Cultural transformations and the field of culture in the digital age

“Is the digital revolution a cultural revolution?” was the title of the Rémy Rieffel lecture, a researcher at the University of Paris, presented on April 9th.

Rémy Rieffel problematized the limits of the cultural transformations that affect culture in the digital age. The presentation returned to Pierre Bourdieu’s vision of the cultural field to reflect on the changes experienced in this area with the dissemination of new media especially with social networks. On the one hand, Rieffel presented elements defended by optimists, among them Henry Jenkins, who consider that the culture of convergence enlarges the participation. On the other hand, the author emphasized the distrust of researchers who emphasize the negative aspects of the digital age, especially the monitoring that is created about individuals, restricting freedom, in the way that George Orwell predicted in the work “1984”.

Rieffel has identified three major changes in the cultural field brought about by the new media: a change in the forms of visibility, which is directly associated with an economy of likes and shares, evidencing disputes over popularity, authority, reputation, and predilection; the growth of a hybrid culture, which approaches and even blends different cultural dimensions, styles, such as the erudite and the popular; and the growth of a participatory and collaborative culture in cultural production, which is effective for example through the use of free licenses (Creative Commons).

For the researcher, the inequalities of access and participation in the cultural field have not changed in the digital environment. Which means that the transformations were mainly in the forms of production and diffusion, but did not occur in the relations of power. And even the impact of these changes is not homogeneous. For the author, it is more appropriate to speak of a new cultural configuration, but not necessarily in a revolution, as this is still a work in progress.

Rieffel argues that the very idea that everything has changed with the digital revolution is an ideology. After all, we are connected as Marshall McLuhan predicted, forming a large global village, but man’s behavior has not changed because of technologies.

The presence of Rémy Rieffel in Portugal resulted from his visit to the University of Minho as a member of the External Monitoring Committee of the Doctoral Program in Communication Studies: Technology, Culture and Society.