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Networked cultures: negotiating cultural difference in contested spaces

Final Activity Report Summary - NETWORKED CULTURES (Networked cultures: negotiating cultural difference in contested spaces)

The research project NETWORKED CULTURES has examined the potential and sustainability of self-organised forms of networking between cultures with respect to current processes of social, technological and economic transformation in Europe. While current waves of mass migration, economic deregulation and social disintegration certainly fuel a climate of cultural rifts, conflicts and clashes, they are also the backdrop of emergent forms of social organisation and group interaction. In order to evaluate the potential of this changing situation, the research has investigated new forms of spatial co-existence and spatial appropriation that propose innovative models of social solidarity and cross-cultural cohabitation consistent with the increased levels of mobility and translocal interaction. From informal economies and self-organised education to global social movements and net cultures, the research has looked into these sites to identify key areas in which new forms of cross-cultural agency are given shape without being centrally organised and regulated. These arenas of bottom-up transformation will become more central in the development of inter-cultural competence in the near future and their dynamics give us important clues as to self-organised networking between cultures may become a key instrument in the peaceful transformation of cultural identities across Europe.

To this end, the research has brought together self-organised networked practices which question and destabilise traditional spatial patterns and forms of knowledge production with the work of expanded art and architectural practices interested in social and cultural change. It has carried out investigations into transient and experimental project platforms which allow for a multi-inhabitation of territories and narratives across cultural boundaries. Such networked art, architectural and activist practices were invited to list their projects in an online database to share their experiences and to develop new knowledge together. This collaboration has established ecology of communication and networking beyond national borders and offers an interactive working environment and growing archive (including conversations with networking practitioners, video footage and 5 000+ photographs of contested urban spaces in Europe) for research into emerging networked cultures. Collaborative knowledge of this kind helps to empower cross-cultural initiatives and to put into practice models of networking between cultures that facilitate a more inclusive society. Based on the immense intellectual productivity of these interactions, the research has developed new critical frameworks ('relational theories') around the potential of network creativity in contemporary knowledge based societies and cross-cultural agency. These frameworks have been disseminated in various analogue and digital media and have been put forward for discussion in networked communities and numerous venues open to the general public.