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Wrapping up the Course

Digital technologies have wide-ranging impacts that are often difficult to trace.

Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of the course. This is the time to wrap up and recap what we have discussed.

In Week 1, we analysed the changing economic framework for culture in the digital age. We examined the different disruptions that digital technologies have created for the cultural economy, and how the different sectors have adjusted. We talked about the winners and the losers of this new digitalised cultural landscape.

In Week 2, we analysed how cultural institutions adjust to the digital era. Cultural policies face new challenges as they have to operate within a global perspective. But new opportunities emerge, such as the possibility to use digital tools to access new audiences and to invite them to participate directly in the design of cultural projects. We also talked about the way professionals of the art world have reacted to the rise of the Internet, sometimes with reticence, but also with innovative initiatives to take the turn of the digital.

During this last Week, we saw that digital culture comes with new risks. Privacy, for example, is increasingly exposed and at risk as information is shared and exploited by companies. Vulnerabilities can be exploited by states as part of their geopolitical strategies, or by criminal groups. The rising power of digital platforms represents a threat to the funding of culture and for citizens’ privacy. The spread of fake news and of violent and radical speech represents a mounting threat to democracy. So far, public authorities seem to have difficulty in facing these new challenges. Internet firms manage to bypass numerous national regulations, especially when it comes to taxes. Public institutions are often too slow to catch up with rapid changes. Highly mediatised events, like terrorist attacks resulting from online radicalisation or foreign influence on democratic elections, have triggered suspicion against a limitless extension of the digital media. But regulations raise numerous questions related to freedom of expression and to implementation. There is a fear that new legislation may create new forms of censorship or that states would not be able to impose their decision on digital platforms.

Digital technologies have wide-ranging impacts that are often difficult to trace. The digital is a constantly changing system, with new practices emerging regularly, from computers to smartphones, to connected objects. New devices and services feed the debates on how the digital impacts culture. Both the storytelling enhancing the positive impact of the digital on culture as well the technophobic exaggerations against it are obstacles to understanding the complex changes it has brought in contemporary societies. The digital revolution takes part in a wider transformation, which makes societies more open, interconnected and mobile, but where, at the same time, new barriers and tensions are emerging.

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Please also share your thoughts about what you have learned over these three Weeks in the comments.

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Culture in the Digital Age

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