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This article attempts to describe the state of “cultural policy” at a time of fundamental reinvention. While the digital transition has transformed culture, cultural policies have adapted only slowly to this new reality. Reviewing the main work and studies published in recent years, the article describes this fundamental shift in cultural policy as a result of the digital transition. It also looks at other ongoing changes, from the rise of the cultural industries to cultural diversity, not forgetting the ecological transition. Ultimately, the article observes a broadening of the notion of “cultural policy” and describes its different — and new — components: arts policy, the economy of culture and of course the cultural industries, digital policy and platform regulation; new philanthropy; arts education; algorithmics; creative cities; social networks; cultural start-ups; cultural diplomacy; the creative class; soft power, etc. This widened approach to “cultural policy” contributes to reconsidering the role of public and private actors and the place of artists in a digital society. (January 2020)
“Cultural policy” has long been defined as public policy for the benefit of art. In the famous words of André Malraux, the French writer and prime minister of French culture, the mission of cultural policy and the ministry dedicated to it was “to make the principal works of humanity, and first and foremost those of France, accessible to the greatest possible number of French people, to ensure the widest possible audience for our cultural heritage, and to encourage the creation of the works of art and the spirit which enrich it” (Malraux, 1959). Soon afterwards, in 1965, the US government also founded a federal cultural agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, which also sought to protect art, “a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves, and to others, the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish” (NEA Act, see: Martel, 2006).
In both cases, as was the case in other countries at the same time (Durrer, Miller & O’Brien, 2019), a government intervened directly or indirectly to fund the arts with the twofold concern to “make accessible” or “protect” culture, and to do so in the national interest (Feder & Katz-Gero, 2015). This national, if not patriotic, dimension stood at the heart of cultural policies: it remains central, for instance, through the recurrent debates on “national identity” or “cultural exception” (Martigny, 2016).
Although “public” and “national,” and even as they began to develop, cultural policies underwent major inflections (Rosenstein, 2019). On the one hand, cultural policy was extended early on to activities pursued, beyond governments and central states, by local authorities at all existing administrative levels (Länder in Germany; states, counties and cities in the United States; regions, departments, agglomerations and cities in France, etc.). Soon, cultural policy was conceived of even more broadly, in its interactions with education, diplomacy and city policy, or through the actions of philanthropists and patrons of the arts, or even those of businesses.
If “public” policy now only imperfectly reflects the scope and ambition of cultural policies, neither does their “national” dimension. It is at the European, if not the international level (G7, G20, OECD, WTO) that the measures for regulating the internet giants are conceived of today, for instance.
To this must of course be added the consideration given to the market economy by cultural policies. Historically reluctant to consider the artistic dimension of the cultural industries, public cultural policy actors have appropriated these industries, first to regulate them, later to promote the economy, employment, attractiveness or tourism, and finally in an attempt to benefit from their “soft power.” Thus, the content industries have gradually emerged as a central dimension of cultural policies.
Moreover, since the end of the 1990s, digital technology has radically transformed, if not cultural policies, then at least culture. Both public and private actors have had to adapt to this new situation. Much important research is now situated in this field.
This widening of the concept of cultural policy (Bennett, 2019), the attention given to the cultural industries, the formidable digital transition under way and the globalisation of culture (Durrer, 2019b) have thus helped expand the academic fields within this discipline which, originally rooted in the social sciences, is now also being nurtured or extended to political science, economics, law, media studies, anthropology or even management (Durrer, Miller & O’Brien, 2019). Gradually, while the world of art and artists was undergoing radical change, cultural policy, drawing on other social sciences, has become a discipline in its own right.
I – National cultural policies in transformation
Barely ever imagined as a field of intervention, defined as a discipline or affiliated with a sector of economic activity in its own right, cultural policy has therefore been affected by both major and rapid transformation. Even before the great “disruption” of the cultural sector following the rise of digital technology and the internet from the late 1990s (Martel, 2014), culture had been transformed by the developing cultural and creative industries, by the globalisation of content and by “soft power,” despite many studies already suggesting that these fledgling cultural policies had “failed” in terms of practices, participation and artistic education.
The articulation between the state, the non-profit sector and the market has been — and remains — a key issue in cultural policy thinking, at times informed by major philosophical works (Nussbaum, 2010; Sandel, 2012). The “right” level of public intervention (federal, state, regions, départements, counties, cities, etc.) is the subject of much work (Rosenstein, 2018), as is defining the exact mission of the state: funding and subsidising, taxation and tax deduction, regulation and certification, or mere evaluation.
The advent of an “industrial” dimension in the cultural field is a long-established (Starr, 2004) and has been criticised since its beginnings. The Frankfurt School, for instance, which defined the term “cultural industry” (Kulturindustrie), and preferring it to “mass culture,” proposed a radical critique (Adorno & Horkheimer, 1947; Adorno & Horkheimer, 1972; Benjamin, 1935; Throsby, 2004). Large-scale, industrial production, so the Frankfurt School, meant that culture lost its “aura” — this powerful argument has contributed to permanently separating art and economics, at least in Europe where this distinction has become a school of thought, particularly in the face of the American entertainment industry. This complex debate has superimposed itself on that opposing public cultural policy and the market, the former being falsely assimilated to entertainment, the latter to art (Pratt, 2009). This way of thinking is no longer relevant now that the economic dimensions of the fields of art, including the visual and performing arts, are better known and greater value is attached to the artistic dimensions of the cultural industries — the two fields thus coming together to form a cultural sector in its own right.
Reread in light of the post-war history of mass culture, the influence of American cinema and contemporary economic and cultural realities, these post-Marxist analyses, rooted in the anti-totalitarian debates of the 1940s and 1950s, strike us today as much “by the strength of their intuitions as by their short-sightedness” (Traverso, 2012). They remain interesting despite — and even thanks to — their ideological blindness and ultimately their conservatism, for instance, about jazz (Adorno, 1932; Adorno, 1936), photography (Pratt, 2009) or cinema (De Baeque/Chevallier, 2012).
The critiques of Adorno, Horkheimer or Benjamin, whatever their substantive relevance, were premonitory. Since the 1970s, studies on the creative and cultural industries have proliferated: they attest to the rise of media and entertainment conglomerates and, in the American case, to their hegemonic tendency. Many researchers have analysed the new characteristics of these content industries, either globally (Auletta, 1997; Caves, 2000; Throsby, 2004) or by sector: cinema (Balio, 1986; Epstein, 2005; Stewart, 2005; Price, 2008; Epstein, 2010), music (Dannen, 1991; Rossman, 2012), television (Blumenthal & Goodenough, 2006; Edgerton & Jones, 2008), publishing (Epstein, 2001; Borsuk, 2018) and even live performance and commercial theatre (Baumol & Bowen, 1966; Rich, 1998).
Even before the rise of the internet, this research tried to describe industries no longer having anything to do with the golden age of “studios” or “majors” in the record industry. It also explored the globalisation of culture (Miller, Govil, McMurria & Maxwell, 2001), the importance of innovation (Pratt, 2009), the role of the “prototype,” which distinguishes content industries from others (Peters, 2016), the centrality of “content” and the value represented by copyright (Caves, 2000), the imperative of regulation (Einstein, 2004; Rosenstein, 2019), the growing power of blockbusters (Shone, 2004; Stewart, 2005) and the attenuation of the classic “star system” with the increased role of talent agencies (Epstein, 2010). By investigating the functioning of music “majors,” film or video game “studios,” publishing groups and, more generally, of media conglomerates, this research has described the new organisation of the content industries between dominant capitalist structures and satellite structures — “imprints,” “labels” or “specialised units” — which have become very autonomous or even independent (Balio, 1986; Auletta, 1997; Biskind, 1998; Pratt, 2009; Martel, 2010). To a large extent, the owners of the means of production, the giants owning these content industries, now exercise only limited influence on the content produced. They have become banks and as such more interested in financial results than in “content.” The “studios,” no longer centralised (as in Hollywood’s golden age), are decentralised and operated as “projects.” One example is the relationship between the Japanese company Sony and its studio Sony Pictures or the French company Universal and its American music branch — the resulting “delinking” contradicts some of the postulates of the Frankfurt School (Pratt, 2009; Martel, 2010). Finally, in line with the “new wave” and the Cahiers du cinéma in France since the 1950s, much research, contrary to the pessimistic judgments of the Frankfurt School and a large part of the European elite, has indicated the undeniable creativity, spectacular innovation and artistic project of today’s content industries (Johnson, 2005; Martel, 2010). It has thus also revealed the original articulation that these industries maintain with the American non-profit sector, most of all with the university ecosystem (UCLA, USC, Tisch School/NYU, CalArts etc).
