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This made me think of two things:

1. Waves 1 and 3 have relied upon third party platforms and technology. Wave 1 in particular is highly at risk from the volatile social media landscape, with Twitter and Facebook feeling like they're about to shift into something else entirely (that might be far less useful), and TikTok making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Cultural orgs have spent a decade and many talented social media managers building these platforms, which might turn out to have been positioned on quicksand.

2. At the same time as all this, and related to my first point, all of the tech companies have been encroaching on the cultural space. Google creating a library, and spaces to show museums and exhibitions online. Amazon upending the book world. Facebook (ineptly) trying to commandeer new cultural platforms like VR. Microsoft, MidJourney and others literally techifying the creation of art with AI generative text and images and undermining the creators at the heart of it all.

Feels sometimes like we've been desperately trying to get back onto a bit of floating wreckage that's far too small for us, while there are sharks circling in the water. And the only way to safety is to get on a rescue boat that's built by the sharks.

I may have stretched that metaphor too far.

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These are interesting points.

I wonder if the cultural sector is simply more comfortable (a relative term in this context!) dealing with the type of change that waves 1 and 3 are responding to. I.e. unignorable and tangible shifts in how things work, dealing with change that is very much 'thrust upon us'.

Whereas the change that is described for wave 2 would require a more proactive response by the sector and a recognition that the change it'd be responding to is more subtle (but arguably more fundamental).

However your second point is perhaps an obvious answer to this, perhaps the sort of 'wave 2 change' has felt impossible, or beyond our reach, or there has been an assumption that others would get on with it and eventually it'd turn into the type of change that, like waves 1 and 3, the cultural sector would have no choice but to deal with.

Given the mountain of other challenges the sector is facing I can understand this mindset (i.e. waiting until something has naturally forced its way to the top of your list of priorities).

Ultimately though I worry that waiting for the sharks to build the rescue boat is going to lead to everyone getting eaten.

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I appreciate you carrying on with the metaphor, Ash! :)

Part of it might also be that Waves 1 and 2 focused on particular skillsets and job roles: marketing, comms, operations. For the longest time it's been quite easy for the core of the experience - the event programmers, the curators - to be at a distance from all the digital change. That's where the biggest catch-up has to occur, which is why the actual output of orgs is lagging behind, even while the promotion of it and the internal systems have advanced.

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deletedApr 25, 2023Liked by Ash
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This certainly chimes with conversations I've had with folks working in the sector, better understanding audiences and changing how you reach out to them so that you're being far more specific about who you're targeting and what you're saying sounds like the only thing that's working reliably at the moment. Certainly people are saying that lots of comms approaches they used pre-pandemic simply don't work any more. I'd suggest this shift needs to run right through from how we talk to/reach audiences to what we're actually serving them.

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