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«Арт-менеджер» Online Digital culture on the internet: project management features

Interview with Marco Mancuso, creator and director of «Digicult» project (

— Tell us about conception of your project. Who was the initiator, how have your project been created and developing?

Marco Mancuso

— Digicult was born 5 years ago (January 2005), with the idea of starting a project that could collect my backgrounds, my studies, my passions, my professional skills and my wish to do something important for the cultural economy of my country, in terms of sharing the project and the «original» idea with other Italian people working around that was so called «new media». The idea of Digicult was to start a project that could be challenging for a new kind of economy and culture, something really independent, not linked with any institution, made without any money and help, based on a networking philosophy, something that could be able to use the Internet as a free and worldwide communication platform. At that time I was still working as a critic and journalist, focusing on audiovisual art and design work that linked the experiences and historical developments of electronic music, visual arts and experimental cinema. At the same time I was totally interested in all the possible artistic and creative branches of disciplines using digital technologies as a creative tool, concerning their impact on art, design and contemporary society: netart, software art, electronic music, sound art, video art, experimental cinema, performing art, graphic design, interaction design, architecture, robotics, bioart, generative art, hacking, possibly without any restriction. All these items became the centre of a project that is a web journalistic portal (Digicult, that is based on taking news and collecting and translating them into Italian from lists like Rhizome, Spectre, NetBehavour, Nettime, Syndicate and other sources, and re-pushing Digicult activities inside them) and a critical magazine (Digimag), which I wanted to be monthly in order to follow the constantly changing world of digital creativity. With the idea of sharing the project on a national level, I contacted the first 20 people, some friends and colleagues working in Italy as curators, critics, journalists, presenting the project, shared ideas and asked them to write for the magazine Digimag, concerning their different knowledge and backgrounds focuses on those disciplines I listed above. In these years some people left and some others still remain. Of course, the Network enlarged, including at the moment around 40 people that write every month for the magazine Digimag in different sections. I quickly decided to enlarge the project, opening the Digipod podcast, the Diginews newsletter, the web 2.0 social networks (like Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, Vimeo, Delicious, LinkedIn) and lately the Digimade art agency. I decided to open the art agency for the same reasons as I started Digicult: to work with Italian artists’ values, promote them outside Italy, showing that something important could be done also without money and institutional help.

— Is there any analogies or concurrent of the project?

— I cannot answer your question for sure, because new projects starts every day on the Internet and sometimes I still find out something I don’t know. Of course, there are today and in some cases there had already been very important projects (sometimes much more important, structured and wider than Digicult) on the Internet concerning new media and digital art and culture long time before Digicult. I’m talking about communities like Rhizome, or platforms like LabForCulture and, blogs like New Media Fix and Institute for Network Cultures and We Make Money Not Art and, or magazines like Neural and Metamute. I have never considered any of them as concurrents: it would be anachronistic, in Italy we would speak about «the war between the poors»: we work in a world without big money investments in digital art and culture, that is not a real market producing big profits in terms of events, exhibitions, art-market, readers, something that is now emerging as the dominant culture of our days, that is still on a plan of something that is struggling to have some official rebound from the world of contemporary art and from the official dominant cultures. I mean, I always considered more important to try to share contents, to open collaborations, to start collaborative projects if possible: with some of the projects I listed to you (and with many others, smaller blogs or platforms or projects) I did it, with some others I tried to do it, but it never happened. Of course, what I can tell you is that Digicult has it’s own specific characteristics: I think it’s one of the very few projects that is really based on a shared Network of people giving life all together to the projects, it is one of the few magazines focused on digital art and culture that has a monthly publication, without forgetting that is a really complex cloud made of different branches spreading from a central web portal, with a magazine, a podcast, a newsletter, an art agency, a system of social networks and (we’re working on it) a television in the future.

— Tell us about command of the project, who is this people? And what are their functions?

