Carlotta Scioldo

WHAT ARE NETWORKS FOR? UNDERSTANDING CULTURAL TRANSNATIONAL NETWORKS IN THE EU

In the last three decades, the cultural and creative Sector (CCS) has increasingly gained an international presence, with multilevel governance playing a significant role in its development both globally and within the European Union (EU). Transnational networks (TNs) are at the heart of this system. Yet, a thorough analytical and empirical understanding of these networks remains elusive. Shedding light on how networks’ implementation is intricately linked not only to the cross- border exchange of cultural professionals, but also to foundational principles of the EU cultural policy and the broader context of policymaking, would facilitate a more comprehensive grasp of this phenomenon and its implications for the cultural sector.

 

 

Challenge of defining Networks

In an interconnected world, where Europe needs to respond to complex societal challenges, a new form of governance has emerged, driven by the rise of transnational networks. The article explores how these transnational networks arise in the cultural and creative sector as response to global challenges, institutional legitimacy deficits as well as to the needs of cultural sectors.

Since the 1990s, these networks have morphed from informal collaborations of cultural professionals into robust entities pivotal in shaping EU cultural policies and sectors. Nevertheless, although this phenomenon is fuelled by the EU’s cultural policy and corresponding funding initiatives, and have been extensively implemented within the cultural sector, academic and policy debate have rarely yielded solutions to clarify the purposes of networks and discerning their implications. Such a lacuna begins with the inherent ambiguity in networks’ definition and their hybrid positioning between top-down influence and bottom-up concerns.

Whether these organizational forms are referred to as ‘Cultural Networks’ (CAE 2016), Transnational Networks within the Cultural and Creative Sector, or ‘European Networks of Cultural and Creative Organizations’ (EACEA 2023), their precise categorization remains unclear and open to interpretations.

To clarify this concern, the article examines the emergence and institutionalisation of these structures, delves into their transformative evolution, unraveling the intricate dynamics between cultural networks, policymaking and cultural ecosystems within and beyond the EU, to then shed light on two key aspects:

1) the relationship between networks’ evolution and the EU’s cultural policy discourse;

2) networks and the Europeanisation process.

 

Transnational Networks and EU Cultural Policy

To unveil the relationship between networks’ evolution and the EU’s cultural policy discourse, the study employs a document analysis and uncovers three distinct policy clusters in the development of the EU Cultural Policy. The analysis highlights a shift from 1) transnational European identity to 2) cultural diversity and 3) people-centered approach. These outcomes lead to an investigation of whether and how these discursive shifts are interconnected with the development of transnational networks and to which degree networks, aggregating the voices of cultural professionals, have contributed on the one hand in forming such a discourse, on the other in articulating these concepts in the cultural and creative sectors locally.

Through a blend of institutional and discourse analysis, the article dissects the multifaceted roles of TNs, from their influence on local cultural practices to their strategic impact on policy discourse and ideational changes and it concludes that EU intervention in the cultural sector can be justified as a discursive agent in the evolving European public sphere. Such analysis makes it possible to understand the arise of TNs in the CCS in two complementary ways: as a top-down effort within the EU network governance, and with the development of soft modes of coordination, and as bottom-up civil society–initiated experiences taking place in the cultural sector.

This conclusively reveals how the implementation of networks is intricately linked not only as response to cultural sector’s needs, but also to the foundational tenets of the EU’s cultural policy – the subsidiarity principle, and to the broader context of EU policymaking.

This is an essential read, holding significant implications for professionals, policymakers and scholars in the field, that seek to understand the transformative power of cultural networks in the EU’s governance landscape. The compelling examination not only enhances our comprehension of multilevel cultural governance but also paves the way for strategic foresight in cultural policymaking across Europe and beyond, playing at their core cultural professionals, their interests and needs.

References 

CAE (2016). Cultural Networking Europe, Today & Tomorrow, a Reader.

EACEA (2023), https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/opportunities/topic-details/crea-cult-2021-net;callCode=CREA-CULT-2021-NET (Accessed 09/2023)

 

About this article
Scioldo, C. (2024). Transnational cultural networks: soft mechanisms for cultural diversity and frictionless mobility: Tools for EU legitimacy? Cultural Trends, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/09548963.2024.2320666

About the author
Carlotta Scioldo is a Researcher and Consultant with a focus on EU cultural policies and programmes. Carlotta is also Lecturer at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and External Expert at the European Commission, EACEA.

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