While the US content industries have attracted much research, many other countries have also been studied, including India (Bose, 2007; Grimaud, 2003), Japan (Iwabuchi, 2002), China (Durrer, Miller & O’Brien, 2019), Korea (Hong, 2014), the United Kingdom and Australia (Durrer, Miller & O’Brien, 2019), the Netherlands (Compendium of Cultural Policies & Trends) or Switzerland (Gerig, Sondermann & Weckerle, 2008) — potentially confirming global trends. Ultimately, Adorno’s and Horkheimer’s critiques focused on a model of the “cultural industry” no longer existing today, neither in the United States nor in most European countries.
In parallel with the growing significance of the cultural and creative industries, recent studies have examined the impact of this sector on the wider economy and its international influence. However questionable — and criticism has abounded — Richard Florida’s work on the “creative class” deserves credit for demonstrating the importance of “culture” and the creative industries for the economic development and vitality of American cities (Florida, 2002), as well as at the European (Taylor, Davies, Wells, Gilbertson & Tayleur, 2015) or international level (Florida, 2005; Glaeser, 2012). Today, the mayors of major globalised cities and the governments of many countries (including Xi Jinping in China) think of culture in terms of attractiveness, tourism and influence, i.e. in terms of cultural diplomacy and hence “soft power.” In the digital age, this work will be further pursued by a whole generation of researchers studying “smart cities” and “creative cities.”
We owe the concept of “soft power,” whose future is bright, to Joseph Nye, the American political scientist and former foreign policy adviser (Nye, 2004). This neo-Gramscian idea was later extended to “smart power,” to account for the internet and to refine an analysis including not only elements of “soft” influence but also, sometimes, and intertwined, certain dimensions of “hard” constraint (Nye, 2011). In line with this work, some authors have further reflected on these concepts from a cultural diplomacy (Weckerle, 1999; Henze & Wolfram, 2014; Ang & Raj Isar, 2016; Fregonese, 2019) or from a purely diplomatic perspective (Zakaria, 2008; Khanna, 2008; Power, 2019). Ultimately, whether sub-locally or globally, cultural policy exists at all levels.
The massive investment in culture since the 1980s, both by governments (e.g. France) and by philanthropists and the non-profit sector thanks to state tax deductions (e.g. the United States), has not, however, decisively improved cultural practices over the same period. From the 1960s, major studies have highlighted the difficulties of the task at hand (Bourdieu, 1964; Bourdieu, 1979). Their findings have since been confirmed by studies on cultural practices in France (Donnat, 2009), Europe (Weckerle, 1994 ; Falk & Katz-Gero, 2016; Katz-Gero, 2017; KEA, 2019) and the United States (Martel, 2006; Novak-Leonard, Reynolds, English & Bradburn, 2015; Rosenstein, 2019). Some authors, drawing on the broader discussions on public policy effectiveness (Osborne & Gaebler, 1992), have analysed the cultural sector in this light (Urfalino, 1996; Grand, 2016).
Consequently, after observing this failure, part of the research on cultural policies eventually began rethinking the issue from its origins: education. This area of arts education and participation has attracted much work, whether it explores age or social background, amateur practices or “outreach.” One important challenge for the future will be to develop university training and curricula in order to train arts education professionals and to rethink the models of cultural education in terms of their interaction with the evolving cultural sector, its policies and the economic models of artists. Another challenge will be amateur practices and what, in the United States, are called “social practices” and elsewhere “participatory art,” “collaborative art” or “collective art practices.” (Bourriaud, 1998 ; Kester 2011 ; Jackson, 2011 ; Bishop, 2012). Modernisation seems inevitable, especially since the advent of the internet.
II – Cultural policies in the digital age
Saying that culture has experienced significant “disruption” due to digital technology since the 2000s would be an understatement. All cultural sectors have, to varying degrees, been transformed by the arrival of the internet. This fundamental transformation concerns both the modes of production and the modes of dissemination, the communication and marketing of culture, but also the practices of the public, its attention span and competition for available leisure time, or the judgment of critics — and even the future of those arts institutions which seemed least likely to be affected by the digital transition, such as museums or ballets (Giridharadas, 2014; Lohr, 2014). This transformation is radical, perhaps the most important which art and culture have undergone since their “technical reproducibility” (Negroponte, 1995; Bauman, 2002; Schmidt & Cohen, 2013). What is new: the obsolescence of a national or solely public approach to culture on the one hand; the multiplication of the links between culture and economic practices and the market on the other; and finally the strengthening of the two previous phenomena by the digital transition (Martel, 2014). This is the world we are entering.
Since the 2000s, cultural policy in most western countries has thus metamorphosed, despite its actors hesitating to question themselves or researchers being slow to propose alternative models. Why is this so? To a large extent, the prevailing idea among those responsible for public cultural policies, in foundations or even in the cultural industries and media, was a mistrust, if not a rejection, of digital technology. The transformation was initially believed to be temporary, no more than a epiphenomenon of culture. Then, as the digital transition became more assertive and long-term, the challenge was to control or regulate the internet, in order to “protect” culture. As a result, some industries — first and foremost music — lost precious years.
While this mistrust or rejection still prevails today, entire sections of culture have gone digital and many actors, often younger ones, have maintained a positive stance towards the internet. The web has been thought of in terms of opportunities, not just threats. Since then, there have even been attempts to “refound” public policy, in order to take account of the digital environment (Lescure, 2013; Davies, 2016c) — even if, for the time being, new stable models are slow to emerge and be defined.
It is therefore interesting to review the principal studies on digital technology, as they relate to cultural policies, and, in this very broad and evolving field, to attempt to provide some guidelines.
At the origins of the internet
It is worth noting, from the outset, that several works adopting a historical perspective and tracing the birth of the internet, or of its actors, have highlighted the importance and influence of art and culture within this major innovation. This dimension can be studied from two angles: by retracing the digital innovations introduced by counter-cultural figures, for instance, the hippies in Silicon Valley, and by describing those developed by “creative people” as much as by scientists (Levy, 1984; Himanen, 2001; Turner, 2006; Blais & Ippolito, 2006; Martel, 2014).
Along the same lines, several studies have illustrated the role of public policy in the genesis of the digital revolution, whether through direct funding or through indirect funding, via research universities (Brand, 1987; Etzkowitz, 2002; Moss, 2011; Mazzucato, 2013; Martel, 2014). The overlap with telecommunications has also been studied (Blum, 2012). Finally, the hacker ethic, construed in opposition to the “Protestant ethic of capitalism,” has been the subject of interesting work (Himanen, 2001; Lallement, 2015).
More broadly, some researchers have highlighted that innovation and creativity lie at the heart of the digital process or the development of digital services, thus bringing it closer to culture in the broadest sense. Hence, the digital sector and internet actors have gradually been assimilated into the “cultural and creative industries” (CCI) and its actors integrated into the core of the “creative class” (Florida, 2005; Blais & Ippolito, 2006). As a result, we now better understand how the terms of the debate have changed and shifted in public discourse and policy since the 1960s, from a discussion centred on art to one centred on cultural industries, before moving in the 1990s on to « the creative industries » and finally, in the 2000s, the « creative economy » (Throsby, 2001 ; Pratt, 2009 ; Policy Research group, 2013).
The conditions of production
An interesting part of the work published in recent years has analysed the major transformation of the production of “content” in the digital age. Cultural content once meant “cultural goods”; within two decades, it come to mean streams, flows, formats, services and “content.” This shift, from physical products to intangible services, marks a considerable change (Epstein, 2010; Martel, 2014). The shift from industries to services also imposed a conceptual shift: from the “creative industries” to the “creative economy.”
The analysis of production processes in the cultural and creative industries, which now include the digital sector, has experienced a strong revival. Elements specific to the creative industries in general (experimentation, R&D, prototyping, risk-taking, the importance of “content,” the major/start-up interface, project-based operation, copyright economics, etc.) have begun reappearing in this production process. But new aspects have been aggregated, including the start-up organisational mode, the right to fail, sociality, scalability, participation, crowdfunding, customisation, serendipity, the neutrality of the web, open source, pure players, etc. (Martel, 2014). While an important body of literature concerns this decisive shift, it has tended, due to its novelty, to first appear in form of studies, official reports or academic articles rather than books (Jallet, 2017; Berger, 2018).
Of course, the dynamics of this capital-intensive sector have also been criticised, particularly the hegemony of the GAFA. Their power is still underestimated, as the case of Amazon shows, for example, whose hegemony lies less in its already impressive physical distribution network than in its dematerialised “cloud” — a word that Jeff Bezos’ company helped popularise by launching its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in 2006. Today, Amazon Web Services (AWS), enabling real-time data storage in over a million interconnected servers, is the world’s first cloud (Gilder, 2006; Kakutani, 2013; Stone, 2013). Private individuals have free access to Amazon Cloud Drive to store documents, images, sounds and videos (usage above 5 GB is subject to charge). Professional users have access to unlimited storage capacities, to the point that Netflix and Dropbox, although competitors, and even the video game Fortnite or the famous National Security Agency (NSA), use AWS servers. We must of course add digital cultural distribution activities (Amazon Prime, Amazon Music Unlimited, Kindle), “marketplace” activities bringing together millions of independent sellers (e.g. of second-hand books) and actual content production (self-publishing, TV series, etc.), all of which give Amazon an important competitive advantage in the cultural field. Such hegemony makes abusing a dominant position inevitable — and is being scrutinised or already sanctioned by US or European regulators. Ultimately, Amazon’s spectacular infrastructures, combined with those of Google, Apple or Microsoft, go hand in hand with the rise of dematerialised culture: no longer the purchase of cultural “products” matters, but the sole use of unlimited subscription-based cloud “services.”