— I directly work on Digicult every day: it’s my job, my main activity even if it doesn’t generate any direct money for my survival. So, I work on the web portal updating, on managing of a new issue of Digimag, I manage contacts with all the authors from the Network, I work on graphic design or changing and of course on new projects, or ideas or possible connections and developments with other partners, trying to involve other curators from the Network from time to time. But nothing, and I can tell you nothing could have been possible without the technical help of my programmer (Luca Restifo, ndr) in the last years. Without his help, I don’t really know what Digicult could have been like today. And of course, I have to say «thank you» to my graphic designers (Riccardo Vescovo and Luca Pertegato) who have been designing logos or some graphic structures of Digicult and Digimag in the last years and are still helping me for new graphic ideas, to some members of the networks that helped me to translate news and update them on Digicult web portal (Silvia Scaravaggi and Claudia D’Alonzo) and to Claudia D’Alonzo herself, who is still working on Digicult as press editor, and Mauro Minnone and Luigi Ghezzi who are helping me for web 2.0 strategies, of course Giuseppe Cordaro who is the Digipod editor. Not long ago I started working with the professor Tim Parks, professor and coordinator at Istituto di Anglistica at Universit? IULM in Milan, who activated a professional stage for its students that work on Digicult translating news for the web portal and sometimes also for the Digimag magazine (from English to Italian, for those articles that I accept in English language). And, of course, I cannot forget all the translators and interpreters who have been working on English translations of the Digimag magazine during all these years: there are too many of them, I cannot list them all, but you can find their names in English versions of Digimag.

— What technologies and principles of management do you use?

— No special technology. The website is developed in Asp code and is based on a CMS system for updating. All the other things are made in Html code and all the graphic is being edited with Photoshop. I use a web provider, a fast connection line, a shared office, a laptop and a portable HD. That’s it. Light and safe.

— Tell us about sources of funding or how do you work with sponsors?

— Ur, it’s an old and sad story. There was no public funding in Digicult at all, never. There was no Italian cultural or art institution that was interested in working with Digicult, or helping the project in some way, or in joining Digicult within their structure. And there wasn’t any serious editor who would have decided to work with me on Digicult and the Digimag magazine. Of course, I have my faults: on my side, I have never really worked on searching public funding, or sponsors, on European or National level. Sometimes it was my idiosyncrasy for bureaucracy that could not push me to search, follow and fill up forms for public funding, sometimes it was simply a lack of time and energy (I work alone on Digicult and I have too many things to do, really too many), sometimes it was also because I never found a trusted person who would have worked on it. Please, consider that Digicult is not a structured project with a real staff, working every day, so everything is to be filtered with a different eye.

— Do any paid services exist for visitors of your site?

— No, there are no paid services at all.

— What is your target audience? Tell us about statistics of the visitors and how do you work to increase the number of your audience?

— I’m not a statistics maniac. It means that I don’t care too much about Digicult target audience. Of course, I think it could be made up of people interested in the world of art, merged in technologies and digital tools, both new software and hardware. People that could be critics, curators, journalists but also «normal» people involved in networking cultures, free software, open source technologies, new trends of music, video, design, architecture, software, or the possible liaisons between art and science. Digicult was designed as a meta-project, trying to cover different subjects and items. So, I think the audience reflects the inner nature of the project itself. Of course, I always works on increasing the number of audience: there are no big marketing strategies, but professional networking, using mailing lists, social networking, interviews, that make working on a new project possibly more and more interesting.

— Does your project have partners? Who are your friends? How do you cooperate with them?

— Yes, Digicult has project partners and friends. In Italy the audiovisual artistic collective Otolab is a friend and partner. We support each other, we sometimes work together on the art agency, or I run their new productions. and VjTheory are two platform friends and partners of Digicult, focused on Audiovisual Art and Live Media theories. But also New Media Fix by Eduoardo Navas is an old Digicult’s friend, taking and republishing some contents from the Digimag magazine but also involving me in some interesting networking projects on the Web. But also guys from (and NetBehaviour mailing list) always supported Digicult by helping to spread our projects through their channels and we normally publish their projects online on Digicult’s platforms. But also there is RandomArt here in Italy, of course the AHA community online, and also festivals Digicult collaborated with in the past became, step by step, friends and partners: like Elektra festival in Montreal, Cimatics in Brussels, Sonic Acts in Amsterdam, Nemo in Paris, Art Tech Media in Madrid, but also Netmage or Dissonanze here in Italy. Digicult tries to create an international network with them, which would enable to promote Italian artists and theorists outside Italy.

