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Access to Cultural Goods in Digital Change

Access to cultural goods is an essential prerequisite for exercising the human right to cultural participation (Art. 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Cultural goods relevant in this context include all artifacts that serve to convey information or to articulate and further develop a culture’s understanding of the world and itself: works of art, holdings of archives, collections and museums, publications of the results of scientific research, and the like.

The digital transformation has fundamentally changed the possibilities and conditions of access to cultural goods, and will continue to bring about new forms and practices of production, reproduction, and reception of such goods, as well as interaction with them: In the course of digitization, on the one hand, dynamic and potentially democratic forms of access to cultural goods, to museums, collections, archives, but also to immaterial goods are emerging that exist exclusively in cyberspace or can be accessed in new ways by means of digital technologies.

At the same time, new forms of access restriction are encroaching on the usage possibilities and usage rights of individuals and specific groups. Furthermore, digitality ties the production and reception of cultural goods to technological preconditions that can be characterized as second-order access conditions.

Research Programme

The Centre for Advanced Study aims to analyze the changes in access to cultural goods caused by digitization primarily — but not exclusively — with regard to art. It takes a look at the evolving opportunities as well as problems and conflicts that arise with them, from (1) an art studies, (2) a curatorial and (3) an ethical perspective.

  1. The Centre will thus significantly broaden the state of art research by analyzing the significance of access to digital technologies for art production and reception, by examining the opportunities and development possibilities that the digital transformation opens up for access to contemporary, but also to older art, and by reflecting on art-specific problems of accessibility concerning works of fine art other than those temporal and ephemeral art forms that have already been discussed quite extensively.
  2. It also aims to explore the consequences for curatorial practice that arise with the changing ways of access and with the new restriction on access to certain art works and other collection goods brought about by the digital transformation.
  3. Last, not least, it shall contribute to debates on copyright policy and legal studies with an ethical perspective on conflicts affecting access to art works and other cultural goods: the Centre is going to elaborate and justify certain ethical principles that might inform legal policies and the ethical evaluation of existing legal regulations governing access to cultural goods.

Main Research Topics

  1. Changes in the possibilities and conditions of access to art and other cultural goods through digitization and media change

  2. Access as a prerequisite for artistic production and curatorial mediation

  3. Research into the artistic reflection of access-ethical problems and norms

  4. Consequences of digital change for art theory and aesthetics

  5. Access to museum and archive collections through digital reproductions

  6. Regaining access to withdrawn cultural heritage

  7. Participation in art by people with impairments and other access barriers

  8. Epistemological and aesthetic demands on museums, archives and collections in the digital age

  9. Access and (private) ownership as modes of cultural participation — justification options for an ethics of access to cultural goods

  10. Conflicts between access interests and access restriction interests, especially with regard to access to art

  11. Normative implications of the expansion and change in the possibilities of granting, controlling and limiting access through digitization and media change (DRM, copy protection, online lending, etc.)

  12. Global Digital Divide and Access Divide as touchstones of an ethics of access to cultural goods

  13. Normative principles of an ethics of access to cultural goods