Some authors have attempted to critique the cultural industries wholesale as “commodities,” at times somewhat artificially (Boltanski & Chiapello, 1999; Boltanski/Esquerre, 2019): while these works have attempted to grasp the “new forms of capitalism” and to renew its critique, blending “artist critique” and “social critique,” they have not necessarily relied on a detailed knowledge of the subtleties of the investigated creative sectors.
Since the early 2000s, cultural practices in the digital age have undergone profound transformation, whose effects are still difficult to measure today, especially since we still find ourselves amid this long disruption.
New trends have emerged in cultural consumption, including, without attempting to be exhaustive, practices involving new usages (participation, collaboration, multitasking, peer-to-peer exchanges, binge watching, playlist, virality), those benefiting from new technologies (streaming, OTT, replay, podcasting and on-demand listening) and those based on new business models (unlimited subscription) — it is, however, still difficult to determine whether these trends will be transitory or more enduring (Activate Technology & Media Outlook, 2020, predicts strong growth in streaming and unlimited subscriptions).
These evolutions affect artists, the public but also cultural institutions which have transformed themselves in the digital age: the San Francisco Symphony, for example, prioritised digital technology early on by launching a dedicated platform, podcasts, online concerts, a YouTube channel, a MOOC, a web-radio, video games, an experimental site serving an educational purpose (a sort of Khan Academy for classical music) and, of course, a conductor, the communicative Michael Tilson Thomas, who is omnipresent on social networks. Many other examples exist, from the MET’s active art history “timeline” to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s arts education platforms for schools. Throughout , cultural institutions are seeking to engage in a “conversation” with their audiences (Levere, 2015; Giridharadas, 2014).
Traditionally passive consumers have generally become more active: they “participate,” react and comment on social networks, liking this or that content — or not (Peters, 2016). They even share “content” on a massive scale, sometimes on the fringes of legality (Peters, 2016). “Multitasking” is also a much-studied phenomenon (Activate Technology & Media Outlook, 2020). As is widely known, the largest consumers of online culture, those some consultancies call “super users,” who are often the youngest, most educated users from higher social categories, also prove to most frequently attend live events outside the comfort of their homes; particularly loyal, they are most likely to donate to the artists they love (Activate Technology & Media Outlook, 2020).
Streaming, enabled by permanently connected computers, tablets and smartphones, by the development of increasingly powerful, fast and cheaper “clouds,” and by increasing speeds with the advent of 3G, 4G and soon 5G, seems set to continue (Peters, 2016; Ruparelia, 2016). Its corollary, unlimited paid subscription, popularised in music by Spotify (as well as by Deezer, Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Qobuz and, less so, Pandora), in the film and television sector by Netflix, and now in video games (Twitch, Stadia, PlayStation or Xbox subscriptions, and now Apple and Google) or books (Amazon Prime, Scribd or Oyster), also constitutes a major change (Wu, 2013; Keating, 2013; Auletta, 2014). Confronted with Netflix, the main entertainment conglomerates are getting organised and should soon have offerings of their own: Disney+ has just been launched, including certain programmes from the ABC network; an HBO Max platform will be launched (as an extension of HBO Now); another project exists within the Warner Media group (part of AT&T), which includes the CNN and CW networks, and thus HBO, as well as Warner Bros; a new platform is being planned at Paramount/CBS (as an extension of CBS All Access); similarly, a project known as Peacock is being finalised at NBC-Universal. Finally, it cannot be ruled out that Sony, the Japanese company (Sony Pictures, Sony Music, Columbia, etc.), may develop its own service, despite not owning a television network in the United States. Regarding practices, whether households will be able to multiply subscriptions to these “vertical” services if content is only available on a dedicated platform still needs to be investigated. Some analysts predict that SVoD will develop in parallel with services both less ambitious and less likely to attract a large number of subscribers, who will find their model via AVoD (i.e. “advertising video on demand”). Hulu and Peacock are already developing such a dual model.
In music, on the contrary, offerings remain “horizontal” (Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer), the majors having failed to impose their “verticals.” We can also note, in this sector, and contrary to cinema or television, the singular position of the GAFAs: Apple Music, Google Play Music, YouTube Premium and Amazon Music Illimited hold a significant market share in the sector, whose leader remains Spotify’s European playlist, while the “independents” are unable to impose themselves (Pandora, Qobuz and Tidal are struggling; SoundCloud is dynamic but remains in a niche market).
Throughout, the question of monopolies arises, although we can distinguish “good” from “bad” monopolies: Netflix or Spotify are planning to offer all content, regardless of producer (studios or majors); Disney intends to create a closed environment; the GAFA are fighting all competition for reasons partly to do with their shareholders’ return on investment.
On-demand (delinearised) listening is another transversal phenomenon, whether for television or radio: replay and podcasting are essential, except for major “live” events (sports, The Voice, Academy Awards, Arab Idol, etc.) or despite a few rare counter-examples (Viacom’s Pluto.tv platform). The importance of playlists in the unlimited music sector, now replacing the time-honoured album and LP/EP, is also interesting. On the other hand, the one-off release of the entire season of a TV series, a model experimented with by Netflix in its early days and which favoured “binge watching,” is contradicted by other strategies. For example, Games of Thrones, involving delayed release of each episode and long-term success, appears to be another business model for building audience loyalty through unlimited streaming subscription offers.
Overall, the Internet and social networks contribute to modifying cultural hierarchy, at times turned upside down by digital technology, or at least fragmented and individualised — a kind of “flexible individualization of taste” (Poprawski, 2015). Much research has shown the blurring of the distinction between popular and elite culture — a break which is said to have occurred in the United States between President Johnson’s immigration laws, enacted in 1965, and the Supreme Court’s “Bakke” decision on cultural diversity in 1978 (Dworkin, 1978; Wood, 2003; Schuck, 2003; Martel, 2006). Ever since, as an comprehensive bibliography illustrates, this major groundswell is contributing to breaking down hierarchies (or at least to fragmenting and multiplying them) and, yet again at odds with the ideas of the Frankfurt School, to legitimising not only all forms of art, by considering the artistic dimension of Hollywood or Broadway, but also all kinds of music — including disco, electro or rap — as well as comics, video games, manga, TV series, design (industrial and interactive design), architecture and even graffiti and tattoos (Crossick/Kaszynska, 2016). The same applies to the entire advertising sector, no longer confined to “pay” — commerce and advertising agencies — but rediscovering its creative side, through “own” and “earn,” and once again focusing on creating content. The boundaries between art and entertainment are fading. This movement, now barely contradicted, also extends to regional cultures, certain crafts or fashion, and contributes to continuously expanding the notion of culture and its definition.
We can also hypothesise that digital technology completes this fundamental tendency, reshuffling all maps and scrambling all codes. Here, the boundaries between art and technology are blurring. From this point on, code engineers, software programmers or video game creators are frequently considered artists (Blais & Ippolito, 2006). Thus, “geek culture” and the “hacker ethic” appear to be the crucial link between art and the creative industries — both independent and often inseparable from the digital industry, taking with them the final residues of the traditional definition of “art” (Levy, 1984; Himanen, 2001; Turner, 2006; Bradbury & O’Hara, 2019).
Smartphones, social networks and apps
Beyond digital technology and the internet, another major transformation of the cultural sector has occurred with the appearance of an original “device” — the smartphone. Saying that the creative and cultural industries have been turned upside down in the last ten years by the iPhone launching on 29 June 2007 would be an understatement. In its wake, social networks are developing, “apps” are becoming central and culture is becoming increasingly mobile. Similar to the Walkman and iPod, its output tenfold, however, the smartphone allows us to carry our entire cultural life with us.
Today, in this new, connected world, we access the internet mainly through a smartphone (over 60%) and essentially via “apps”: on average we have 27 “apps” on our phones but spend an average of 80% of our time on merely five — of which at least one belongs to Google (Google, Google Maps, Google Play Music, Waze, YouTube) and another to Facebook (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp). This attests both to the dominance of the smartphone in accessing internet content and to increased concentration of actors (see US consumer data from the Wall Street Journal/Activate Technology & Media Outlook 2016 and 2020).
