planet so i think this kind of whole ethos is really exciting actually i think the internet's more interesting now than it has been for probably 15 years i think i mean a lot of the other technologies are also in that distributed decentralized mode again looking at the infrastructure world like energy systems you know could only have been in the last well my lifetime a coal-fired power plant in country victoria now is not you know australia is the highest uptake of solar cells on rooftop in the world yeah there's something happening same with mobility you know as you know as you as you know like walkable you brought it up and cyclable and e-bikes and wheelchairs and scooters all of those things are distributed decentralized systems that work in the gaps between things and they work within cities and in country increasingly as well which is really powerful a lot of our work at the minute the school is focused on sheperton actually which is just fascinating in lots of interesting ways um not least culturally and whether you can see the role there of shepton art museum uh to some extent as a center within that as well so it's not on the same scale as map but it's it's also a place where the culture of the town can come together but then crucially distribute out again and that's where garden as a more participative thing is way more powerful and i'm thinking of things like um ron finley's work in los angeles he's an amazing gardener who's been making farms in vacant parking lots he's worked out there's you know something like 26 um central parks worth of vacant parking lot in la he can grow something like 724 million tomato plants there and he's doing it with communities in food deserts i mean it's just that's a distributed decentralized uh gardening with social justice behind it super participative um the artist linda teg from melbourne you know her work in stockholm um this beautiful meadow installation which is basically like a modular meadow system that's sort of sprouting out of arcters the art gallery there rolling across town and at the end of the exhibition everybody could come and take one of the little chunks of meadow home with them and so that's presumably continuing to grow all over sweden in weird ways so there's something really powerful and these sorts of things can be replicated in all kinds of urban and non-urban environments so so like if you think about projects and memes and programs rather than edifices and installations then um the sky's the limit and map is a place where those things can come together in and around melbourne but it's also a place that can distribute those things out a bit like the linda teg artwork but all of those little seedlings sprout in their own way elsewhere and in concert with whatever the culture that is whether it's sheperton or somewhere else so that's lovely that's lovely and you were talking katrina about those possible pivot points that map could leverage out and benefit culture more broadly well potentially i mean i was just thinking about you know that kind of centralization within within the cities is about you know a library or a museum or a gallery which unlike the kind of tech companies that have existed for what 15 20 years have existed what since the first library alexandria and you know however long ago so you know um i think institutions are here to stay and and i think that's i think you know the kind of the collecting function the research function the exhibition function the expertise all of that kind of history and stories is important and and so on but you know what was exciting about the national cultural policy was its focus you know it was like the way it was talked about all those things were a kind of a given you know and the traditional opera symphony orchestras ballet even theater were kind of not really talked about and things like contemporary music and and writing which aren't about necessarily i mean live music obviously is a thrill but the recorded recording of music is a distributable thing and through the internet is remarkable likewise the written word is able to be distributed the opportunity for collaborative work through digital is also incredibly exciting and you know people have been exploring and broadcast for some time um in terms of those more traditional forms and distributing them elsewhere but we certainly saw a great flourishing of that when we had to do it uh with the covert kind of lockdowns i mean i'm also chair of back to back theater and it's been really exciting i've been on the board since i came down here watching that company sort of harness a range of different platforms for their work as it suited the story they wanted to tell and presenting it in the platform that was right for that some of which is something that you could screen in a hundred countries at once some of which only 2000 people will ever see and um i so i think that's i think that's what's really exciting you know when we talk about and of course they're a regional company tiny tiny regional company making the best theater in the whole world um so you know i think tyranny of distance from the kind of core can be thought about in different ways and and we see that in kind of different business models where kind of small home run you know businesses are able to operate again globally and really kind of um become sustainable for individuals and for kind of niche practice again through digital anywhere um so it again it comes down to a literacy and a confidence to be able to get to those platforms and explore and that's why anyway that's a whole other thing to make sure that people can get in there and play yeah but um i think that whole idea too of local and city has completely changed certainly certainly in victoria after after well covid still going but after the lockdown period um what this city is how it's going to operate is forever changed how we use it how we live in it how we make work how audiences you know engage with it is different yeah and not having been here in lockdown so i'm not going to talk about that but i was in stockholm but it was um those things are long running as well well before covid e-commerce um taking a lot of the retail function of the city center not a bad thing in lots of ways that's a super distributed model office work shifting that was happening well before covid covid might have given it a bit of a bum but you look at people working from home that was happening from 2012 onwards a consistent line and covid hasn't actually shifted it that much it's just kind of the patterns become clearer so that'll ask serious questions about the idea of a center as if it's predicated as a central business district but if it's predicated as a cultural district that's that's fine you know that has a lot of richness that that can be much more open and participative in lots of ways far more diverse in terms of its uses so that will have a resilience to it and the tech has really kind of shaken that stuff out in a very powerful way amazing we are right on time jane do you have any final thoughts that you would like to wrap us up on no anyone else i will wrap us up um i think this has been such a fascinating conversation and i think uh your final thoughts there uh katrina around the city changing and how we interact with the city is going to be such an interesting thing for us all to work together on please join me in thanking jane dan and katrina for sharing your thoughts