“The mutation of cultural species in the digital ecosystem.”
By Omar Rincón.
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We are living through a cultural mutation that has driven the digital revolution, as very poetically documented by the writer Alessandro Barrico (2008, 2019), when he speaks of a “barbaric mutation”, which makes us live “amphibiously between two civilisations”. This mutation has meant that in the 20th century, there has been a cultural species’ expansion. This species’ multiplication is characterised by living in the digital ecosystem and finds meaning in the recently coined field of coolture (Rincón, 2018).
As part of the series of conferences “Digital culture and education” organized by Education International Latin America (IEAL) and the National Pedagogical University of Argentina (UNIPE), to be held between May and December of this year, Omar Rincón gives us a glimpse of his intervention on June 21, 2021.
Cultural mutation undergoes many metamorphosises, however, the following four are of particular interest from a cultural point of view:
- Digital civilisation: Characterised by the move from Culture (written, illustrated, argumentative civilisation and civilisation of the arts) to Coolture (culture that is written oral-visually, that is festive, flowing and belongs to digital species).
- Cultural species’ expansion: Implies that there is a move from a society of media (press, cinema, radio, television) and cultural institutions (museums, libraries, bookshops, cinemas, theatres and entertainment halls) to a converging transmedial society, where we find expanded entertainment.
- Collective enunciation of the message: Power used to lie with those that spoke and mediated meanings (intellectuals, teachers, fathers and mothers, the political class, managers, artists… the media, universities, churches…) which existed happily in mass society, where citizens were audiences and spectators. Now we have mutated into a society where citizens decide what they will consume, their types of entertainment, their rituals for “being” in cultures and these can also be expressed through their aesthetics, ethics, and narratives.
- The narrative is the message: In the field of cultural production, we have moved from the analogue, linear and authorial narrative to remix/DJ bastard narration, that which is designed to find a flow which increases virality (Carrión, 2020).
Everything changes, everything is transformed, but everything continues. And here the key is to “ play”, given that the prevailing mantra of the time is that of videogame logic. Culture will continue to exist, but one will have to play the game of meanings and the symbolic in coolture; cultural media and institutions are reinventing themselves to play in the digital ecosystem and in the mantra of entertainment; citizens choose and play their cultural consumption patterns and they play at producing their narrations and aesthetics; cultural artists and narrators are important for gaining virality. These changes mean that one has to “ play” again in the production of cultural symbols, narratives, aesthetics, and rituals.
That is how we build a Digital Utopia that is capitalist and based on coolture, that informs and praises us because we are prosumers, netizens instead of citizens, fans as well as message and value creators…Because we are building societies that are off-centre, self-organised and more democratic…because we are freer and more countercultural in the digital sphere.
However, we also live in a digital dystopia, which manifests its worst practices in the ways that it creates addiction, control through algorithms and Big Data and, ultimately, turns us into inhabitants with “digital” tribes and blood to be sold to the market. We humans are the goods being sold by the kings of the world, currently called Google, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon and Microsoft.
And in all of this, we go back to cultures, in the plural, because this is where we fight our battles for cultural narration, enunciation and sovereignty. And that is why it is essential to intervene in mainstream cultures, made from the traditional (such as Disney, Hollywood and pop music), and from what is paradoxically called counter-culture, what is viral, imposed by YouTube, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Instagram, Tik Tok and other digital species.
And in order to culturally and politically intervene and hack the digital ecosystem and coolture we must narrate, express, and signify, from and with cultural territories and othernesses: women, ethnicities, sexualities, corporealities… The call to action is to diversify, expand, experience narratives, formats, and consumption patterns to get out of the made in the USA trap of cultural hegemony.
The final proposal is that we set out an intercultural dialogue of knowledge that lies between Jurassic Park (those of us who are modern and cultured) and the Walking Dead (the zombie digital natives that live on screens).
BARICCO, Alessandro, 2008, Los Bárbaros, Barcelona, Anagrama.
BARICCO, Alessandro, 2019, The Game, Barcelona, Anagrama.
CARRIÓN, Jorge, 2020, Lo viral, Barcelona, Galaxia Gutemberg
MARTEL, Fredérick, 2011, Cultura Mainstream, Barcelona, Taurus
RINCÓN, Omar, 2018, La coolture, Revista Anfibia
All the conferences will take place in virtual mode, via videoconference and will be broadcast live on the UNIPE YouTube page.
Members of unions that are affiliated to EI in the region can contact their organization to inquire about registration and participation through the IEAL Zoom platform. Those who register through their union will be eligible for a certificate of participation.
More information is available on the IEAL website: https://bit.ly/3haLsgi
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.