This is an entirely new world for researchers to decipher. Its consequences for the cultural sphere are just as decisive: some authors have focused on the popularity and branding of artists or cultural content, on artistic communication via social networks or on the need to make good use of marketing and visibility optimisation techniques such as SEO (Marantz, 2015; Jenkins, Green & Ford, 2013). Others have highlighted the new artistic practices linked to social networks (Paumgarten, 2014; Newton, 2016), the massive use of culture in mobility (Activate Technology & Media Outlook, 2020) or the emerging new economic models (Abbing, 2002; Martel, 2015; Erricojan, 2016; Davies, 2016b; Weckerle, 2018 ; Martel, 2018); yet others have focused on the model of remunerating artists via unlimited streaming (Erricojan, 2016), the question of paying-for and for-free (Anderson, 2006; Anderson, 2009), the transformation of television by social networks (Proulx & Shepatin, 2012), or the new, ensuing interactions (Christakis & Fowler, 2009).
Prescription and “smart curation”
Cultural prescription is also changing whether still-passive consumers (“lean-back” audience) or more active ones are targeted. While the weakening or even “death” of traditional cultural criticism is well documented (Rosenbaum, 2011; Widmer & Kleesattel, 2018), the new prescriptions have yet to be deciphered. “Scoring” and “liking” systems are taking over, albeit very imperfectly. The fact that these recommendations — and any critical discussion of a work’s value — are now global is another development with significant consequences (Martel, 2014).
From a critical perspective, we may note the proliferating number of studies on algorithms, which are not necessarily agnostic, contrary to what their programmers sometimes claim (Cardon, 2015; Peters, 2016; Gasser, 2019; Jean, 2019). Spotify’s algorithm has been much studied (Pasick, 2015; Finn, 2018), as has Netflix’s, with its 76,897 “micro-genres” (Madrigal, 2014). Some authors have also highlighted “bubble” phenomena, which tend to keep consumers in their cultural “comfort zone” (Pariser, 2011). This type of analysis, sometimes simplistic, has nevertheless been questioned or deepened (Gasser, 2019). The importance of data in social network prescription remains a crucial phenomenon.
In a more positive, forward-looking perspective, some authors have illustrated the complexity of musical tastes (Gasser, 2019), the role of friend-to-friend networks and knowledge of individual cultural choices (e.g. on Facebook, see Christakis & Fowler, 2009; on Twitter, see Bilton, 2013), or the transformation of television in the age of “social TV” (Proulx & Shepatin, 2012). Other authors have predicted the future evolution of algorithmics (Christian & Griffiths, 2016) and the importance of data in social network prescription (Standage, 2013) or have explored the possible benefits of big data for content industries (Mayer-Schönberger & Cukier, 2013). Some authors have attempted to understand how “machines” learn, particularly regarding curation and recommendations in a time of “machine learning” (Alpaydin, 2016; Kelly, 2016; Finn, 2018; Kelleher, 2019).
At the crossroads of these different approaches, the concept of “smart curation” provides both an algorithmic (the “smart”) and a human (the “curation”) perspective. Developed at Zurich University of the Arts (Martel, 2015; Widmer & Kleesattel, 2018), this approach needs to be credited for offering us an opportunity to regain control of our digital lives and to re-establish ourselves at the heart of the creative and prescriptive process. Today, many recommendation tools implement multiple “smart curation” filters, for example, Spotify’s “Discovery’s Weekly” playlists: these systems are all “customised” and based on triply filtered algorithmic recommendations, influencers and customisation (Pasick, 2015; Peters, 2016). The machine plus the human.
Cultural “criticism” is radically transforming due to the rise of algorithms, influencers and curation.
Faced with these large-scale changes, many techno-sceptical or downright critical authors — whether libertarian, post-Marxist, illiberalist or simply
“Belarusian” — have denounced the risks of derivatives or internet excesses (Auletta, 2009; Morozov, 2011; Turkle, 2012; Lanier, 2013; Turkle, 2015; Bratton, 2016; Taplin, 2017). New problems have also emerged in terms of regulation and digital education.
These questions are not new: in the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt introduced, as early as the 1930s, forms of regulation and “fair competition” in the market economy and created the major agencies which, almost a century later, continue to regulate the communications sector. Most notable among these are the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission (Starr, 2004; Einstein, 2004). The FCC’s “fairness doctrine,” implemented chiefly between 1949 and 1987, continues to be studied (Einstein, 2004). The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the National Telecommunications & Information Agency (NTIA), which is part of the Department of Commerce, also help to regulate telecommunications and digital technology. Finally, the Supreme Court plays a key role in protecting the privacy and data of Americans (see the highly protective ruling in Katz v. United States in 1967 and the less favorable one in Smith v. Maryland in 1979). It does so just as it previously regulated the film industry and Hollywood (e.g. United States v. Paramount Pictures in 1948).
Around this American tradition of regulation, an important debate exists today on the need to regulate the GAFA, to protect user data or to defend copyright. Many of these studies are of interest to cultural policy, be they generalist (Lescure, 2013; Martel, 2014) or specific to particular issues or sectors: the reterritorialisation of data (Colin & Colin, 2013; Mayer-Schonberger & Cukier, 2013), the functioning of algorithms (Cardon, 2015; Oremus, 2016; Christian & Griffiths, 2016 ; Jean, 2019), antitrust (Reback, 2009), the attention economy (Citton, 2014), the transformation of publishing (Borsuk, 2018), Amazon’s book trading (Packer, 2014), the economy of the press (Cagé, 2015), data remuneration or even the deceleration of social networks (Lanier, 2018; Colin, 2018; Léger, 2018). In part, the debate on copyright in the digital age also aligns with new approaches to fighting piracy after the failure of disproportionate sanctions: only wide-scale, reasonably priced lawful offers seem to be truly effective (Lessig, 2004; Palfrey, 2011; Durrer, Miller & O’Brien, 2019).
Concurrently, digital literacy and digital education have become priorities in teaching young generations (and even society as a whole) to think critically thinking about the uses of social networks, fake news (McIntyre, 2018), narcissism, notoriety (Lanier, 2013) or the information “deluge” (Gleick, 2011). Many libraries, particularly in the United States, have already made digital literacy one of their priorities, if not their core business. On the other side of the Atlantic, there is talk of “BiblioTechs,” the new book-free libraries funded by the US Department of Commerce (NTIA). One example is Bexar County Digital Library in San Antonio, Texas, which offers its users e-readers, computers and 10,000 ebooks — yet no more printed books. Digital literacy can become a real educational and artistic policy if we understand its full range of meanings: among others, learning to “read” the web, tools training, teaching the protection of privacy, promoting copyright, becoming digitally literate or learning to create on the internet in form of mashups or hackatons (Cardon, 2019). Retraining and continuing education will become increasingly essential for artists and the creative class as a whole (KEA, 2019).
Cultural policies are necessarily affected by the expansion of art, in all its forms, to digital technology and to what was until recently called “new media art.” As contemporary art is now intrinsically digital — digital technology often intervening at one level or another of artistic production — the expression “digital art” has become somewhat pleonastic. In fact, the boundary between art and technology has become considerably blurred. Interdisciplinarity is becoming the norm, with “post-digital” art already looming on the horizon (Bourriaud, 1998; Stallabrass, 2003; Colson, 2007; Wands, 2007; Paul, 2008; Couchot & Hillaire, 2009; Aziosmanoff, 2010; Bishop, 2017).
A real “digital” writing has emerged, whose diversity of codes, forms and languages is evident (YouTubers, BookTubers, instagrammers, authors of podcasts, posts, tweets, tutos, MOOCs or short formats, and new aesthetics of narration, etc.). Social networks are becoming central in the production of artistic content (Davies 2016a; Davies 2017); interdisciplinarity is moving centre stage; formats are diversifying ad infinitum; computer code is becoming art (Blais & Ippolito, 2006); “mixtures,” mixing and remixing are intersecting (Lessig, 2008); art by algorithm is emerging (Finn, 2018), etc. New upheavals, already taking shape, will necessarily affect the arts: artificial intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, the Internet of Things, connected speakers, cryptomoney or blockchain (Engasser, 2017; Reyburn, 2018; Finn, 2018; Rothman, 2018; Hui, 2019; KEA, 2019; Davies, 2019). Some are even wondering if the next artistic revolution will not be made by a computer artist now that symphonies or visual artworks are already being generated by artificial intelligence. Machine art is advancing!
For these reasons, the art world is changing, not only considerably but also increasingly radically. It is important to analyse these “writings,” this “style” and these “forms,” both in the tradition of the great critics, such as Roland Barthes, Serge Daney, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Godard, Gérard Genette, Marshall McLuhan or Susan Sontag, and through a necessary renewal of (still emerging) conceptual tools (Bourriaud, 1998; Colson, 2007; Hanna, 2009; Cardon, 2019). Ultimately, a real “semiology” of the internet and social networks is being born, indeed even a “poetics” is inscribing itself in the dynamics of Jean-Luc Godard’s famous formula about cinema: “Cinema is a thought that takes shape, a form that thinks.” The digital is a form that thinks.
III – New cultural policies in the age of algorithms
The digital transition is producing an artistic transition and thus a paradigm shift in cultural policies. This is occurring at all levels — cities, universities, Europe — and is accompanied by a shift in remuneration models for artists or in philanthropic systems. Thus, cultural policy is, directly or indirectly, being revolutionised.
