Words matter. First, as an international and interdisciplinary platform, we are particularly aware that the way we use language can lead to misunderstanding or confusion. More careful use of jargon, terminology, and colloquial language ensures we better understand one another. Second, we are aware that phrases and words have the power to discriminate or exclude.
Language also changes, developing against a backdrop of ongoing theoretical debates, recent policy changes, and shifts in society. Language can become used lazily or sometimes co-opted. Meaning and nuances change. Terms such as diversity, equality, equity, and decolonisation have, for example, been much debated in recent years.
Let’s take the term ‘socially engaged practice’. Culture Caleidoscoop is a platform for sharing research and reflections on socially engaged practices in the arts, culture, and heritage sectors. It took us some time to settle on the term ‘socially engaged practice’. For Culture Caleidoscoop, socially engaged practices encompass the activities, actions, methods, skills, and strategies that relate to, involve, and affect individuals, communities, and society. Think: a city museum co-creating an exhibition with the members of local LGBTQ+ communities, a national symphony orchestra collaborating with a local brass band, a performing artist hosting afternoon teas for isolated older adults, or a volunteer-run community archive focused on missing or untold narratives. We had previously played with using other terms such as ‘people-centred practice’ but wondered which words really mean something to our audience, contributors from different disciplines, and readers around the world?
We decided to put this at the heart of our first issue. Through the content that we publish and share on the platform, we hope to show what some of these commonly used terms mean to people in the field. We hope to interrogate terms and concepts and show how use of terms changes over time. We hope to learn more from one another about how certain terms are used and how words are defined and understood across the sector. We will be creating a working glossary on our website. As contributions come in that relate to or make use of certain words, we will link to these. This way, we can build up a picture of how these words are used by different people in the field.