Research seminar “Kulturkonzeption Ravensburg” with a team of lecturers consisting
of Dieter Haselbach, Margit Czenki, Christoph Schäfer and Martin Tröndle (Image: Nico Stockmann)
Rather than being tied to the narrow boundaries of a single discipline, research at the WÜRTH Chair of Cultural Production is inspired by real-world issues. The chair’s research projects are therefore mostly inter- and transdisciplinary in their methodological setups.
Consequently, the chair’s teaching activities are grounded in research-led learning (see below). This approach aims at fostering the students’ ability to think independently and at inspiring their enthusiasm for scientific problem-solving. Rather than building upon and conveying a fixed body of knowledge , the students’ research projects are at the core of this approach to teaching.
Let’s assume that knowledge is not simply information that is stored on some memory device and can be accessed, but that it is rather a complex process of verification operations, which allows analysing and classifying previously unknown information, that is, making sense of that information and translating it into possible courses of action. In this case, the question arises what learning is and how learning processes—i.e. knowledge generation—take place. Teaching that uses a research-led learning approach attempts at transforming the way knowledge is generated in a qualitative manner.
Research-led learning, as a didactical approach, exposes students to the moderation of one or several teachers, who instruct and accompany the students during the development of their own research projects.
In this way, students are not only introduced to the techniques but also the responsibilities of future knowledge producers.
Anyone who conducts research has the desire to discover something. Scientific research is characterised by the fact that this is done with scientific methods and theories. In this context, it is crucial to understand the conditions, premises and methods with the help of which knowledge has been produced and to be aware of the relativity and situational usefulness of knowledge. Research-led learning, as a didactical approach therefore, exposes students to the moderation of one or several teachers, who instruct and accompany the students during the development of their own research projects. In this way, students are not only introduced to the techniques but also the responsibilities of future knowledge producers.
Following the Humboldtian model of higher education, which implies the integration of research and teaching, research-led teaching leads to what could be called “Humboldt 2.0.” The self-empowerment of students through research-based teaching is at the core of this approach. Through working on and with real-world problems in a specific field, students acquire subject-specific competences while at the same time studying and deploying methods and theories used in that field in order to generate insights on this topic themselves.
(Image: Alexis Brown)
In such a teaching and learning environment, teachers and students encounter each other on equal terms. Both groups try to understand how the field of study is constituted, which theories could enable a better understanding of the problems it brings about, and which methods could be appropriate to examine scientific questions. The instructors support students academically, offer advice on the formulation of research questions and suggest course readings, which allow the students to theorise and re-examine problems in light of these texts.
This teaching format considers students as self-reliant individuals, who learn to solve problems independently using scientific methods. In the best case, this leads to solutions un(fore)seen by the teachers. This, in turn, could indicate that new knowledge has been created and that learning has taken place.
Research-led learning implies that teaching does not take place in a seminar room with the help of a textbook. Rather and ideally, the examination of real-world cases allows students to practice scientific problem solving in their seminars and prepares them for life after university. A key competence, in this context, is the students’ ability to understand problems in their interdisciplinary entanglement, to integrate practice, theory, action and reflection, and to develop new solutions to the problems in a constructive and critical scientific fashion. In rapidly changing professional worlds and a digitally ubiquitous flood of information, that skill is just as important as specific subject-related expertise. It is this ability to use theoretical concepts to work on practical problems and to think about and develop theories informed by practice that leads to a different quality of knowledge production.
From: “Forschungsgeleitetes Lernen”, Martin Tröndle (Ed.) (2017). “Die Kulturkonzeption,” pp. 11–13.
While in the English-speaking world, audience studies has been established as a field of research over the past decades, little research has been done in this area in German-speaking countries. This is surprising especially with regards to the tension between extensive public funding for the arts and culture in Germany in particular, and questions of participation and the social value of the arts. A better understanding of why people visit arts organisations—and more importantly: why they choose not to do so—and to gain knowledge about how non-visitors could be motivated to become visitors, could lead to valuable conclusions for cultural policy and the development of funding instruments as well as of individual strategies for institutions to attract new audiences. This makes (non-)visitor research interesting both from the perspective of cultural policy as well as from that of audience development.
