On the Zukunftwerkstatt Kultur und Wissensvermittlung – Future Workshop in Germany

From Michael: Christoph Deeg of the Zukunftwerkstatt in Germany agreed to do a guest post for me outlining the origins and philosophies of this group. I spent an incredible day with the group in Berlin – and learned so much from them.  I was honored to be asked to participate as a founding member last March and am pleased Christoph agreed to write for TTW – in English!


The Zukunftwerkstatt Kultur- und Wissensvermittlung e.V. is a non-profit-organisation that brings people together who are active in public institutions or private enterprises dealing with future possibilities of mediating of cultural and scientific topics. It is the aim of our organisation to develop and realize concepts that will make knowledge society come true.  We are open to people and their ideas and consider ourselves mediators between institutions, enterprises, people and products, while not pursuing any financial interests. We are guided by the desire to find and support people of vision who believe – as we do – that cooperation at all levels will unfold new and exciting possibilities for all participants and hence for all customers or users.

Dividing lines between learning and playing, between education and entertainment are breaking down. New virtual worlds and leisure time options are evolving. Interaction, multi-optional, individual and global communication systems are gaining ground. Negotiation and utilization of knowledge in the fields of science and culture will become essential. If we acknowledge the overall scheme of things, a new means in communication will emerge with new networks and unique possibilities of cooperation: Users will gain global access to cultural and scientific subject matter. Enterprises and institutions, if cooperating closely, will gain access to millions of interested, creative and openminded users and customers. Never before have so many opportunities been better for such complex cooperation at all levels between public institutions such as libraries, museums or private enterprise as for example the games industry. And never before were we closer to realizing a knowledge and culture society, without the partners in cooperation having to give up any of their own goals.

We believe that libraries will play an important role in conveying knowledge and culture in the future. But they won`t be able to define themselves as simply providing access to knowledge, because nowadays they compete with a whole range of alternative suppliers. Libraries depend for their legitimization on the advantages, which the society that finances them draws from their services: preserving cultural heritage, promoting literacy and serving as mediators and managers of media and information.

We also believe that computer games and Web 2.0 will have a huge influence on the way cultural and scientific content will be imparted in the future. Therefore it is important to understand the culture behind these new media which is based on cooperation, transparency, interaction, trust, sharing, and having fun.

The best way to describe the modern internet is to show a picture of an soccer-stadium like the one here. The stadium itself is useless. What makes it alive are the people, the teams, the fans. All the different platforms that you can find in the internet like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and Youtube are useless without the people that upload and share content. It is all about people not about software and it is not possible to understand anything of these new platforms only by a theoretical discussion. To understand the people the way they work and communicate, they way they care and having fun we have to become users and gamers.

While at the moment most of the libraries are trying to follow and understand trends and technologies they have to become their designers not in a technical but in a content and service orientated way.

We do not think that there is any kind of “rat race” between the traditional and the future library or between the books and the computers. There is neither a competition between gaming and seriousness. But we found out that if you start this exciting journey you will have to work hard, learn a lot and you will have fun.

Our story began in 2008 in Mannheim where we (Julia Bergmann, Jin Tan and Christoph Deeg) met at the celebration dinner in the occasion of the Bibliothekartag which is the biggest library conference in Germany and probably in Europe. We all have different backgrounds. Julia is a librarian and works as a trainer for information literacy. Jin is also a librarian. After working in a huge library in Berlin he is now on his way back to china where he amongst other things will develop new intercultural projects for the Zukunftswerkstatt. Christoph is not a librarian. After studying Jazz drums he worked  in the range of marketing and sales for the music – and the games industry. All together we come from different worlds and cultures and we still believe that this interdisciplinary background is very helpful for our work. But lets go back to that evening 2008 in Mannheim. After we had dinner we we started talking about libraries, gaming, the web 2.0, the future a.s.o. And while we where exchanging our experiences the idea was born to do something at the Bibliothekartag 2009 in Erfurt. And so the story went on.