Since the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, the European Union has been assigned competences in the cultural field. These have subsequently been clarified or supplemented (AVMS Directive, copyright, Creative Europe, defence of private copying, US/EU TTIP, etc.), even if this singular model of cultural funding remains limited. Although the cultural and creative sector is receiving increasing attention within the European institutions, due to its economic weight, attractiveness for tourists or “soft power,” dedicated public policies are still largely lacking. Moreover, action is dispersed across the portfolios of different commissioners (internal market, competition, European External Action Service, etc.). Is this model of European cultural policy effective? Is it sufficiently visible in a globalised world? Has it succeeded in adapting to the digital transition? Several authors have addressed these questions (Henze & Wolfram, 2014; Durrer, Miller & O’Brien, 2019); others are presenting ever more proposals to modernise this model in the digital age, to enable it to respond concretely to the needs of Europe’s cultural sector (KEA, 2019). The idea of creating an Erasmus for artists, which would be reserved for those under 35 years of age, is gaining ground in order to enhance mobility among young artists.
Further, the question of culture has often been confused, at the European level, with “cultural exception” and “cultural diversity.” For at least a decade, culture has even been integrated, and sometimes instrumentalised, in controversies over “national identity”; it has been used as a “place of memory” or as a “living” symbol of a national narrative. The genealogy of this obsession has been studied, for example, in the case of France (Vlassis, 2015; Martigny, 2016). More recently, in 2019, the establishment of a commissioner portfolio tasked with “Protecting the European way of life” (the name was later changed) sparked intense controversy within the European Union despite the post of commissioner for “culture” being abolished — the controversy affirmed both the concerns and the tensions about culture. Rather than defending an improbable single European “identity” or “way of life,” perhaps we should think of Europe as a plural territory, characterised by linguistic diversity and “multiple identities” (Sen, 2006; Judt, 2007).
The creative city
Consistent with certain prescient works (Garreau, 1991; Castells, 1998; Mitchell, 1999), the creative and digital city has become a fashionable concept since the 2000s, most notably the notion of the “smart city.” There is an abundance of literature in this field. Numerous researchers have proposed definitions, typologies or in-depth studies, advancing either more cultural or more digital visions (Etzkowitz, 2008; Townsend, 2013; Satyam & Calzada, 2017; Heller, 2017). Nevertheless, serious comparative analysis of the relevance of these concepts and their economic and creative effectiveness is still lacking (Afonso, 2012; Glaeser, 2012; Karvonen, Cugurullo & Caprotti, 2018).
Beyond the debates on “smart cities,” the importance of the cultural economy for urban development has also been demonstrated. This is confirmed by more general studies (Clark & Bartlett, 2011; Crossick & Kaszynska, 2016; Kangas & Duxbury, 2018), as well as by numerous specific geographical studies, for instance, in Europe, where the sector is estimated to account for more than 6.7 million jobs (KEA, 2019), in New York (Currid, 2007), Seattle (Beyers, Bonds, Wenzl & Sommers, 2004), Israel (Senor/Singer, 2009) and London, where culture is the third largest source of employment (Pratt, 2009). Investing in culture is therefore a “sound investment” in terms of economic development (Borrup, 2006; Goldbard, 2006; Henze & Wolfram, 2014; Crossick & Kaszynska, 2016). This unanimous consent among economic studies seems somewhat surprising, even more so the enthusiasm of elected local officials for these ideas, too good to be entirely accurate, to the point that their relevance is debatable.
At a more “micro” level, cities have also developed much-studied cultural “spaces.” Whether these are “third places,” “co-working” spaces, makerspaces, hackerspaces, incubators, fablabs, accelerators, making labs, or simply “garages” — including the precise nuances distinguishing these terms — researchers have sought to understand those best suited to developing creation, as well as those truly fostering innovation, collaboration, or interaction with other artistic sectors (Burret, 2015 ; Graves, 2016; McGrath, 2018; Bradbury & O’Hara, 2019). The importance of the “communities” making these places possible is also worth studying, as is the movement towards artist residencies.
On balance, these debates reveal that artists are less and less funded as individuals and more and more frequently through “places”; similarly, museums tend to privilege architectural grandeur over aesthetic programming (Woronkowicz et al., 2012). These developments, already momentous, foreground the creativity of spaces and cities rather than that of artists (Florida, 2002; Glaeser, 2012).
Measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of cultural policies
The social sciences have always fretted over demonstrating their effectiveness (Grawitz, 1964). Today, elected officials, foundations and philanthropists are mounting increasing pressure to subject art to the principles of effectiveness and evaluation. This is true even of subsidised or not-for-profit arts sectors (the laws of the market inherently pressure the cultural industries).
Evaluating cultural policy is therefore a rapidly developing field (Jackson, Kabwasa-Green & Herranz, 2006; Borrup, 2006; Goldbard, 2006; Pratt, 2009 ; Crossick & Kaszynska, 2016; Rosenstein, 2019). Tourism is also central to evaluation, as are indexes and rankings (Florida, 2002). And since investment aims to improve the “community” rather than the lives of artists, the question sometimes arises whether it is still a matter of cultural policy or rather urban policy (Glaeser, 2012; Grams & Farrell, 2008).
Hence, artists and cultural organisations are hastening to provide tangible arguments in response — and figures! Alas, few tools and rigorous, or innovative, scientific studies for that matter, exist to validate these policies, that is, when these evaluation methods are not artificial or just cobbled together. New studies, however, have appeared, despite regional contrasts (Clark, 2014). Examples include the “cultural value” approach (i.e. the value of the arts and culture and their contributions to society and individuals). This is even more fruitful because it seeks to rely on new scientific methodology (Crossick & Kaszynska, 2016). Here, too, the well-documented idea, that it is important to nurture living communities if one is to pursue cultural projects, needs to be mentioned (Putnam, 2000; Borrup, 2006; Goldbard, 2006; Cornfield, 2018). As are the efforts undertaken by the Council of Europe in association with the Dutch Boekman Foundation (Compendium of Cultural Policies & Trends; see also www.culturalpolicies.net/). Another interesting avenue could be envisaged in terms of the evaluation methods devised to establish the effectiveness of development policies, as used by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo: in conjunction with fine-grained field analysis, these researchers have developed “Randomized Controlled Trials” ((RCTs) at J-PAL, their MIT-based laboratory, from which cultural policy could draw inspiration (Duflo, 2019; Banerjee & Duflo, 2011).
Finally, we should mention innovative studies on quality of life and “community well-being,” which are beginning to take cultural life into account, albeit still timidly. In line with earlier work (Stiglitz, Sen & Fitoussi, 2009; Nussbaum/Sen, 1993), culture is now appearing in studies and indices on well-being and quality of life (Michalos, 2005).
Artists’ new economic models
In a highly volatile environment, the economic life of artists is also undergoing great transformation. Several major developments, sometimes intertwined, sometimes contradictory, can be observed.
First, the artistic and creative professions seem to be more mobile. The mobility of artists is significant, especially from one city to another, or from one state to another in the United States, where this phenomenon has been well studied (Markusen, 2006; Markusen, 2018). But this also seems to be true in Europe (KEA, 2019).
There is also a great deal of flexible working among artists. This is not new (Menger, 1983; Menger, 2003) but has become more pronounced with the spreading of a real “gig-economy” across the artistic sector. Recent research, conducted in several countries, shows that artists are now frequently classed as “auto-entrepreneurs,” “start-uppers” or “freelancers.” This can be explained by the need to manage multiple employment contracts, in order to benefit from a certain social protection, or may also result from tax-related considerations (Scherdin & Zander, 2011; Woronkowicz & Noonan, 2019). This generalisation of “self-employment” among artists is well documented and seems disproportionately high compared to other professional categories: 33% of American artists are self-employed, four times more than the rest of the population; among them: 65% of writers, 57% of visual artists, 41% of musicians, 37% of actors, 36% of performing artists, 32% of designers, 28% of architects (Markusen, 2020). Thus, artists — and “slash artists”, as I call them in a paper because they work in several fields as photography/design/visual arts (Martel, 2018) — are said to symbolise this “gig economy” or “art entrepreneurship” (Woronkowicz & Noonan, 2018; Woronkowicz, 2020). According to some researchers, this is accompanied by impoverishment (Abbing, 2002), the need for rapid success (before the fateful age of 30, ironically considered “the artist’s death by 30”) or, on the contrary, by flourishing (Johnson, 2015). Another trend in current research concerns this artistic, artisanal and “gig economy” mode of activity, and how, more generally, it prefigures the intermittent or flexible nature of the world of work (Menger, 2014). Thus, the artistic condition is not as atypical as it is said to be, since it heralds the future of work.
In so doing, and linked to the digital transition, new economic models have emerged, a real “positive economy,” from which artists fully benefit (Johnson, 2015; Weckerle, 2018; Martel, 2018), albeit unequally at times (Erricojan, 2016).
