How has technology changed artistic expression

What does the cultural nation of the 21st century look like?

Cultural policy is a reflection of the time and the country in question. In the best case scenario, it can promote and bring out certain cultural and social developments. In the age of globalization and digitization, one's own cultural space has not shifted, but culture - that is, what people create creatively - overcomes geographical spaces in real time through digitization and is at the same time exposed to new influences. The internet serves as a distribution platform in real time - music and films are available everywhere and at the same time. Digitization therefore offers people in the cultural sector enormous opportunities. At the same time, we experience that certain areas of culture today target an audience of millions around the world. The influences of European or German culture and history play a subordinate role there. It is not uncommon for European locations or landscapes to serve only as beautiful backdrops. If these products are exactly what is offered to an audience of millions via streaming services in this country, then it becomes clear what role cultural policy has in the age of digitization: to promote German and European culture in such a way that it remains visible in the age of digitally influenced culture .


Change and opportunities through digitization


Culture is heavily dependent on and influenced by contemporary techniques and technologies. Just as the invention of sound carriers, records and, above all, of film gave rise to new areas of culture, we are on the threshold of a new era of cultural policy that is shaped by digitization.


Digitization is changing the production, but also the reception of culture by the citizens. It creates new ways in which art and culture emerge. “Cartoons” are made very differently today than they were in the 1960s and 1970s. The new way of producing electronic music was a basic requirement for techno to become a new youth culture in the 1990s. In recent years, the Internet and its platforms have given many more artists and cultural workers the opportunity to make their works known to a wider audience. Film and streaming services are changing the forms of access to series and films. On the Internet, platforms have strongly influenced the types of production and distribution.


How strongly digitization has found its way into culture is shown by the example of the streaming provider Netflix. In 2014, he invested $ 2.4 billion in content production, especially series. According to forecasts, 15 billion dollars will be used for this in 2019. The growth rates at Amazon Prime look similar - other providers are pushing into the booming market.


More than a billion people around the world now use digital television services. Many people in Germany are already declaring that streaming, i.e. the use of time-independent video offers, will permanently replace linear, live television.


A similar, if not so drastic, development is taking place in the music business. The volume of the digital music market continues to grow strongly, the digital division accounts for more than half of sales. Reading behavior is also changing, around 950 million readers around the world are already using e-books - however, we Germans still clearly favor the printed book. These trends describe how significantly the digital transformation is changing people's lives. You watch films when it suits you and no longer according to the broadcasters' schedule. But what do people get to see and hear here? What are they being offered for streaming or on the e-reader?


Significance of digitization for European cultural assets


The dynamics of digital changes and the strong position of American and Asian platforms mean that European cultural assets in the digital age have a hard time at first glance. Algorithms and reinforcement processes are not in European hands, but in other hands. Which reading recommendation Amazon makes, for example, is controlled by algorithms of a foreign company and is not in the hands of a bookseller around the corner.


We see that today's producers choose their fabrics and scenarios with a view to the largest markets. Blockbusters, elaborate series, music and not least video games are mostly developed for an American or Asian audience. There are few stories or topics from our culture that “make it big”. A European or even German audience is rarely taken into account.


German, European perspectives remain the exception.


So is digitization more a risk than an opportunity for our cultural assets? The answer is a resounding “no”. The opportunities outweigh the odds if we use them wisely.


On the one hand, this is due to the content: the content of a Beethoven symphony always remains the same, regardless of whether it can be heard in the Berlin Philharmonie, a “Digital Concert Hall” or on YouTube. The content of a good book is the same - regardless of whether it is read as a hardcover or as an e-book. And whether a melody excites millions or not is not due to the type of production or the distribution channels, but still largely to the originality and catchiness of the music. This is the opportunity for cultural workers in Europe and we should take advantage of it. On the other hand, we are still part of a Christian-occidental culture that includes America and Europe. We should not forget that over and above some of the political issues of the day. This common cultural area has produced such significant cultural wealth in the past centuries and has so many good artists and talented cultural workers that I am optimistic that it will also play a strong role worldwide in the digital age. I am firmly convinced that the content makes the difference and Europe and Germany don't have to hide.


We need European stories, we need German stories and material. Identities can be compared, discussed and agreed upon using one's own narrative. Especially in the age of globalization, in which ties are losing stability, the importance of cultural policy increases, because the need for belonging, self-assurance and reflection on one's own spiritual and cultural roots can only be met from within one's own culture. I see z. B. Opportunities especially in a more intensive exchange between cultural workers in Germany and Central and Eastern Europe. Such an exchange can establish common ground and allow buried roots to flourish from history.


Task of cultural policy


If we in Germany underline how much cultural diversity enriches our lives, we have to counter the increasing market power, especially of American productions, with an active, supportive cultural policy. In view of the circumstances of traditionally differentiated European media production, we have a clear mandate here to contribute to the preservation of a German and European voice in the chorus of "contents".


The last 15 years are self-confident evidence of exactly this claim. The development and organization of film funding in Germany, for example, is an expression of the desire to provide a basis for the development of German and European narratives. The great successes that the new German film was able to achieve in Germany, but also beyond our borders, speak for themselves.


The federal government's supporting cultural policy is now backed by a good 1.9 billion euros, which is included in the 2019 budget of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.


We are convinced that cultural policy should not be limited to funding opera houses, orchestras or theaters. It must help to keep the anchor points of culture in the area, especially in rural areas. We often start here, for example in the programs to support smaller cinemas with modernization or in the introduction of a price for exemplary bookshops. It is a gentle addition to the forces of the market. Bookstores and cinemas are important places where culture can be experienced and tangible. They are more than just sales outlets, they keep the culture in the area. In view of the strong and increasing competition that has grown up in these places of culture through the central marketing of books and films in the new, network-based economy, we have decided to provide impetus for the survival of these places.


Direct experience of the culture


Culture must be related to local life. With our promotional cultural policy, we contribute precisely to this - for relevance, a place and a place of culture in Germany. This policy helps the many good approaches to securing and locating German and European culture on the basis from which it works by itself. It is therefore a necessary addition to the market in times of digital globalization.


Culture can always be experienced directly. The task of cultural promotion is to ensure that this “face-to-face” experience is maintained. By using digital technologies, we now have the opportunity to intensify this experience, for example through the use of computers and modern media in museums. In this way, existing cultural institutions are also becoming more attractive for the younger generation. We have to take advantage of these opportunities.


Regardless of the great influence of digitization, culture in concert halls, festivals and exhibitions can still be experienced in analog form and this experience has a special value when almost all areas of life are increasingly digitized. Cultural policy must also keep an eye on the value of experiencing culture together on site. I am confident that our cultural nation will also succeed in this in the 21st century.


This article first appeared in Politics & Culture 09/2019

Copyright: All rights with the German Cultural Council