The Greek Constitution was recently amended to assert the right of all citizens to take part in the information society. According to a 2007 Eurobarometer survey (published in 2011), only 25% of Greeks use the Internet at least once a month, about half the European average. Several reasons have been put forward to explain low levels of access and participation: limited digital literacy; an extroverted, going-out lifestyle, favouring face-to-face interaction over solitary engagement on the Internet; the current scarcity of useful or interesting Greece-based content and services accessible through the Internet. Recent qualitative changes are, however, noticeable: in 2007, 28% of users accessed the Internet to visit museum, library or other knowledge-related content, 50% to download free music, 37% to listen to radio or music, and 35% to search for information on cultural products or events.
There are important changes on the use of the Internet in the field of culture. While back in 2003 only a handful of museums and institutions in the arts had a web presence, typically a dry online presentation of their identity and of their activities, this an increasing number of cultural organisations presenting parts of their collections online, including several dozen of the organisations that were funded by the Greek Information Society programme to digitise collections and make them available through the Web.
The Ministry of Culture has an organisational website giving access to reference information about its departments and activities; it also maintains an older portal (“Odysseus”) on Greek archaeological and cultural heritage earlier websites, such as an extensive, journalist-run, portal covering all cultural and artistic events and activities supported by the Ministry of Culture, have been replaced by strong private initiatives such as http://www.elculture.gr.
In the field of new media arts, state support is provided to venues and events hosting interesting new artistic work, both from Greece and abroad. These include the yearly Medi@terra festival, which provides a focus for innovative work crossing the boundaries of visual, performing and new media art, mostly from the South East European and Mediterranean area, and a forum for artistic exchange and debate between the region and the rest of the world. A small number of private art galleries regularly exhibit technology-based artworks and installations.
Recent developments were driven by programmes in the context of the “Digital Convergence” Operational Programme of the Ministry of Economy (mostly from priority axis 1 and 2), part of the 4th Community Support Framework programme in the area of Information Society Technologies (2007-2013). Call 31 of the programme, launched in late 2011, amounts to ca. 60 million EUR and supports projects related to the digitisation of cultural heritage, popular and contemporary culture assets, their enrichment, access through web services and mobile devices apps, and integration within a unified metadata repository. The emphasis is on final delivery of cultural content to audiences and markets, both national and international, among other channels through exposure to the Europeana digital library. Projects are expected to start in the second half of 2012.
Issues emerging from current and planned policies regarding culture and the information society include:
- the increased emphasis on societal value and commercial exploitability of the outcomes of projects supported by digitisation programmes;
- the continuing prioritisation of investments in cultural heritage over support for artistic creativity;
- the need to balance leisure- and IT industry-driven priorities with cultural and educational concerns;
- the reliance on centralised mechanisms of funding and control, rather than on the initiative of the creative community, to achieve change; and
- the challenge facing the cultural and arts community in embracing information technology and new media of communication, and in keeping alive projects whose funding has dried out or is expected to run out soon.