Digitisation and Culture
In this part of the Culture & Democracy Themes, four different approaches may be relevant:
1. Since a number of years, the digitisation of cultural content has seen remarkable progress. With the support of European, national and regional or local public funds, this process has left its marks especially in the domain of heritage (e.g. digital libraries, museums collections, the restoration of films and the like). In the arts and literature, the creation, reproduction and distribution of new works by digital means and the re-mastering of older ones has also turned into a reality, however prompted more by private market forces. As pointed out by expert Divina Frau-Meigs (Sorbonne Nouvelle University, France) at the 10th Conference of Ministers responsible for Culture in Moscow, 2013: "The online challenge for cultural diversity and pluralism is not only the protection and promotion of legacy arts and broadcast content but also the fostering of user-generated content and comments, which moves the public from consumption to participation".
2. In a broader sense, "digital culture" (or "cyberculture") encompasses the socio-cultural dimensions of the technologies, content and interactive processes of the Internet and mobile, wireless and converged media. 15 years ago, the term most widely used has been that of the "information society" and its envisaged influence not only on culture, but even more on the economy, on politics, on education and on many other domains of everyday life.
Digital culture has often been understood as transforming or revolutionising traditional notions of communication, work life and culture. However, in the course of just two decades, the Internet with the World Wide Web and "social networks" became an integrated part of the daily life of the majority of the population in Western and many developing societies as well as regular instruments of commercial marketing strategies for cultural content. As pointed out by Vincent Miller ("Understanding Digital Culture", Sage 2011) and other observers, this development somewhat limits the potential of the now established digital culture for truly "alternative" changes in our societies and leads to the conclusion "that our culture has perhaps transformed the Internet more than vice versa." Nevertheless, some new forms of art and entertainment based on digital technologies have emerged, which are now part of the mainstream (computer games etc.).
3. In the context of culture and democracy, prospects of new forms of broad civic participation in multi-stakeholder cultural governance prompted by new technologies are frequently debated. While such concerns remain on different agendas and were explicitly mentioned in the final statement of the Ministerial Conference in Moscow (2013) and in the Baku Conference – First Platform Exchange on Culture and Digitisation "Creating an enabling environment for digital culture and for empowering citizens" 4-5 July 2014, Baku, Azerbaijan, the above-mentioned developments suggest a cautious approach, focusing on individual preferences and voluntary contributions as well as on – often generation-specific – socio-cultural movements and artistic initiatives.
4. Finally, a number of policy-related issues came into the picture, including, but not limited to:
- "net neutrality" regulations with their implications for democracy, freedom of expression and equity of access, or
- educational policies fostering new media and information literacy or "transliteracy".
The Compendium Addressing aspects of Digitisation and Culture
Since the beginning of the Compendium project, several aspects of digitisation and culture have been treated both as a transversal issue of relevance in different areas of cultural policy making and as a theme of specific sub-chapters in the Compendium country profiles. As a consequence, there are several strands of related information and data found in various sub-sections of individual Compendium country profiles.
Some of this content has been condensed into comparative / statistical tables that address e.g.: Internet penetration rate in European Countries, Monitoring the European Convention for the Protection of the Audiovisual Heritage (incl. digitisation); etc.
Together with important background documents and links to research, such information can assist governments and NGOs in their efforts to start monitoring and comparing policies and related measures regarding digitisation and culture. As well, reflection processes are supported in order to determine, in which way the digitisation in the cultural field play an essential role in democratic governance as well as for a sustainable democratic society.
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