If artists relocate geographically, and if they change their professional status and business models, they also venture beyond their “comfort zone.” Their creative skills will be increasingly sought-after in the world of work (interactive design, animation, AI, networking, data, advertising, etc.). This movement is multi-faceted and sometimes referred to as the “embedded artist,” in order to define artistic work outside the cultural sphere, the relationship between arts and entrepreneurs or the artistic skills needed in other, non-cultural sectors where innovation is important — including the debate on the “transferability” of these artistic skills (Wickert & Martel, 2020; Markusen, 2020; Woronkowicz, 2020). Through this process, the “creative class” is expanding beyond the traditional boundaries of art into “non-artistic” fields, with “non-artists” increasingly working in artistic fields.
While artists’ economic models are changing, so are other areas of cultural policy. For example, public subsidies for culture are tending to decrease, not only in the United States, but also in countries where they appeared to be more robust, such as Belgium, Germany and even France (Feder & Katz-Gero, 2015). Similarly, fiscal policies are also changing (Rosenstein, 2019).
For its part, philanthropy is changing, despite forming the basis of cultural funding in many countries. This transformation is not necessarily negative, as evidenced by the increased importance of local or regional philanthropy in the United States (Irvine Foundation in California, William Penn in Philadelphia, Gilman in New York, the Barr or Cummings foundations in Boston, Hewlett in San Francisco, Kresge in Detroit, etc.). More often, however, American foundations and philanthropists tend to change their priorities, focusing on racial equality rather than on the arts (Ford Foundation, Carnegie, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, etc.). Even when the arts do remain at the heart of their agenda (Andrew Mellon, Luce, Doris Duke, Terra, Surdna, ArtBridges etc.), these foundations tend to focus on cultural development in troubled neighbourhoods or on diversity-related projects. Thus a slow transformation is occurring: grants once aimed at promoting artistic “excellence” now tend to support economic development, urban regeneration or diversity (Grodach & Silver, 2012; Crossick & Kaszynska, 2016).
The place of artists in the university
While in Europe the place of artists in the university remains fragile — especially in France and Germany — this is not the case in other countries. In the United States, the university lies at the heart of the cultural model, rather than on its fringes: serving not only as places of training and for amateur work, but also as venues for professional exhibitions and performances, American universities also contribute to the research and development done at Hollywood studios, to experimentation and “try-outs” in the field of theatre, to the diversity of editorial production (thanks to university presses), to innovation in the visual arts or to the persistence of classical music training (Martel, 2006). Many of these activities are major sources of funding for artists, especially now that the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is the most widely recognised artistic reference qualification in the profession. Here we must add the interesting development of “research-creation” and “artist-researchers,” i.e. artists employed or contracted by the universities where they pursue their research and experimentation, the aim being to create interactions between scientific research and artistic creation — a genuine hybridisation (Manning & Massumi, 2018; Citton, 2018; Delacourt, 2019).
This university-based cultural development is important because, besides providing artists with potential sources of funding, it also enables delimiting “art” — with its own funding, experimentation and risk-taking outside the market — from the creative industries, which doubtless belong to the market economy. In the case of cinema, for instance, this interesting development makes it possible to link its most artistic part to contemporary art and the visual arts — with limited audience objectives and adequate funding — and to distinguish it from the industry or the multiplex system. This separation, which ought to be neither arbitrary nor rigid, could allow a part of culture to regain funding without, however, facing market pressure.
IV – New futures: The questions ahead
Beyond the various economic developments studied by cultural policy researchers, this article — largely bibliographical — concludes by highlighting new problems capable of strongly impacting and hence changing cultural policies. Two issues — diversity and the environment — are likely to become particularly significant in the coming years.
DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion)
The first issue, “diversity” in a broad sense, is hardly new. Its rise to prominence in American politics in general, and in American cultural policy in particular, dates from 1965–1978 (Martel, 2006) and occupies centre stage today. Equal opportunities, gender equality or sexual diversity are now also increasingly prominent in Europe (KEA, 2019).
Whether in terms of visibility, aesthetics or representation, from the boards of directors of cultural institutions to the appointments of the directors of cultural institutions, the issue of diversity is omnipresent. This struggle may at times appear somewhat hypocritical, when countries like France, Belgium or Canada actively fight for cultural diversity internationally (i.e. most often against the United States in defence of national cultural production) while abandoning this noble concern at home, for example, for aborigines, indigenous peoples, populations of Arab origin or regional languages. The United States, while actively promoting cultural diversity at home, tends to deny it internationally, in order to impose its cultural productions. Two worlds on opposite fronts — yet the same hypocrisy (Martel, 2006).
Today, migration is a central theme for artists, as evidenced by numerous creative collectives forming to advocate on behalf of migrants or the cosmopolitan nature of artists and their mobility (Katz-Gero, 2018).
Finally, more recent debates, such as the critique of “cultural appropriation,” are also helping a more radical discourse emerge, one articulating itself around the issue of diversity.
A sustainable culture
Just as diversity is emerging as one of the major issues in cultural policies, environmental diversity is also likely to become ever more crucial (KEA, 2019). In an early work on the subject, Felix Guattari defined “three ecological registers: that of the environment, that of social relations and that of human subjectivity.” He thus called for a triple and “authentic political, social and cultural revolution,” insisting on the need to “forge new paradigms […] inspired by ethico-aesthetics.” Further, he maintained the need to conceive of and implement these three paradigm shifts “all in one” (Guattari, 1989).
In the same vein, yet enlisting another lineage, different authors have defended or highlighted the need for articulation between art and the environment, achievable through at least three modes: the first, post-Guattarian, is philosophical and involves creating new paradigms and new artistic theories, thus enabling art to develop in harmony with the environments it inhabits, including non-human ones (Latour, 2015; Latour, 2017). The second mode is aesthetic and concerns the now very substantial field of art and artists treating the environment as a direct or indirect object, from Land Art to environmental art collectives (Parti poétique; Coal; Thanks for nothing etc.). Finally, the third, more political mode, at the crossroads of art and engagement, involves the ecological considerations of artists and cultural institutions, for example, by refusing temporary decorations, piles of exhibition catalogues or disposable picture rails. This environmental preoccupation is already reflected in a willingness to favour ecological artistic structures, to renew reflection on the conservation of works (Lerner, 2016) or to name “ecological referents” in certain artistic institutions (e.g. London’s Tate Modern, which defines itself as a “more environmentally friendly museum”).
These debates also reach into the digital arts. The question of the environmental cost of digital technology is raised increasingly by energy-intensive networks and clouds, as well as storage centres, not to mention the use of rare metals or programmed obsolescence, despite the subject receiving contradictory treatment (Flipo, Dobré & Michot, 2013). These examples and background developments suggest that ecology is becoming central to culture: new articulations between digital, cultural and ecological transitions are emerging, one cultural industries and policies will no longer be able to ignore (Portney, 2015; Vidalenc; 2019).
Finally, and for several reasons mentioned in this article, new artistic radicalities are emerging, whether in the environmental domains, cultural diversity, digital technology or even cultural policy. Faced with the domination of the creative industries and the hegemony of the GAFA, or to denounce the failures of cultural policies, a new “artistic activism” is emerging. Radical artistic collectives are proliferating (Tactical Tech, Reclaim the Streets, Les Périphériques vous parlent, Ne Pas Plier, Gaz à tous les étages, artistic collectives around ZADs, “poetic dispositifs,” etc.; see also Hanna, 2010). A whole neo-bohemian, hacker, collaborative and at times neo-hippie movement is developing — as illustrated in part by the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, where I saw the non-profit, environmental and artistic dimensions mingle (Himanen, 2001; Lloyd, 2005; Martel, 2016; Shister, 2019). Other experiments exist, including “cultural alter-economies,” “cultural counter-policy” collectives, the development of “infra” or “under-commons” forms in cultural policies (Harney & Moten, 2013) or certain artist groups reappropriating their means of production (e.g. country musicians in Nashville) (Cornfield, 2018). The notion of the “entrepreneurial artist,” however marketable and however different from the classic bohemian model, also corresponds to a desire for autonomy and emancipation from any “guardianship,” and sometimes, since they appear to be drying up or constantly diminishing, even from subsidies.
Conclusion: The “new” cultural policy
While “cultural policy” was a relatively recent discipline still seeking legitimacy in the academic world, it was forced to undergo the digital transition at the beginning of the “digital century.” And with issues of “diversity” and ecology expected to once again help reshape cultural policy, we may tentatively define this sector as being, by nature and intrinsically, constantly evolving.
Hence, we need to grasp its ongoing transformation and constantly broaden its scope to include both the old, long-neglected artistic disciplines and the new, emerging ones. We must also understand this sector beyond public policy alone, in order to extend it to the many decisive public, non-profit and commercial actors. It is therefore a question, in the broadest sense, of thinking a “politics of culture” proper (Martel, 2006).
