Arts, culture and digital media. The World Wide Web and its influence on cultural participation

Term Paper, 2013

19 Pages, Grade: 8



1. Introduction: Between cultural heritage and technological advance

2. Cultural participation: a definition

3. The internet and its influence on cultural participation
3.1 Information: Supporting ‘traditional forms’ of participation in arts and culture
3.2 Creation: Supporting ‘digital forms’ of participation in arts and culture
3.3 Status Quo in the Netherlands

4. Conclusion


1. Introduction: Between cultural heritage and technological advance

The new opportunities humanity gets while society develops and technology grows are seemingly non-terminating. Obviously, many people like to benefit from the arising advantages and the positive side-effects. The World Wide Web is one of these technologies, that on the one hand remarkably facilitate our life and on the other hand lead to a more complex and intertwined system and to changes that can not be reversed.

In times of rapid growing technological progress civilization struggles with the issue of striking new paths to the future while at the same time fostering the own cultural heritage. For some people arts and culture are necessary, because they belong to their roots and are signs of their history, but opinions and notions about that theme vary widely. Still there are hotly debated problems relating to cultural policy – Heilbrun & Gray (2011) argue that arts and culture are caught in a materialistic world (p. 3) which is the reason why they always have to deal with a mighty term called ‘money’. But when thinking about culture and heritage, it is not just about keeping the past in mind and preserving ancient monuments. It is also about actively promoting the arts and culture, that currently come into existence. Technologies arise and so do arts. How to cope now with balancing between past and future, heritage and progress, art and high-tech? Bringing something forward means spending time on it, participating in it and therefore reinforcing it. A modern world needs people who get involved and that is why participation may be one of the pivotal things needed for generating a successful future.

By taking a look at the current situation, I want to examine the special relationship between the use of the internet and participation in arts and culture. What do we understand by thinking of the term ‘cultural participation’ and for which reasons is it so important to participate? Which tool does the internet provide to influence and increase cultural participation and which examples can be made for that? After a general overview, the demand position will be adapted on the concrete example of the Netherlands.

The results may create the basis for developing future scenarios and investigating questions like whether the web's popularity is able to create more popularity for cultural participation or if just the internet's degree of esteem will grow further without any impacts on culture.

2. Cultural participation: a definition

Writing about ‘cultural participation’ includes the necessity of decoding that term and defining what it exactly represents. At first it is important to assert, that cultural participation is a human right, that was defined for life in society by the United Nations:

“Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” Article 27, Universal Declaration of the Human Rights (UNESCO: institute for statistics, 2012, p. 7).

Therefore, stressed by the UNESCO institute for statistics, cultural participation is subjected to the government's protection, including that the government creates equitable conditions for everyone (UNESCO: institute for statistics, 2012, p. 8). Though being a human right and implying, that the state is in charge of cultural participation, this does not guarantee, that everyone is in the position to participate in cultural life. Besides, it does not imply, that everyone being in the position to participate, is doing so. In January 2012 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe emphasizes the importance of making use of that human right. As it is claimed here, cultural participation is “pivotal to the system of human rights” as it contributes to “the development of critical thinking” and reinforces “democratic citizenship and social cohesion” (Council of Europe/ERICarts, “Cultural Access and Participation” n.d.).

There are many ways to define ‘cultural participation’ and in order to get more precise results a lot of studies make up their own definition by excluding and including specific aspects of cultural activities people attend.[1] For measuring data this does make sense, but for the essay I will rather adopt a definition that was offered by the UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics (FCS) from 2009. The definition seems to be topical and broad enough for my purposes as ‘cultural participation’ here includes:

"(…) cultural practices that may involve consumption as well as activities that are undertaken within the community, reflecting quality of life, traditions and beliefs. It includes attendance at formal and for fee events (...) as well as informal cultural action, such as participating in community cultural activities and amateur artistic productions or everyday activities like reading a book. (…) Moreover, cultural participation covers both active and passive behaviour. It includes the person who is listening to a concert and the person who practices music. (…) Cultural participation does not concern activities carried out for employment purposes, (...) for example, cultural participation would include visitors to a museum but not the paid guide" (UNESCO: institute for statistics, 2009, p. 45).

Defined by the UNESCO UIS report (2009), cultural participation can take place in three different categories, including “Home-based[2], “Going out[3] and “Identity building[4] (UNESCO: institute for statistics, p. 45). Besides the definition of the FCS, these categories will be valid and used herein.

3. The internet and its influence on cultural participation

Already in 2005 the Council for Culture claimed, that “society is becoming increasingly media-driven”(Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, 2006, p. 158). Eight years later one can only witness that mentioned fact, but must stress the important role the World Wide Web already plays in that media-dominated world. As it is argued by Schäfer (2011) one may expect the new technologies “to solve many social problems and abolish many obstacles created by social interaction and power structures” (p. 29). By now, the internet and especially new social media facilitate the “spatial evolution of social interactions” by dissolving “geographic constraints on communication” (Meek, 2011, p. 1). Furthermore Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) already help “archiving cultural heritage (…), creating art and expression (…), generating multi-language, multi-cultural societies (...) and understanding new cultures born on the Internet and the Web” (Hachimura, Ishida, Tosa, Lin & Maeda, 2013 in Hu et. al., 2013, p. 12).

According to Meek (2011) electronic media enable social connections, that previously would not have been imaginable (p. 15). All this refers to the ambition of 2006 to utilize the connective power of the online spheres in favour of culture and beyond that scope (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, 2006, p. 158). The internet poses the potential to bring nations closer together by generating mutual respect and understanding for their cultures. Whilst creating and participating in art already presents an important aspect of cultural life (UNESCO: institute for statistics, 2012, p. 9), supporting participation in the arts via the internet gets more and more relevance in a globalised environment. Presumably, the internet can make a contribution to participation in arts and culture - at a national level and beyond.


[1] For example in Yais & Katz-Gerro, 2010, p. 175.

[2] “(...) watching TV, listening to the radio, watching and listening to recorded sound and images, reading and using computer and the Internet” (UNESCO UIS 2006b, in: UNESCO: institute for statistics, 2009, p. 45).

[3] “(...) visits to cultural venues such as cinema, theatre, concerts, museums, monuments and heritage sites” (UNESCO UIS 2006b, in: UNESCO: institute for statistics, 2009, p. 45).

[4] “(...) amateur cultural practices, membership of cultural associations, popular culture, ethnic culture, community practices and youth culture” (UNESCO UIS 2006b, in: UNESCO: institute for statistics, 2009, p. 45).

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Arts, culture and digital media. The World Wide Web and its influence on cultural participation
Maastricht University
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Bachelor of Arts Anna-Theresa Lienhardt (Author), 2013, Arts, culture and digital media. The World Wide Web and its influence on cultural participation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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