Hot topics in digital culture (at the Opinion Festival)

The unexpected global crisis swiftly forced the overnight adoption of digital applications by the young and old. Whether it’s literature or theater, it is evident that the global pandemic caused an explosion in the need for digital culture, which in turn re-shaped the way we use the Internet.

Coincidentally, five years ago The Ministry of Culture chose 2020 to be the thematic year of digital culture in Estonia.

It is for these two reasons that the Digital Culture Area will open at the annual Opinion Festival next month. For two days there’ll be discussion panels on lessons learned from the digital transformation of Estonia, as well as its long-term effects on culture.

There will be eight main topics and the best specialists from their fields will be there to discuss them.

1. Education
Estonia and Finland have both performed extraordinarily well in international PISA tests. Despite both countries being digitally advanced, the sudden enforcement of e-learning tools pose great challenges to teachers, pupils, and their parents. This discussion will be in English and will later be available on the Estonian National Libraries Youtube channel:

2. Music
Is it possible for the tiny Estonian music industry to survive on the globally dominant streaming platforms? Or perhaps these are the gateways to international success. For example, the Estonian bands Cartoon and Daniel Levi have had a video audience of 350 million views for their song „On and On“!

3. Visual Literacy
Today, much of the information is communicated in a visual form: photos, videos, graphics, but also deep fake and other deceptive forms. How far is Estonia in reaching a general visual literacy in the era of A.I. broadcasters? The discourse will be guided by empirical data provided by Telia Telecom; a comparative study conducted on the use of smart devices by school children in the Baltics and Scandinavia.

4. E-books
Digital books promised a fresh meedium for authors and publishers around the world. However, the expected breakthrough in Estonia has not been realised — the market share of e-books is rather small, yet the sales of paperbacks is stagnant. Estonian authors and publishers discuss the effect of the pandemic on the book industry and of new opportunities for stakeholders.

5. Survival of Estonian language TV
Netflix has become one of the world’s largest producers of audiovisual content alongside other international giants such as Amazon and Apple. Estonian viewers also now have a bigger selection of programs to view so the competition is no longer between local TV programs, but has moved to a global level. There is actually a struggle to survive for Estonian-language programs and films amid the global media pool. The globalization of media has a remarkable impact on our native language and culture. What’s the plan of the Estonian Public Broadcasting for createing a brighter perspective on this matter? And how has the creation of Jupiter, a new Estonian streaming channel equivalent to Netflix helped?

6. Copyright
The basic principles of copyright established by the Berne Convention in 1886 are still valid, but formal regulations lag in a world where the distribution of works on digital channels is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately monitor. By the summer of 2021, Estonia will have to adapt to the EU Copyright Directive, which provides options for balancing the needs of copyright authors and users. These options shall be discussed in detail by Representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Estonian Authors’ Association. Internationally acclaimed Estonian musician Maarja Nuut shares the view of the authors’ side.

7. How to teach Creativity
The urgent need for e-learning programs became evident as an integral part of the future of education. Yet another vital question emerged: how to teach creativity with digital tools in schools? While the online landscape expands, are future generations destined to merely be consumers, or is there a growing potential for an individual to create more original digital content that can stand out in the evergrowing whirl of information?

8. Digital Museums
Estonians are avid museum-goers. Our museums are heavily invested in and should be regarded as world-class. But what is the role of museums today and what’s the direction in which they will evolve? Did the recent emergency provide an answer to the question that has long been sought — do Estonians want a more digitally experienced museum or are they still fond of the conventional variants? The topic shall be led by museum managers, the representatives of the National Heritage Board, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.

All the discussion panels of the Digital Culture Area of the Opinion Festival shall be live-broadcasted on Facebook and later shared on Youtube.



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Liina Luhats-Ulman

Liina Luhats-Ulman

The tales of Estonian digital culture, that I write down are brought to you by The Estonian Institute and The Year of Digital Culture 2020