This article, based on a review of the main studies published in recent years, encourages widening the notion of “cultural policy” to include its various — and new — current components, beyond mere arts policy: the economy of culture (and new sources of funding); the cultural industries, which must lie at the heart of cultural policies, no longer at their edges; digital policy and the regulation of digital platforms; new philanthropies; arts education; knowledge of algorithms; the creative city, incubation sites and urban revitalisation; social networks; start-ups and cultural entrepreneurship; cultural diplomacy; the creative class; soft power; tax policy and tax deductions; European cultural policy; telecoms and their regulation; consumer rights — and what I have called the “micro-policies” of culture.
This explains why cultural policy needs to be taught in artistic institutions and, beyond that, across higher education, in order to enable artists to engage in career-long training, and “non-artists” to approach the codes of innovation and artistic risk-taking. Despite its recent changes, which are therefore consubstantial with its young history, cultural policy is emerging, in this “digital century,” as a discipline in its own right (Bennett, 2019; Durrer, Miller & O’Brien, 2019).
* Frédéric Martel is professor of creative economies at Zurich University of Arts (ZHdK) and the director of the Zurich Centre for Creative Economies (ZCCE) at ZHdK. He is the author of ten books, including De la Culture en Amérique, Mainstream and Smart. He hosts the weekly radio programme « Soft Power », devoted to the creative and digital industries, on France Culture (Radio France Group).
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– La politique de l’autonomie, Lutte contre la pauvreté II, Seuil/République des idées, 2010
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– The Hollywood Economist, The Hidden Financial Reality Behing the Movies, Melville House, 2010.
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– The Triple Helix, University-Industry-Government, Innovation in Action, Routledge, 2008.
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– « The cultural hierarchy in funding: Government funding of the performing arts based on ethnic and geographic distinctions », Poetics, n°49, 2015.
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– The Flight of the Creative Class, Harper, 2005.
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Desmond Hui, ed., AR Awakening : X-Realities of Honk Kong Layering, MCCM Creations, 2019.
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Steven Johnson, Everything Bad is Good for You, Penguin Books, 2005.
– « The Creative Apocalypse that wasn’t », New York Times, 19 août 2015 (based on the following data : Department of Labor and the Occupational Employment Statistics and Economic Census; the data are confirmed by studies by the National Endowment for the Arts.).
Tony Judt, Après Guerre, Une histoire de l’Europe depuis 1945, Armand Colin, 2007
Michiko Kakutani, « Selling as Hard as He can », The New York Times, October 28, 2013
Anita Kangas, Nancy Duxbury, et al., Cultural Policies for Sustainable Development, Routledge, 2018.
Andrew Karvonen, Federico Cugurullo, Federico Caprotti, eds., Inside Smart Cities : Place, Politics and Urban Innovation, Routledge, 2018.
Tally Katz-Gerro, « Cross-National Differences in the Consumption of Non-National Culture in Europe », Cultural Sociology, Vol. 11(4), 2017.
Gina Keating, Netflixed : The Epic battle for America’s Eyeballs, Portfolio Trade, 2013.
John Kelleher, Deep Learning, The MIT Press, 2019.
Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable, Viking, 2016 (see the chapter on « Filtering »).
Grant Kester, The One and the Many : Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context, Duke University Press, 2011.
Parag Khanna, The Second World, How Emerging Powers Are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-First Century, Random House, 2008.
Michel Lallement, L’Âge du faire, Hacking, travail, anarchie, Seuil, 2015.
Charles Landry, The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators, Earthscan, 2003.
Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future ?, Allen Lane, 2013.
– Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Bodley Head, 2018.
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– Où atterrir ?, La Découverte, 2017.
Lucas Léger, ed., « Mes data sont à moi. Pour une patrimonialité des données personnelles », Think tank Generation Libre, 2018.
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Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas: the Fate of the Commons in a Connected World, Random House, 2001
– Free Culture: How Big Medias Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, Penguin Press, 2004
– Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, Penguin Press, 2008.
– « Off the Grid, The Superstar Law Professor is Marching across New Hampshire to Save Democracy. Are You with Him ? », interview par Simon Van Zuylen-Wood, The New Republic, 5 février, 2014.
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Alexis Madrigal, « How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood », The Atlantic, 2 Janvier 2014.
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Andrew Marantz, « The Virologist », The New Yorker, 5 janvier 2015.
Ann Markusen, « Artists Embedded: Sector, Employment Status, Occupation, Industry, Employer Type, Place », 2020, in Hartmut Wickert, Frédéric Martel, éds., Embedded Artists, Artists Outside the Art World: The World in Quest of Artists, op. cit.
– « Creative Placemaking: A Reflection on a 21s Century American Arts Policy Initiative » in Courage Cara, Anita McKeown, eds., Creative Placemaking and Beyond, Routledge, 2018
Ann Markusen, Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, « Creative Placemaking », Mayors’ Institute on City Design, National Endowment for the Arts, October 2010 (online here).
Ann Markusen, Sam Gilmore, Amanda Johnson, Titus Levi, Andrea Martinez, « Crossover: How Artists Build Careers across Commercial, Nonprofit and Community Work. Minneapolis », Project on Regional and Industrial Economics, University of Minnesota, 2006
Ann Markusen, Greg Schrock, « The Artistic Dividend : Urban Artistic Specialization and Economic Development Implications », Urban Studies 43, n°10, 2006.
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– Mainstream, Enquête sur la guerre globale de la culture et des médias, Flammarion, 2010.
– Smart, Enquête sur les internets, Stock, 2014.
– « L’écrivain social, la condition de l’écrivain à l’âge numérique », Rapport officiel, Centre National du Livre/Ministère de la Culture (France), 2015.
– « Smart Curation and the Role of Algorithms in Cultural Reception », in chapter 3, pp. 42-51 (three articles first published in Slate in 2015), reprinted in : Ruedi Widmer, Ined Kleesattel, eds., Scripted Culture, Digitalization and the Cultural Public Sphere, op. cit..
– « Faut-il être fou pour installer sur un désert hostile l’un des plus grands festivals du monde ? », Slate, 11 September 2016.
– « Positive Economy, Towards New Business Models for Artists », pp. 5-25, in C. Weckerle, 3rd Creative Economies Report, 2018, art. cit.
Vincent Martigny, Dire la France. Culture(s) et identités nationales (1981-1995), Presses de Sciences Po, 2016.
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Mariana Mazzucato, The Entrepreneurial State, Anthem Press, 2013.
Pierre-Michel Menger, Paradoxe du musicien, Flammarion, 1983
– Portrait de l’artiste en travailleur : Métamorphoses du capitalisme, La République des Idées/Le Seuil, 2003
– Le Travail créateur. S’accomplir dans l’incertain, Gallimard/Seuil, 2014.
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Toby Miller, Nitin Govil, John McMurria, Richard Maxwell, Global Hollywood, BFI, 2001.
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Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion : The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, Public Affairs, 2011.
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Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital, Vintage, 1995.
Casey Newton, « How one of the best films at Sundance was shot using an iPhone 5S », The Verge, 28 February 2016.
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Martha Nussbaum, Not For Profit, Why Democracy Needs The Humanities, Princeton University Press, 2010.
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– The Future of Power, Public Affairs, 2011.
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Nick Paumgarten, « We Are a Camera. Experience and memory in the age of GoPro », The New Yorker, 22 September 2014.
Benjamin Peters, ed., Digital Keywords, A Vocabulary of Information, Society & Culture, Princeton University Press, 2016 (see esp.: « Introduction », « Algorithmn », « Cloud », « Participation », « Prototype », « Sharing » et « Personalization »).
Policy Research Group, The Creative Economy : Key Concepts and Literature, Review Highlights, Canadian Heritage, May 2013.
Marcin Poprawski, « Cultural education organizations and flexible individualization of taste », Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 28 No. 2, 2015.
Kent E. Portney, Sustainability, The MIT Press, 2015.
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Andy Pratt, « The Challenge of Governance in the Creative and Cultural Industries », in Lange, Kalandides, Stober, Wellmann, eds., Governance Der Kreativwirtschaft: Diagnosen Und Handlungsoptionen, Verlag, 2009.
– « Music Rights: Towards a Material Geography of Musical Practices in the ‘Digital Age’ », in Hracs, Seman, Virani, éds., The Production and Consumption of Music in the Digital Age, Routledge, 2016.
– « Innovation and the Cultural Economy », in Harald Bathelt, Patrick Cohendet, Sebastian Henn, Laurent Simon, éds, The Elgar Companion to Innovation and Knowledge Creation: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach, Edward Elgar, 2017.
– « Cultural Industries and Public Policy : An Oxymoron ? », International Journal of Cultural Policy, 11, pp. 31-44.
David Price, The Pixar Touch, The Making of a Company, Knopf, 2008.
Mike Proulx, Stacey Shepatin, Social TV, John Wiley, 2012.
Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone, The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Touchstone, 2000.
