By Andres Kõnno, the author of Estonia’s first Digital Culture Report
A couple of years ago, the Estonian Ministry of Culture announced that 2020 would be the ’year of digital culture’. Naming a year after a particular topic is popular here. For instance, environmentalists claimed 2020 as the ’year of the bat’ long before the COVID-19 pandemic (commonly thought to originate from the consumption of bats). While this kind of labeling is most definitely a tool for raising public awareness, it also seems to be about creating trends. A report on the state of art in the Estonian sphere of digital culture is one of the outcomes of this campaign and will be published by the beginning of December 2020.
As we look around in the world for similar reports, one can find many indices and creative-industry related overviews by various stakeholders. Notably, Arts Council England has published a similar report, and the newest, about the year 2019 is available here: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/download-file/Digital-Culture-2019.pdf
The Eurobarometer has done a significant amount of work in order to make the digital habits of EU citizens comparable; notably the OECD and World Bank reports on the impact of digitalization on the global economy, and those of Freedom House. Interestingly though, these various reports leave unanswered the very question itself: what is ’digital culture’?
The answer really depends on how to look at it. The first and most natural instinct would be a data-oriented stance, something similar to what is presented in the British report. Here, there is a presumption that ’Digital culture’ equates to aggregating data and opinion from all sorts of producers and end-users. A quite challenging task, that has merits in a longitudinal perspective.
However, there is an alternative perspective that focuses on the qualitative aspects of digitalization: the state of art from the different viewpoints of the: (a) public sector; (b) private sector; and © NGOs that are organised around the very specific needs of the various interest groups. The Estonian report on digital culture takes the latter stance.
In addition to the definitions of digital culture already mentioned, there is an additional angle based on how digital culture is practiced and regulated. To be more precise — its perceived lack of regulation. And last but not least: in consideration of the latest developments that will have an impact on the future landscape of Estonian digital culture.
Examples of the latter include recent success stories in the Estonian gaming industry, and policy initiatives the state has taken in favour of media literacy, language technologies, and digital archiving. But there has also been disappointment expressed in the lack of initiatives in the areas of e-books, music, and a lack of fiscal policies regarding taxation of the internet giants. There is also general criticism of the lack of state regulation on the media market in general, perhaps best expressed via the case of Estonian Media Alliance against National Public Broadcasting and its online news and entertainment portals.
The report on the state of art in Estonian digital culture will be available by the beginning of December 2020.