Call for Presentations “Art and Digital Capital. The Significance of Digital Practices at Universities of the Arts and Beyond”


Interdisciplinary conference on 7-8 May 2020

Venue: Bern University of the Arts HKB

Deadline: 31 January 2020

There is more and more debate at art universities about the relationship between digital and analogue working methods, how to deal with net-based systems, and about the increasing pressure either to use programs that are in a state of constant change or to be able to program yourself. These tendencies are linked to socio-technological developments that are often described as “digital transformation”, and which affect the whole education system. It thus seems astonishing that there is little knowledge about the digital skills of students and about the requirements on the part of the art universities. Just how are “digital practices” employed at art universities? How are they actually required, supported and promoted? What is regarded as good, what is criticised, and what criteria are employed to make these decisions? What does this mean for the career paths of each individual? And lastly: what artistic works are made possible in the context of these developments?

The conference is based on the results of the research project “Digital capital in action: on the transformation of digital practices at universities of the arts”. Starting from a very open concept of the “digital”, the project entailed making ethnographic observations and carrying out qualitative interviews and focus group conversations. We investigated the experiences of students with the digital, asking them how the utilisation of digital practices was monitored and evaluated by their university. In this manner we were able to gain knowledge about the modes of action and the circulation of “digital capital” – a concept that implies an extension of Bourdieu’s social theory (1982, 1985).

The following focus topics will be at the core of the planned conference:

  • Digital habitus: How do digital activities and possibilities change working methods and ways of thinking in the arts? What abilities and what “capital” do students possess? What (digital) topics interest them, and how is approval or criticism of digitalisation expressed in artistic and design work?
  • The digital university landscape: How are digitalisation or discourses about it changing working processes at art universities? What is the significance in this of time and spatial factors? What offerings (devices, programmes, courses) do or don’t, should or shouldn’t help to make the life of students easier? How are curricula structured, and how are they being reformed? What do new forms of collaboration or new task distributions look like?
  • Shifting (digital) job profiles in the arts: If everyone today has to have a web presence, an Instagram account or at least be active on Facebook, what are the consequences for the self-depiction and time management of art students/future artists? When and how should they engage in all this, and does the digital transformation alter the artistic profiles in their field? What career paths are made possible as a result?

We are looking for artistic, scholarly and transdisciplinary contributions, workshops and performances from students, artists and researchers that can be assigned to one of the three focus topics above, and that are connected to the discourse about digital transformation at art universities or similar training institutions.

Proposals for contributions (of 500 words maximum) and a brief CV (1 page maximum) should be sent by 31 January 2020 to Priska Gisler/Anna Hipp (; Those whose proposals have been accepted for the conference will be notified by 1 March 2020.

Concept and organisation: Priska Gisler, Anna Hipp, Laura Hadorn, Priska Ryffel, HKB – Institute for the practices and theories of art, in collaboration with the Design and Art Division.

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