Ecosystem Mapping Exercise (Summary)

LASALLE College of the Arts, F309
24 May 2019, 4:00 – 5:30pm

The Ecosystem Mapping exercise, conducted in collaboration with ASEF, is an investigation in mapping the arts media ecosystem and where it sits within the larger arts ecosystem. This exercise and the resulting document could be useful to frame future programmes and aspires to produce a survey of arts media environments in different countries. 

Kathy Rowland began the session by introducing the ecosystem mapping data that was collected from the delegates’ input sent in prior to the Roundtable.

The following questions about the exercise were posed to the delegates during the session.

  1. How can the survey be improved?
  2. Would such a document/research be useful for you at a local/national level? If so, how?
  3. Would it be useful on a regional level? If so, how?
  4. How can the group embarking on actual research project to fill it up ‘properly’?
  5. Any other ideas/directions?

Sadanand Menon pointed out that each country’s respective historical context of media and the arts must be included.

Delegates broke into groups for a 25-minute discussion before reconvening to share.

All groups pointed out that the survey is focused largely on media prioritising performing art forms.

The biggest question that arose was on authorship: who has the capability to collect and map such information. The issue of gatekeeping what constitutes a “serious arts media platform” also arose. Other issues raised included: the purpose of the survey; readership demographics; political leanings of publications included; languages included.

Group 1 (presented by Bilqis Hijjas)

The group’s primary concern was the criteria for which media outlets should be included in the database and how the criteria responds to different geographical realities. For example, some countries have broad publications with superficial arts coverage, while others have more niche publications with in-depth arts coverage – as well as often overlooked microsites and blogs.

An example was cited from Indonesia: when the Jakarta Arts Council didn’t have money for an arts website, they used WhatsApp as a platform. How would the survey reference and include that medium and its reach?

Group 2 (Corrie Tan)

The group found the exercise useful as it helps us learn similarities and differences across different countries’ ecosystems. Critical reflexivity would be needed to work with this mapping process as there are constantly shifting definitions of traditional and new media. The question of methodology arose – different types of research have to be conducted: qualitative and quantitative; an individual perspective of media versus collective one. How can this be not just a map but an action plan? 

Group 3 (Chloe Chotrani and Yuka Sugiyama)

The group posited the idea of collective authorship: that allowing all media to have access to the survey, would give it fluidity and longevity. They suggested that a country report might work better in terms of including geographical context and critical landscape.

Katrina Santiago from Group 2 pointed out the limitation of geography: for example, it would be difficult mapping arts media practices across the 7100 islands in the Philippines when one is a critic based in and limited to Manila. Therefore, authorship should be by academics/researchers/arts managers. 

Sunitha Janamohanan added that it can take shape as a crowdsourcing of knowledge. It can be a collaborative effort that works with media academics.

Concluding Notes

Kathy acknowledged the feedback given and asked if the document would be practically useful for garnering support or funding for arts media outlets, or if it is more of interest on the level of policy.

Delegates responded that they appreciated the exercise as it helps them as critics see where they are now and where they are going. 

ASEF and the Roundtable agreed that the mapping exercise was a rough starting point in the ambitious endeavour to map the arts media ecosystem across Asia, and noted that there is room for refinement and tweaking towards a framework of mapping that works.