— What is the future of the project like to your opinion?

— This is a really good question, I always ask myself without finding a unique answer. What people and friends normally say to me is that the project is too big and complex, too many things to follow, too much work for one person to do and so probably some day everything will crush down. It could be so, of course, and Digicult will remain a positive experience. What I prefer to think about is that Digicult is becoming something important, both at national and international level, with some friends, readers and partners worldwide. General economy is changing and new typologies of jobs and professions are developing, new kind of professional relationships are spreading on the Internet without any rigid control, without any rules. I think Digicult was able show the way of possible using Networking as a creative and potential instrument to create and spread culture: there are no rules to be good professionals, everything is changing under our eyes, and big editorial or cultural institutions are too big and lazy and old to move faster. We are the present and the future of information, of culture, of work, especially in this period of economic crisis. We show how it is possible to do things without spending money, but generating it. Digicult is still one of the few projects in Italy (and worldwide) so deeply focused on items like impact of new technologies and sciences on art, design and contemporary society. And the digital cultures and new technologies are growing up and becoming the cultures of our time, not only something for a niche of people, with different applications not only in the world of art or design (if you think about new technologies used with growing social and political consciousness, with impact on environment, connections with scientific applications). So, what to say, I’m optimistic and I can tell you that Digicult will also be here in the next years and grow up, without losing its philosophy and targets.

— Except virtual life of, does your project appear offline?

— Yes, of course. Digicult appears online through the job of its Digimade art-agency. I mean I don’t like branded parties or branded meetings, made and organized by Digicult, I don’t like marketing strategies, fake and plastic situations, probably you understood this. But, with the Digimade art-agency, Digicult is able to work as a guest curator of specific digital art exhibitions and events, as a curator of specific projects that we thought up and developed and presented in some festivals in Italy and worldwide, as a promoter of Italian artists outside Italian borders. You can check all the Digimade activity at the website I can assure you that I would really love to have a chance to do something more, more chances to work physically in the real world: except for the rare occasions when Digicult worked directly with a gallery or a cultural space, locations and venues are usually incredibly expensive to rent in Italy, and it’s quite impossible for small cultural situations like Digicult to use them and organize something that normally costs you a lot of money (inviting artists, setting up, providing technical equipments and so on). So, as usual, the problems are economic, political, social, cultural. And I can tell you for sure, that Italy is the third world in this sense, very depressing.

— Is collaboration with Russian audience possible?

— Digicult started as an Italian project: I was very rigid and strict about it. Only Italian writers, journalists and theorists. Of course, like everything so radical, it was and it is now a very interesting idea in my opinion, but I think that now Digicult demonstrated that in Italy there are many good critics, journalists and theorists of digital art and culture (and, please, consider that ALL the good Italian writers, theorists and critics write for Digicult), and we are able to create something like Digicult from really nothing. So, after receiving many requests, I finally decided to open doors a little bit to foreign professionals as well and to start making Digicult more international: it’s only the beginning and I can tell you that I’m really balancing this new trend, but now Digicult has 3 or 4 non-Italian critics. So, yes, collaboration with Russian audience is also absolutely possible.

— What would you wish those people who dream to create a similar project?

— Oh, if you talk about dreams, I don’t think Digicult could represent a dream for someone, it’s really too much. I think it’s better to think about Digicult as an example, one of the possible examples you can find online today about different items and things of course. If you want to start a new project today you have so many chances, so many different things to do, so many potentialities: as I told you, I think Digicult was probably the right project at the right moment in the right country, and I think it is strongly depended on the country where it comes. It started and it is still alive thanks to the free job (not paid) of many, many people, who probably see Digicult as a professional tool for their life and jobs, we never forget it: it is a project where money is not at the center, not the focus, not the reason to be. It started from a strong necessity, first mine, which reflected that many people joined the Network in the last years. So, if you want to start a project like Digicult or anything similar today, I think you need to observe cultural needs of your countries and in general, without thinking of making money from the beginning, work honestly and hardly sharing everything you know and network with all the professionals, realities and independent institutions you like and respect. Don’t work alone, don’t stay under any master, stay free and leave the windows opened...

Interview by Nadya Zimireva specially for