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Overview of Culturelink Research Activities

I. Current research activities:

II. Future research plans:

Introduction

Research is one of the most important levers of Culturelink's activities. We will briefly mention the most significant research themes and projects conducted within the Culturelink Network framework.

I. Current Research Activities

A. Cultural Policy

Cultural policy research is one of the main themes within the overall field of cultural development.

  1. The widest ranging project, involving the largest number of Culturelink members, is the one devoted to tracking changes in the Current State and Trends in Cultural Policy and Life in the UNESCO Member States. The first part of the project was concluded in the mid 1990's, with the publication of a Guide to cultural polices in UNESCO member states in Europe, Africa and Asia (for Latin America the research was started at that point). Since then, the country reports have been updated regularly for a number of (mostly European) countries. These reports are available on-line in the form of a textual database, with open access.
  2. Another important project within the cultural policy theme, undertaken at the Culturelink focal point in cooperation with Croatian partners, was the National Review of the Cultural Policy in Croatia, conducted within the Council of Europe programme of cultural policy reviews. This project was concluded in 1998, and the report has recently been published in book form in both Croatian and English language editions.

B. Intercultural Communication and Cultural Identity

Intercultural communication and cultural identity is another important research theme, examined at three international conferences organized by Culturelink during the past years.

  1. The First World Culturelink Conference, held in Zagreb in 1995, was devoted to the topic of intercultural communication and the role of networks (see Dynamics of Communication and Cultural Change: The Role of Networks, Proceedings of the First World Culturelink Conference, Zagreb, 8-11 June 1995, Edited by Biserka Cvjeticanin, Culturelink Special Issue 1996, Institute for International Relations, Zagreb, 1996).
  2. In 1996, an international conference was devoted to the Central European cultural identity (see The Cultural Identity of Central Europe, Proceedings of the Conference "Europe of Cultures: Cultural Identity of Central Europe, Zagreb, 22-24 November 1996, Edited by Nada Svob-Djokic, Culturelink, Joint Publications Series No. 1, Institute for International Relations, Europe House Zagreb, Zagreb, 1997). Recent efforts to build up a new identity for Central Europe were particularly emphasized at this conference. Central Europe was found to be a contradictory and an open project, confronting universality and particularity, the outstanding cultural diversity and the necessity to standardize and harmonize values, the will of particular cultures to self-identify themselves and the need to develop stronger cultural communication and cooperation.
  3. In 1997, a conference was devoted to problems of cultural identity and intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean (see The Mediterranean: Cultural Identity and Intercultural Dialogue, Proceedings of the Conference "The Mediterranean: Cultural Identity and Prospects for Intercultural Dialogue", Dubrovnik, 5-7 December 1997, Edited by Biserka Cvjeticanin, Culturelink Joint Publications Series No. 2, Institute for International Relations, Europe House Zagreb, Zagreb, 1999). The Mediterranean cultural identity is understood primarily as an awareness of diversity and a search for intercultural dialogue. The key words to designate such identity are "heritage" and "mediation".

The proceedings of the latter two conferences offer valuable insights into changes and constants of the cultural identities in these two regions, which both influence the Croatian cultural fabric.

C. Impact of Transition in the Field of Culture

The impact of transition in the field of culture, especially in the Central and Eastern European region, and the ensuing changes in cultural values and institutional structures form another coherent theme within the Culturelink research efforts. Obviously, the process of transition includes much more than the mere adoption of multi party political systems and the market economy. The role of culture and civil society is of equal importance.

  1. The first research project we will mention in this context focused on cultural aspects of the transformation in Central and Eastern Europe (see Culturelink Special Issue 1995 Changes in the Status and Functioning of Cultural Centres in Central and Eastern European Countries in Transition). The study showed that although the transformation of the cultural centres was progressing very slowly, the vision of change was clearly there. This project included case studies of Croatia, Poland, and Hungary.
  2. The examination of transition-related change in Central and Eastern European culture was continued in another project (see Culturelink Special Issue 1997 Culture in Central and Eastern Europe: Institutional and Value Changes) dealing with institutional and value changes, crucial for understanding the possibilities of cultural development. This study included case studies of Croatia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, and Russia. In addition to providing information and experience from the field of cultural development in different post-communist societies, the study evidenced the two-way influence of politics and culture, where cultural values often lag behind political developments. Two common processes were found to be characteristically influencing the value and institutional change in all the countries studied: one is the redefinition of the relationship between the individual and the state, and the other is the relationship between globalist tendencies and the struggle for the preservation of authentic cultures.
  3. Within this thematic stream, a research project looking at the information needs in the cultural field has been completed in 1998 (Assessment of Cultural Information Needs in the Central European Countries in Transition Towards the Market Economy, published by UNESCO in 1998).

D. Media Related Changes

Media related changes (including media policy and media structures) in the transition to democracy of Central and Eastern European countries also form a significant part of the Culturelink focal point research.

E. Culturelink Dossier

In recent years, a significant contribution to the Network's research and cooperation activities stems from the publication of a Dossier in each issue of the Culturelink review, carrying original papers with most recent research results from projects conducted by Culturelink members world wide.

The various topics published cover a wide field, ranging from economic aspects of culture to culture and communication in the Third World, privatization and culture, culture and development cooperation, cultural borders and identities in Mexican/North American experience and in Latin America, documents of the Ottawa meeting Putting Culture on the World Stage, and European culture and cultural identity.

Part of the texts published in the Dossiers are available via the Internet, in this way ensuring their wide accessibility. Each issue of the Culturelink review also includes brief reports on recent research projects undertaken by the Network's members.

Apart from the research partners themselves, these projects could not have been undertaken without the support of financing partners, network members and sponsors such as UNESCO, PROCEED (UNESCO's Programme for Central and Eastern European Development), the Council of Europe, the European Cultural Foundation, the Pro Helvetia Foundation (Switzerland), Open Society Institute Croatia, the ministries of culture of a number of countries, and, especially, the Ministry of Culture of Croatia.

II. Future Research Plans

A. Cultural Policy

The cultural policy research is to be continued, including ongoing efforts of updating the country reviews available via the Internet. Also examined within this stream of research will be the mutual influences of cultural policy, cultural identities and globalization.

B. Intercultural Communication and Cultural Identity

The theme of intercultural communication and cultural identity will be continued in the project on Redefining Cultural Identities: Multicultural Contexts of Central European and Mediterranean Regions. This project will be devoted to a long-term study of cultural identities in the region, to aspects of intercultural communication and dialogue, as well as to the multicultural dimension of cultural development in both the Central European and the Mediterranean region. In addition to research into the process of cultural identity reconstruction, the project will hold annual seminars at the Inter University Centre in Dubrovnik. The project will be undertaken in cooperation with partners from Hungary and Slovenia, and funded by the European Union within its Royeumont Initiative for South-Eastern Europe.

C. Media in the Democratization Process

The role of the media in the democratization process is another topic, which continues among the main research streams of Culturelink, maintaining our interest in the impacts of transition in the cultural field. Other important topics of our research plans include Cultural changes and the role of new communication technologies; and Changes in communication: the role of networks.