Podiumsdiskussion zur Buchvorstellung „Nicht-Besucherforschung – Audience Development für Kultureinrichtungen“, Würth Haus, Berlin
In order to understand and define the term “non-visitor” more precisely, the seminar first reviewed existing literature on the topic and discussed the methodological approaches previous studies used to examine the field. The analysis of the different methods was finally used to conceptualise a field research project that could be carried out in the context of the seminar. The main part of the seminar consisted of the actual research in the field: First, a randomly selected sample of non-visitors was interviewed about the reasons for their “non-visit” and then invited to visit a concert or a theatre play. Directly before and after that visit, focus group interviews were conducted to assess the participants’ aesthetic experience and their newly gained impressions. The field study was carried out in cooperation with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Neuköllner Oper and Schaubühne Berlin.
The aim of the seminar was to introduce the students to the topic of non-visitor studies, to develop the research design, to carry out the data collection, to evaluate the data and lastly to present the results in the form of a book. The study was published in German in 2019 and was entitled “Nicht-Besucherforschung – Audience Development für Kultureinrichtungen” (Springer VS, an English translation is in preparation for publication with Springer VS, forthcoming 2021). The publication and its results have been presented at a public book release event at Würth Haus Berlin. The participants included Kirsten Haß (Administrative Director and Board Member of the German Federal Cultural Foundation / Kulturstiftung des Bundes), Prof. Dr. Sebastian Nordmann (Director, Konzerthaus Berlin), Dietmar Schwarz (Director, Deutsche Oper Berlin) and Folkert Uhde (Concert Designer, Co-Founder of Radialsystem V, Berlin).
Together with the Festspielhaus Füssen and its artistic director Wilhem Keitel, the chair and its students developed new strategies for attracting audiences in the context of a research-led teaching project.
Based on a comprehensive analysis of the Festspielhaus’ programming and marketing instruments, the group developed and discussed various different strategies for audience development and their implementation. The resulting bundle of approaches included artistic strategies as well as instruments from the area of cultural tourism and strategic communication.
“Forum Würth is the museum space of the Würth Haus Rorschach. On about 800 square meters of gallery spaces, the Forum hosts regularly changing exhibitions of contemporary art. All activities are based on the Würth Collection, which comprises about 18,300 works of art.”
This is how the company advertises its art branch in Rorschach (CH) next to Lake Constance. The seminar with Forum Würth focused on developing strategies for the institution to further establish itself and to attract additional visitors, with the ultimate goal being to double the number of visitors in the near future. For this purpose, the students developed various measures including artistic, pedagogical, and advertising elements as well as ideas for novel cooperations. At the end of the seminar, a presentation of the results was given to the management of the Würth museums.
In the two-semester project “Kulturkonzeption Ravensburg”, the seminar participants developed a strategic cultural policy concept to be implemented by the city of Ravensburg. The project consisted of two consecutive parts: “Part I (analysis)” in the spring semester 2015 and “Part II (design´)” in the fall semester 2015.
Presentation after the completed analysis pahse
Seminar session during the drafting phase
In Part I, the participants examined the cultural attractions of the city of Ravensburg as well as its cultural institutions, visitors and non-visitors of cultural organisations, competing and complementary events in the region, as well as the city itself with its specific locations and atmospheres. In Part II, students then discussed how the various analyses could be used and integrated to develop an encompassing cultural policy concept.
Thanks to the instructors’ different competences and backgrounds (Christoph Schäfer, Margit Czenki, Dieter Haselbach, Martin Tröndle), both experimental-artistic approaches and research methods from the social sciences have been applied throughout both phases of the project.
The project concluded with the presentation of the results to the Ravensburg municipal council at the end of 2015 and a subsequent publication of the results entitled “Die Kulturkonzeption – Stadtentwicklung und Kulturpolitik am Beispiel der Stadt Ravensburg” (Springer VS, 2017).
The project “University 2.0” investigated possible innovations in the field of university didactics, which remain largely underexposed in the “Bologna Process.” In light of the omnipresent and ongoing changes that “digitalisation” implies for research and teaching, the project sought to investigate forms of student-teacher interaction and student activation beyond the role of students as pure “listeners.”
While much of the existing literature on the topic discusses the temporal and geographical flexibility digitalisation and the use of technology in teaching environments implies for both teachers and students, these technologies’ potential for different kinds of and increased interaction as a further added value receives little attention. Therefore, the research project investigated the extent to which the conditions of network-based communication could promote a more interactive manner for the exchange and acquisition of knowledge and how they could generate an added value for the participation of students.
The aim of the project was to shed light on the role and function of a theatre in the small state of Liechtenstein. In autumn 2012, 22 guests of Liechtenstein’s theatre TAK were interviewed in a special setting on a total of twelve evenings. The guests were picked up from their homes in a limousine equipped with audio and video technology and brought back home after the performance.
