When Arts Hacks Hackathons#2

THIS ARTICLE IS THE SECOND PART OF A SERIES THAT DISCUSS HACKATHONS IN THE CULTURAL AND CREATIVE FIELDS. THE FIRST PART YOU CAN READ HERE.

Hacking Culture definitely had its own story. First of all, not many hackathons with this vertical were organised, so not really an extensive experience in this field. There are many reasons for that, and industries are quite different from tech startup world. In the first part of the article we discussed the differences of thinking when it comes to project vs product, as well as difference in relation to financing, more specifically investments vs grant mentality. And now, we will continue.

Cultural managers/ directors vs CEOs
In the Cultural sector, there are cultural managers. What does that mean? Basically can have different roles:
writing grant proposals,
administering projects,
project manager tasks,
dealing with lobby mechanisms to municipalities or governmental structures,
doing fundraising to companies, and rarely to major donors.
The model is that of a not-for-profit model.
Basically, the manager does not do anything related to the customer development process, market positioning, in general business models or changing business models, marketing plans or growth mechanisms.
All this is done by startup co-founders and CEO, and is considered a language that you must speak if you name yourself a ‘manager’.
For us, in the startup sector, grant proposals are more an administrative mechanical task and definitely are not considered a must possess knowledge in order to generate revenue.

But these tasks lead to different types of knowledge, attitudes, and abilities for the leaders of the industries. And difficulties and misunderstanding can appear when it comes to collaborations.

Maybe the only more business oriented are fine art galleries. But there also, founders and managers know the business model so well: have to sell artwork to collectors. It is not like in a startup, which has to invent its business model, and that might take months, and then they might even have to pivot.

Market versus Cultural experts
In the startup world there is a simple rule: the market is the king. You can go to countless meetings, mentoring, pitching sessions to impress investors, make your own cool image, earn Awards, end of the day the only verdict is that from the market! If your product is loved and people are willing to pay, you have won. If dozens of mentors, and investors gave you money, but customers tell you: “I don’t want you”, then this is the end. No celebrity investor can save you. So, market rules.
But artsy people were raised differently.
Art always had the function to challenge ‘common knowledge’, to question, sometimes to educate its public, to offer alternative versions, to create surprises, etc. For artsy people, what matters most of all are expert opinions. If colleagues, curators, say it is ok, doesn’t matter so much anymore if the public loves you or hates you. Well, it matters, but not always different forms of art were necessarily popular.

Technology as creator vs Technology as an tool
In the startup world, the technical person is one of the key person, it has the same level as the CEO, and the final product is the process of co-creation. CTOs and technical leads are really hard to get.
In the Cultural field, we were quite surprised to hear “technology is a tool”. Only very few teams in those 5-6 hackathons we participated in had enough developers, many teams were building mock-ups, not prototypes. But this is a more general picture where the technical person is seen as one that is executing: “I, the art expert have my genius idea, and you as a technical person should make it”. Which was very surprising, considering the high added value a technical person can bring to the table, and also considering that many are hard-to-get.
This is also a symptom of the fact that the cultural sector thinks of digitalisation in terms of “we do something online”. But, without good technical talents and understanding the technical language, culture will get stuck, and no real innovation would be possible.

Copy-cats vs Replicating
So, let’s don’t be so pessimistic: there is finally a point where the two sectors have things in common! In the startup world, there were long discussions, related to copy-cats: Europeans are looking at what is going on in the US, or other parts of the world, and simply do a copy. With the hope that they will get a nice exit. Then other smaller countries step in, and look at what is going well in the West, and just do a copy for the local market. Some investors are also following these lines, investing in what is going well on other markets.
The artsy replica is the famous world “replicating”. Now, if we are talking purely in pure terms of NGOs, well, yes, it is good to see what country A is doing and just copy-paste it in country B. But, when you want global business replicating will have some issues. With this line of replicating-thinking, art market places were set up, everybody was just doing them, without any logic in mind. And the results: artists are simply bored of them, they are there and not-functioning.

Before Covid, even Ben Horowitz was predicting a good future for marketplaces, now, potential investors’ reaction is simple: Marketplace in the title, not even reading the pitch-deck!

So, how to continue? As art and creative industries were made aware of the need to innovate, it is quite clear that the trend will continue. In a way or other.
The cultural field definitely will need to rethink its way of functioning. Maybe relying on donations is not a good-enough strategy for the long term? Or maybe it is? But, relating to going digital, as with other industries, it will take a while till the industry will understand the tech field and how to work with developers, what means to innovate internally and to collaborate with others to innovate.
Also, one question is how they will attract talents, as definitely the non-profit sector is not that appealing for much-needed developers, marketers, or product managers. On the other hand, it is definitely a good sign that the dialogue between the two industries started.
You know, at least we know now how much is the distance between us, and start constructed from there.

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