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From “Access” to “Creativity”: Shakespeare Institutions, New Media, and the Language of Cultural Value


Where other studies might address the appropriation of Shakespeare by new media, this essay investigates the appropriation of new media by four Shakespeare institutions in the United Kingdom. It reveals the unexpected implications of the positive discourse of digital technology—“interactivity,” “participation,” “creativity”—for the perceived cultural value of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and the British Library. Shaped by organizational imperatives of business and public policy, this discourse increasingly locates value not in intrinsically valuable objects, but in visitors’ responses. These changing narratives encourage institutions to see themselves not as gatekeepers of culture, but as facilitators of creative experiences. The essay traces the maneuvers used by these institutions to celebrate their value-generating potential and capture and reinscribe value. It observes their attempts to recourse to an older language of intrinsic value that is no less problematic than this new language of created value. The essay closes with recommendations for literary scholars on the evaluative role they might perform for cultural organizations and themselves in these constantly evolving narratives of value.

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