Memo April 2010


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in April 2010

Asia. The first time it appears in our memo. Also Africa.


BO participated in the contemplation about mainstreaming ASEF – Asia-Europe Foundation, the agency created for the enhancement of collaboration between Asia and Europe. Not only in culture. However, the workshop held in the Ha Long Bay examined ways of enhancing the visibility of ASEF (and its parent ASEM) through cultural co-operation. About which their web2 site is instrumental.

The ASEF constituency is nearly 4 billion people in 45 countries! Compared to this, the influence of the Singapore based foundation is minuscule – yet exactly for the same reason, their potential is enormous. Make a try!

(BO ears detected several distinct kinds of pronunciation for ASEF: a-sef, a-zef, assef, ussef. The last one appeared to be most frequent, also BO’s favourite.)


The all-time most ambitious world expo is open. Each east and central European country is there, in Zone C. Measured by the number of news items, Czechs are the most active in Shanghai, followed by Romanians – whose pavilion is quite funny.

As usual, national pavilions compete in extravaganza. Most of them follow the suit of whatever inside, is covered with a patterned peel from the outside. Some of the patterns are “folkloric”, so is much of the cultural content. BO will watch for the occurence of contemporary or classical culture later on.

A special area serves for urban best practices – UBPA. Among European cities exhibiting there, two represent our region: Prague in the central, and Wrocław in the southern section.


The first item of OCPA News No 251 records a conference on African cultural policies, co-hosted by BO in April in Budapest – a station in a series of events that commemorate 50 years of independence of seventeen states.

OCPA stands for Observatory of Cultural Policies in Africa, based in Maputo. That observatory has generic links to BO, the same person standing at the cradle of both, and sitting in the boards of both.   


One familiar face among the Ha Long participants is Andreas, who was telling about the interesting phenomenon of “Open Compendium”. The template of the national cultural policy profiles, developed and regularly improved in the frame of the Compendium programme, has been taken over by a number of Mediterranean countries. The same was offered now to south-east Asian colleagues.

The latest upgrading of the template was discussed in Zürich in April, combined with a number of other subjects. Among others, an interesting live edition of the Swiss cultural policy profile.

Our Europe

The short list of this year’s Europa Nostra awards became very short for our region. There is no case from eastern Europe among the 16 items of the main category, exemplary conservation of cultural heritage. Among the 13 cases of various related activities three accomplishments are rewarded from Bosnia, Czechia and Romania.

Industrious search

Cultural politicians keep behaving as if they had a mandate about the advertisement business, architectural industry, computer games, or small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at large. Influence – yes, especially if acting in conjuction with policy makers in the economy. Musing alone about their strategies – among others through questions related to a Green Paper – has little more function than whistling in the dark.

Instead of acting as if the creative industries have been relocated from the industrial to the cultural sector, we should focus on the key issue in the document of the European Commission codenamed agenda: how to make culture a real catalyst for creativity? How to enhance the economic importance (so aptly termed in an OECD paper) of culture proper – not reducing this to the “industries”?

Is BO being nasty, unjust and wrong?

One endeavour

In an effort to operationalise the notion of “culture: catalyst of creativity”, KEA disclosed in April a proposal for a European creativity index, consisting of 32 indicators. Open for discussion!

Faces of culture

The Poznań round of the festival research workshops demonstrated, among others, the double concepts of culture. On the ground of the theme of the seminar, festivals strengthening the civil society, the Liverpool cultural capital year was deemed as a failure; the same event that the cultural and creative industry hype brandishes as an exemplary success story. 

Digital news

The digital world is one indisputable border area between culture and the economy. Lots of things are happening there. Among others, a “reflection group” was set up by the European Commission to look into the matter of digitisation.

Another noteworthy development is turning every gadget around us “intelligent”, by tagging, inserting chips etc. The issue is called Internet of things, and has its own unit and action plan in the European Commission. The state of the art will be discussed at a conference in Brussels in June. In the culture sector, libraries have made the largest advances by adapting radio frequency identification – RFID. If you borrow a book, you will be followed by waves.