Young people and digital technology – culture in pole position #FA2012


This article was written by David Lacombled, Chief Strategic Content Officer for Orange.

Culture and digital technology are not irreconcilable, as we are too often told. Of course, culture is first and foremost part a fixture of continuity; while digital technology takes its momentum from continuous breakthroughs… However, this difference can turn out to be promising in terms of dialogues and future wealth.


For the Forum d’Avignon 2012, Atelier BNP Paribas has conducted a fascinating survey on ‘New generations and digital culture.’

Upon perusal, one may breathe a sigh of relief, since far from replacing existing media and older practices, digital technology in fact complements them. One may even say it adds to them. At the outset, when it comes to culture, we always have and always will listen to the advice of friends. Digital technology takes care of amplifying this trend. Even for the youngest respondents, who were born in the Internet age, advice from other people remains the strongest motivation.

This tallies with and corroborates what we have been seeing for months, thanks to the bi-monthly information delivered by the Orange-Terrafemina Observatory : “new media” – which is now over fifteen years old – does not in fact replace “old media,” rather the new disseminates the old, and encourages its promotion.

“New media” is not a vacuum, or a spontaneous generation. In essence, Internet is “link culture” – that disseminates and is necessarily embedded in other media, and realities other than one’s own…

A virtuous law can be seen thanks to our observations. The more present you are on the Internet, and the more contact you have with your friends on social networks, the more likely you are to give in to temptation: you will discover more reading material, go to the movies more often, check out the latest exhibitions, listen to music and go to concerts, find out about new foods, and so on.

By the grace of hypertext and conversations on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, the one-thing-leads-to-another effect is working at full tilt: digital technology is a matrix for unexpected, fortuitous discoveries that are the very bedrock of culture. The Internet causes a snowball effect in terms of desire for culture.

In addition, there is another encouraging point: we can see that in terms of culture, the new generation is not passive – as many other generations have been – rather they are participative, even active. When faced with a fragmented, heterogeneous supply, a new Alexandrian library, the youngest respondents are perfectly able to create their own programs, organize their areas of interest, and decide on their chosen advice-givers.

However, let’s not kid ourselves. A blind spot remains. In the eyes of these new generations, Culture has a value, but not necessarily a price. Though they recognize the value of Copyright (60% of the youngest respondents in fact think these systems are well-suited), 82% of them think that all cultural content should be accessible free of charge…

Is this contradictory? Yes, as this generation, known as the “Y” generation is, in some respects. Its members see digital technology as the horn of plenty of Culture, but this horn will sooner or later dry up if its actors are not equitably paid.

It is in this respect that a mission falls to us. Not only must we encourage contact and the practice of Culture with these younger generations, we must above all promote what we might call the culture of Culture… this increased awareness that Culture is a living ecosystem supplied by the multiplicity and diversity of its actors in fragile balances and synergies.

Digital technology must not come to abolish, but to extend, and reinvigorate. Via the Internet, this great instrument of freedom and education, we must allow new generations to open up to new horizons. Without shrinking them or denying the past. It is up to us to act responsibly to make clear that though Culture may not have a price, its future is by no means free.


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