Diagnosis in culture. Experiences in research, animation and arts

Kultura Współczesna. Teoria, Interpretacje, Praktyka
nr 5(93)/2016
Diagnosis in culture. Experiences in research, animation and arts

Table of contents


Marek Krajewski, Agata Skórzyńska

Diagnosis in culture. Introdution

Jan Grad

Surveying versus diagnosing participation in culture

Rafał Drozdowski

Culture research. Between the need to objectify and the temptation to instrumentalize

Agata Skórzyńska

To be applied? Theorizing about versus diagnosing culture

Marta Kosińska

Diagnosis in culture and “field” cultural studies

Maja Dobiasz-Krysiak

Cycle, slide rule and good practice. About ethno-animation action research

Przemysław Sadura, Katarzyna Murawska, Dorota Olko

Class and culture. An intervention in the class context of the functioning of an institution

Paweł Tomanek

Cultural diagnoses at the community level: analysis of the content of local government documents

Marianna Michałowska

What may be taught at photo workshops? – an attempt at a self-diagnosis

Tomasz Misiak

Acoustic ecology. Theory, practice, art



Krzysztof Olechnicki, Tomasz Szlendak

Report about reports. Multidimentional and multifunctional evaluation regarding appropriate reception and usefulness of the state of culture reports

Rafał Kasprzak, Anna Świętochowska

Culture counts – is it worth to count when it comes to culture?

Diagnosis in culture. Experiences in research, animation and arts

The author argues that not every study of participation in culture diagnoses its condition. Making a diagnosis requires not only a recognition of the actual situation, but also a reference to the propounded (desired) state of affairs made with that recognition (research findings). However, the study of participation in culture contains some concepts and semi-diagnostic claims stating, for example, a “low” or “high” level of participation in culture.

The article is an attempt to look at the most common and the most typical ways of instrumentalization of cultural studies, which are commissioned by the government, local governments, business, NGOs and finally, by the heads of cultural institutions. The author of the article distinguishes three functions of such studies. The first is to serve administrative and bureaucratic control, the second to improve cultural management, and the third to find “practical and useful” substantiations for culture. In each of these three cases we have also to deal with the reproduction of many tacit assumptions about social, economic and political tasks and obligations of cultural institutions.

The article aims at examining the issue of the state of knowledge about culture (including its academic, theoretical concepts) in relation to more and more popular empirical projects of observation of modern aspects of culture, including diagnoses of culture. The main question of the text is whether and to what degree numerous empirical undertakings enter in relationship with theoretical reflection. It looks for the methodology that could be applied in such cases and would avoid entering into distance – engagement opposition in research. I perceive the chance to reintegrate advanced theoretical reflection with empirical programs and research practice in referring to already known category of public intellectualism worked out by Edward W. Said into methodological and not only ethical and political programme. That category should be reconsidered in regard to new relationships into which academic theoretical forms and academic research practice enter with other forms of knowledge and social practice.

The text presents a concept of diagnosis in culture with a particular emphasis on the field research practice as well as on a broadened definition of field. Diagnosis in culture is discussed as a particular form of cultural analysis, and as a research practice theoretically anchored in the field of reflective and critical cultural studies and relational approach to culture while relying on lax rules worked out on the ground of multi-sited ethnography in what concerns methodology. Diagnosis in culture shows researchers as subjects engaged in cultural practices being examined, as socially active subjects who establish various social relationships within the field of diagnosis, subjects adopting a particular mode of reflectivity that draws its rules from theoretical field of practice and performance oriented cultural studies.

The text is an attempt at a methodological reflection regarding the application of a research method combining ethnography and animation of culture. It is a result of many years of research and activities carried out by Tomasz Rakowski, the author of the text and members of the Field Collective in a few localities in the south of Mazowsze. Those years have given rise to a research method called ethno-animation or ethnographic research in action. The author tries to place ethno-animation in the context of other research methods based on cyclical repetition. She also aims at recognising such elements of that method that will enable purposeful planning of ethno-animating activities. Therefore, apart from the concept of ethno-animation cycle, she applies the idea of ethnographic and animating slide rule put forward by Tomasz Rakowski. Comparing some activities carried out by Warsaw University students within the framework of a project “Grass-root making of culture. Multi-side comparative study,” the author attempts at extracting so called “good ethno-animating practices,” namely such features that are essential for the method and will allow the completion of the research cycle.

The article presents a sociological intervention in the functioning of a cultural institution. The theoretical basis for the intervention were Bourdieu’s concept of class lifestyles and Touraine’s active sociology. Discussion of that social experiment serves as a pretext for a critical analysis of the contemporary discourse about culture in Poland. Authors suggest some changes in the program of action resulting from that discourse. Much attention is given to the action research methodology. Participatory action research (PAR) used in the project consists of a variety of sociological and ethnographic methods.

The paper analyses various forms of diagnosing culture at the community level. Based on the research carried out by the Living Culture Observatory, three aspects of cultural diagnoses are discussed: (1) the way diagnoses are made, (2) groups of cultural participants taken into account, their resources, restraints and cultural activities, (3) social and economic benefits attributed to cultural activities.

From the second half of the last century the photographic camera has been one of the main tools used in animation activities. Education through photography is attractive (both for animators and participants) not only because access to imaging equipment has become almost universal, but also because it is easier (so it is assumed) to take pictures than for example to paint. Participants of photographic projects are usually asked to document everyday life (as in the case of the book described in the text The world. Photographies of children from Jasionka and Krzywa), or use photography for emancipating purposes (as in the project dedicated to the issue of public health Filmmaker-in-Residence by Katerina Cizek). But does the photography applied by the participants really change their world? Are they real or only fake participants of activities, taught only to reproduce aesthetic conventions and becoming tools in the hands of organizers? Experienced photographers since the end of the 19th century have known that documentation of the social reality and especially of marginalized people requires an extremely careful approach. The awareness of responsibility towards the photographed subjects was expressed by the words of one of the pioneers of the modern photography, Lewis Hine who stated: “photographs may not lie, but liars may photograph”. Are contemporary organizers of photographic workshops aware of that responsibility? The material for my analysis will be provided by animation activities conducted in Słubice and Frankfurt on Oder by “OKNO” Gallery and Photography and Multimedia Academy “lAbiRynT”.

The issues outlined in the article apply to acoustic ecology. Initiated by Murray Schafer, the movement combined research with artistic creativity and educational activities in order to enhance individual and social awareness of the roles and ways of sound functioning in culture. In this paper, I put forward the question concerning the artistic reception of basic assumptions regarding acoustic ecology and related diagnoses of contemporary culture of sound in Poland. I present some examples of artistic practices, which can be considered a continuation of initiated by Schafer way of thinking, while showing the critical potential of this work owing to a negative diagnosis of contemporary acoustic environment.


The authors of the article discuss the ways in which cultural events influence the socioeconomic system of a region, indicating at the same time dilemmas issuing from the application of economic measures in the assessment of such events. They present the relevance of those activities from a broader, non-economic perspective of the interpretation of cultural values. The base for the analysis was the application of the tool used at the Regional Congress of Culture that took place in Słupsk in October of 2015.