Gary L. Reback, Free the Market ! Why Only Government Can Keep the Marketplace Competitive, Portfolio, 2009 (see also Gary Reback and Susan Creighton: Steve Lohr, « Onetime Allies in Antitrust Part Ways Over Google », New York Times, 16 December 2012 and James Temple, « Antitrust Bulldog Gary Reback Pushes Google Probe », San Francisco Chronicle, January 24, 2011).
Scott Reyburn, « Why Cryptocurrencies be the art market’s next big thing ? », New York Times, 13 January 2018.
Frank Rich, Hot Seat, Theater Criticism for The New York Times, 1980-1993, Random House, 1998.
Steven Rosenbaum, Curation Nation, Why the Future of Content is Context, How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators, McGraw Hill, 2011.
Carole Rosenstein, Understanding Cultural Policy, Routledge, 2018.
Alex Ross, « The Classical Cloud. The pleasures and frustrations of listening online », The New Yorker, 8 September 2014.
– « The Fate of the Critic in the Clickbait Age », The New Yorker, 13 March 2017.
Gabriel Rossman, Climbing the Charts, What Radio Airplay Tells Us About the Diffusion of Innovation, Princeton University Press, 2012.
Joshua Rothman, « In the Age of A.I., is seing still believing ? », The New Yorker, 12 November 2018.
Nayan Ruparelia, Cloud Computing, The MIT Press, 2016.
Michael Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy, The Moral Limits of Markets, Allen Lane, 2012.
Amitabh Satyam, Igor Calzada, The Smart City Transformations, The Revolution of the 21st Century, Bloomsbury, 2017.
Michael Scherdin, Ivo Zander, ed., Art entrepreneurship, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2011.
Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen, The New Ditital Age, Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, Knopf, 2013.
Peter Schuck, Diversity in America : keeping government at a safe distance, Harvard University Press, 2003.
Amartya Sen, Identity & Vilence, The Illusions of Destiny ; conférences, 2001-2002 ; Penguin Books, 2006.
Dan Senor, Saul Singer, Start-up Nation, The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, Twelve, 2009.
Neil Shister, Radical Ritual: How Burning Man Changed the World, Counterpoint, 2019
Tom Shone, Blockbuster, How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, Simon and Schuster, 2004.
Ben Sisario, « New Way to Pay Songwriters and Musicians in the Streaming Age Advances », New York Times, 28 June 2018.
Emmanuël Souchier, Étienne Candel, Gustavo Gomez-Mejia, Le Numérique comme écriture, Armand Colin, 2019.
Julian Stallabrass, Internet Art : The Online Clash Between Culture and Commerce, Tate Publishing, 2003.
Tom Standage, Writing on the Wall, Social Media. The First 2,000 Years, Bloomsbury, 2013.
Paul Starr, The Creation of the media, Political origins of Modern Communications, Basic Books, 2004.
James B. Stewart, DisneyWar, Simon & Schuster, 2005.
Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, Jean-Paul Fitoussi, Richesse des nations et bien-être des individus : performances économiques et progrès social, Odile Jacob, 2009.
Brad Stone, The Everything Store, Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, Little, Brown and Company, 2013.
Jonathan Taplin, Move Fast and Break Things, How Facebook, Google and Amazon cornered culture and undermined democracy, Little, Brown & Company, 2017.
Peter Taylor, Larissa Davies, Peter Wells, Jan Gilbertson, William Tayleur, A Review of the Social Impacts of Culture and Sports, CASE Program, 2015.
David Throsby, Economics and Culture, Cambridge University Press, 2001 ; new ed. 2004.
Anthony M. Townsend, Smart Cities, Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, Norton, 2013.
Enzo Traverso, « Adorno et les antinomies de l’industrie culturelle », Communications, 2012/2, n°91, pp. 51-63.
Sherry Turkle, Alone Together, Why we expect from technology and less from each other, Basic Books, 2012
– Reclaiming Conversation, The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Penguin Press, 2015.
Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, University of Chicago Press, 2006.
Philippe Urfalino, L’invention de la politique culturelle, Hachette, 1996.
Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, American Project, The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto, Harvard University Press, 2000.
Eric Vidalenc, Pour une écologie numérique, Les petits matins, 2019.
Antonios Vlassis, Gouvernance mondiale et culture : De l’exception à la diversité, Presses Universitaires de Liège, 2015.
Bruce Wands, L’Art à l’ère numérique, Thames & Hudson, 2007.
Christoph Weckerle, « Swiss Cultural Policy Profile in compendium database », Cultural Policies, 2014 (https://www.culturalpolicies.net/)
– éd., « Entrepreneurial Strategies for a “Positive Economy” », 3rd Creative Economies Report, Switzerland 2018, Creative Economies Research Venture, Zurich, 2018 (see Frédéric Martel, « Positive Economy, Towards New Business Models for Artists », pp. 5-25)
Christoph Weckerle, Andreas Volk, « Die Rolle von Kultur und Kulturpolitik in den schweizerischen Aussenbeziehungen », Synthesebericht, Schweizerischer Nationalfonds/Swiss National Science Foundation, 1999.
Hartmut Wickert, Frédéric Martel, éds., Embedded Artists, Artists Outside the Art World: The World in Quest of Artists, ZHdK Publication, 2020.
Ruedi Widmer, Ined Kleesattel, éds., Scripted Culture, Digitalization and the Cultural Public Sphere, Diaphanes/Zurich, 2018.
Peter Wood, Diversity, the invention of a concept, Encounter Books, 2003.
Joanna Woronkowicz, Douglas Noonan, « Why Goes Freelance ? The Determinants of Self-Employment for Artists », Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol 43 (4), 2019.
Joanna Woronkowicz, « The Embedded Artist Worker: Shifting Perspectives on Artists in the Labor Force », 2020, in Hartmut Wickert, Frédéric Martel, éds., Embedded Artists, Artists Outside the Art World: The World in Quest of Artists, op. cit.
Joanna Woronkowicz, Carroll Joynes, Peter Frumkin, Anastasia Kolendo, Bruce Seaman, Robert Gertner, Norman Bradburn, Set in Stone : Building America’s New Generation of Arts, Cultural Policy Center at University of Chicago, 2012.
Tim Wu, « Niche is the New Mass », The New Republic, 9 December 2013.
Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World and the Rise of the Rest, Norton, 2008.
Statistics and data:
– MEDIA AND DIGITAL DATA, US & GLOBAL: Wall Street Journal/Activate Technology & Media Outlook 2016 et 2020, see https://activate.com/outlook/; see also PriceWaterHouseCoopers: Global entertainment & media outlook 2017-2021, New York (a comprehensive five-year forecast focuses on trends across 17 segments and 54 countries ; including Entertainment, Movie Industry, Music, Book, TV, Video Game, Media outlets, Internet). Overview/country data: The Economist, World in Figure, 2018
– WTO/OMC : World Trade Statistical Review 2017.
– FMI/IMF : Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Statistics, 2015 and World Economic Outlook, January 2018.
– EUROPE: Eurostat, Cultural Statistics, 2016 (Statistical Office of the European Communities) ; KEA & PPMI, Research for CULT Committee, Culture and creative sectors in the European Union, European Parliament, Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, 2019.
– UNESCO: Creative Economy Report, 2013, Institute for Statistics (few data and little government self-reporting, therefore unreliable).
– UNCTAD (U.N. agency dealing with trade, investment and development issues) : Creative Economy Outlook, Trends in international trade in creative industries, UNCTAD/DITC/TED, 2018.
– ARTIST EMPLOYMENT (US) : US government’s Population Census (the acclaimed « Census » has been replaced by a « sample ») ; American Community Survey 2010-2014; US Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, 2005 ; National Endowment for the Arts; McKinsey Global Institute Survey; JPMorgan Chase & Co Institute; National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER, 1995-2015 (for a discussion of these data as applicable to the arts, see Sunil Iyengar & Bonnie Nichols, « Taking Note : Measuring the Gig Economy through a New Data Source », NEA, Dec 2016; see also Markusen, 2020).
– NEA / National Endowment for the Arts (US): numerous studies available on the NEA site.
– NESTA (Royaume Uni): for studies and data on Europe and the United Kingdom (see NESTA’s «Creative Economy & Culture» division).
– COMPENDIUM of Cultural Policies & Trends, Boekman Foundation (The Netherland).
– IDATE : DigiWorld Yearbook 2017.
– PIRACY: For piracy data in the music sector, see « The Media Piracy Report », The American Assembly at Colombia University, 2011; on cinema: MPAA (Sources). See also: The Department of Commerce, Internet Policy Task Force, Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy, 2013 (PDF).
– CINEMA: On the US box office, see MPAA; On US Box Office : Variety ; Hollywood Reporter, BoxOfficeMojo et IMDb.
– MUSIC: Music sales (CD and streaming): Nielsen SoundScan and Billboard.
– PUBLISHING (sales in the US and Canada): Nielsen BookScan.
– RADIO : CMJ New Music Report; podcasts : magellan.ai