TAK provided a unique environment for this project because it is the only theatre of its kind in the region between the national borders of Liechtenstein and the Rhine Valley.
The seminar “Tyranny of Choice! Standing out and Attracting New Audiences in a Digital Entertainment Society” sought to carve out audience development strategies for the streaming service “Grammofy”, which was specialised in classical music.
Taking the example of classical music, participants examined how the internet could be used in times of limited attention resources to map cultural life and to activate already existing and completely new audiences. For this purpose, the group worked together with three experts: Lukas Krohn-Grimberghe, founder and CEO of Grammofy, Prof. Jürgen Christ, head of the music journalism programme at University of Music in Karlsruhe and Andreas Brandis, product manager at Universal Music.
City Orchestra Friedrichshafen | “Entertaining Winds”
Many music enthusiasts still compare brass music to traditional folk festivals.
The City Orchestra Friedrichshafen wants to eliminate this prejudice: As part of a new marketing concept for the orchestra, students of Zeppelin University developed four new concert formats that break with old conventions: “Classic Winds”, “Kids Winds”, “Summer Winds” and “Entertaining Winds”. The “Kids Winds” concert was created with the aim to inspire younger generations’ enthusiasm about symphonic brass music. The event “Entertaining Winds” and “Summer Winds” were supposed to fascinate and carry the audience away with the help of a unique concert location. “Classic Winds”, on the other hand, offered the magic of a glamorous concert gala.
The seminar explores the rationality of action of cultural organisations. Central are questions like: What determines the work in galleries, festivals, concert halls or cultural offices beyond idealised recommendations of action in the how-to literature of cultural management? How do decisions on programming, artists, exhibitions and productions, but also on financing come about?
Within the framework of a field research phase, various cultural organisations will be ethnographically examined. The results will be put into perspective based on organisational-sociological literature. In this way, the seminar allows students a research-based access to possible fields of work. In addition, empirically based student research projects on the topic of cultural production are developed.
The results of the individual ethnographies were recorded by the students in the form of a paper or a radio play (selected projects):
Reading foundational texts on cultural policy, getting to know important institutions and stakeholders and dealing with current issues and research topics in the field of cultural policy – these are the main aims of this course. Why should states be funding culture and the arts? How should they do, to what end and by what means? What effects does funding have on cultural production?
The course develops an understanding of what cultural policy is and what effects it has on cultural funding and production. Topics include: Federal cultural policy (Kulturpolitik des Bundes), cultural policy of the federal states (Kulturpolitik der Länder), the role of cities in cultural policy, foreign cultural policy and cultural diplomacy, comparisons of different countries’ cultural policy approaches, motivations and narratives, cultural rights, cultural democracy etc.
Using the “concert” as an example, the seminar examines the following questions: What makes the presentation of music special, and what makes a successful concert event? This analysis involves aspects like concert conception, music dramaturgy, programme design, audience sociology, cultural organisation and audience development. Together with various guests, the students will approach the “concert” from multiple perspectives and develop their own concert model – from its artistic design to the actual realisation. Students learn to conceive a (classical) festival, are introduced to designing a programme, the festival organisation and the possibilities of financing such a project. They are introduced to various actors in the cultural sector, their areas of activity and ways of thinking. The course thus also raises the students’ awareness of and knowledge about possible work environments.
Students gain insight into the research questions, methods and results of existing and current research on art perception from a psychological and sociological perspective. It is precisely in the juxtaposition of the two disciplinary approaches that the competence to develop comprehensive research design for visitor research emerges.
What shapes the work in galleries, festivals, concert halls or local cultural offices beyond idealised recommendations for action in the how-to literature of cultural management? How do decisions on programming, artists, exhibitions and productions, but also on financing come about? What characterises the work on site? What rationality do arts organisations follow? These questions are at the core of this module.
During one week of field research, various cultural organisations will be analysed ethnographically. The results will be put into perspective on the basis of literature from sociology and theory of organisations. The module allows students to access possible fields of work via a research-based approach. Each student chooses their own project/cultural organisation to which they devote their attention and along which they develop empirically based research projects on the topic of cultural production.
In addition to the events scheduled in the module rotation, the WÜRTH Chair of Cultural Production regularly offers unique research-led teaching projects as part of the module “Selected Topics in Communication & Cultural Studies.”
See above for non-recurring research-led teaching projects
For a full list of all bachelor and master theses supervised at the WÜRTH Chair of Cultural Production consult ZU’s publication database