The first idea was to create a little space for the visitors of the Bibliothekartag 2009 conference in Erfurt to try out the Web 2.0 and the world of computer games. We wanted the librarians to try out these new technologies and to discuss their experiences and ideas. From our point of view most of the librarians in germany did and still do not have much experience with gaming and the web 2.0. This is by the way not only a problem in libraries. You can find the same situation in institutions like museums, operas, universities and even private enterprises. And this is probably comparable to most of the countries worldwide. We started to present our idea to librarians, companies and institutions and we were happy to see that we got a lot of support. Companies like Electronic Arts, libraries like the ETH-library in Zürich, universities like the University of Applied Science in Potsdam and last but not least a huge number of librarians helped us. The result was a bit different to the first idea but in positive way.

We had our own exhibition stand where we introduced our visitors to the world of opportunities and possibilities arising from the use of computer games and Web 2.0 applications. Everybody was invited to try out the aspects and possibilities of new media, computer games and diverse web tools and to gain a better idea of the vast potential of these devices for the development of their libraries. Our visitors had also an opportunity to learn from best-practice models so far in use in libraries worldwide, where Web 2.0 applications were enhancing their services to their customers. The librarians could also experience the chances of including computer games, internet communities and social media into their services and of course we shared our enthusiasm with all the visitors at our exhibition stand. We had speeches and a very successful panel discussion with librarians, game-developers and futurologists about the future of libraries. To get an little insight about Erfurt 2009 we created a little trailer. Enjoy yourself :-)

After one year successful voluntary working together we found ourselves again at the celebration-dinner of a Bibliothekartag. And while we where celebrating our success we where asked to go on with our work. Today we have an legal form that goes with our activities. We started a research programme and we are teaching librarians how to use the Web 2.0 and computer games as part of their daily work. At www.zukunftswerkstatt.mixxt.org you can find our interdisciplinary online-community which is open for everyone who wants to think about the question how we will impart cultural and scientific content in the future. We are also talking to companies and politicians to make them understand how important it is to support the libraries on their way in the future. Beside this we started to found an own research-institute. Furthermore we are realizing a roadshow which is a mobile-future-library. But the most important thing is we are activating people to try out these new technologies.

In 2010 the library-conference was located in Leipzig. Prof. Dr. Hans-Christoph Hobohm from the University of Applied Science in Potsdam who had been with us from the first activities in Erfurt 2009 told us that there was the possibillity for the Zukunftswerkstatt to present Michael as speaker at the library-conference in Leipzig. It was the Embassy of the United States that made this possible. Prof. Dr. Hobohm also  had an great idea. As mentioned before we found a legal form for the Zukunftswerkstatt that goes with our activities and structure. Our legal form is an registered non-profit association. We wanted to found it officially during the libraryconference in Leipzig. In Germany you need 7 people to found such an association. Generally who can ask everyone to become a founder. But we wanted to have founders that identify to our project and our activities and that will support us. Prof. Dr. Hobohm asked Michael to become the 7th founder. Michael accept our invitation and so he became and he still is a founder of the Zukunftswerkstatt Kultur- und Wissensvermittlung e.V.

From left to right: Jin Tan (Zukunftswerkstatt), Christoph Deeg (Zukunftswerkstatt), Dr. Rudolf Mumenthaler (ETH Zürich) , Julia Bergmann (Zukunftswerkstatt), Michael Stephens, Prof. Dr. Hans-Christoph Hobohm (University of applied science Potsdam) und Hans-Jürgen Schmid (librarian emeritus)

We are very happy that we were able to gain Michael Stephens as a founder of our association. During the day that we spent with him in Berlin we were able to learn a lot. Sharing and discussing ideas and visions is important. It was fascinating to find out the similarities and the differences between our two cultures. But we also found out that we had much more similarities than expected. We believe that the future of libraries is not based on countries or areas. Everyone can learn from each other. Our little association has founders in the USA, China, Germany and Switzerland.

We would like to invite you to become part of our interdisciplinary and international community. Talk to us! Talk about us! Lets have fun…

Christoph Deeg

http://www.zukunftswerkstatt.org/

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