Culture and Society in the Digital Age

Posted on: September 3rd, 2021 by Prof. Ilya Levin
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This papers presents a theoretical study of the digital revolution as a cultural phenomenon from three perspectives by Levin, I. and Mamlok, D.; Information, 2021, 12, 68. [Full paper – PDF]

We live in a dynamic world that is constantly and rapidly changing. The ubiquity of digital technology has changed the human experience. Our everyday life has been immersed in a new reality that is quite different from what we are used to. Virtual cyberspace has taken shape and has become an integral part of people’s lives. It complements the habitual reality and becomes an integral part of it. The traditional concept of humans as a separate entity has given way to the concept of an information organism interconnected with the entire world. Today, a person can easily communicate with any other person on the planet and access a huge amount of information.

Modern digital technology is becoming increasingly intelligent and personalized. People’s interactions are mediated through a complex shell of big data. As a result, the principles of human behavior and worldview have changed.

The paper discusses the implications of the new digital world by exploring the phenomenon of digital culture. The paper proposes a model of culture to illustrate the various phenomena and processes of digital society.

2. Web Presence

The digital revolution is not limited to the emergence of outstanding technological solutions for acquiring knowledge or performing various everyday tasks. It signals a shift in how we, as a society, understand the very idea of what it means “to be.” We call the new ontological state of humans “web presence.”

In its early years, cyberspace only existed as a convenient technological communication platform. Web 2.0 has profoundly changed the user experience. The shift from a one-way relationship to a two-way relationship transformed the user experience from passive to active. The widespread adoption of smartphones has changed notions of space and time. Ubiquitous access to the web is essential to the cultural changes we are experiencing in the digital age. Comprehensive virtual networks practically merge with humans on a biological level, leading to self-awareness as a cyborg dissolved in virtual space. Humans can work, communicate, consume and perform other actions from anywhere in the world.

This has changed people’s interactions and their self-perceptions.  Cyberspace is shaping a new networked consciousness. The new, digital culture is being formed in namely such a new reality.

3. Тransformations of the digital society

Defining the essence of digital reality requires recognizing fundamental transformations of human experience in the digital age. The paper discusses the following three transformations:

a) Blurring the Distinction between Reality and Virtuality

In many everyday situations today, it is becoming difficult to define the difference between reality and virtuality. By blurring the distinction between reality and virtuality, digital compromises our usual dualist forms of thinking.

b)Blurring the Distinctions among People, Nature, and Artefacts

For most of human history, distinguishing between artefacts and nature has been a relatively easy task. Digital transformation is accelerating the erasure of the traditional distinction. When considering the various consequences of the blurring, it is crucial to understand the impact of this blurring on culture.

c) The Reversal from Information Scarcity to Information Abundance.

Before the advent of the internet, the encyclopaedic utopia represented the omnipotence of knowledge. In the new digital reality, the most critical condition for existence is not our knowledge but our ability to pay attention to important events in our surroundings. We must learn to navigate the world of information. Data streams become the ontological basis of the surrounding reality.

4. The culture of digital society

Culture is the informational basis of human society, a vital condition for its existence. Cultural space can be represented as a three-dimensional space in axes – knowledge, values and norms. Each pair of axes forms a plane corresponding to a particular facet of human culture. Spiritual culture corresponds to a plane between the axes of knowledge and values; social culture is formed by the axes of values and norms; technological culture is represented between the axes of norms and knowledge.

4.1 Spiritual Culture of the Digital Society

The spiritual culture of the digital society is inextricably linked with virtual cyberspace. The spiritual world of humans has been immersed in this space, and the established balance of virtuality and reality has changed.

Virtual networked life and information abundance are of great importance for the formation of personality and spiritual culture as a whole. These phenomena lead to the individualization of human cultural space. A person gets an opportunity to choose the content of his studies, work, entertainment. He finds himself in a unique, personal cultural microworld. Such microworlds are accompanied by developing artificial intelligence  technologies that support the personalization of content.

This trend poses a problem for traditional social structures, such as the education system, based on the unification of teaching and learning.

4.2 The social culture of the digital society

Social culture is defined by rules, values, and ideals that govern the behaviour of people in society and their social interactions.

In the digital society, the specificity of social culture is most clearly expressed in the new dynamics of social consciousness formation. The social nature of the network contradicts the hierarchical models of communication, where the principles of the vertical arrangement of statuses and suppression dominate. The network takes the interaction between users to a higher level of communication. Open, free communication challenges the traditional concept of civil society.

Information openness is one of the main features of the social culture of digital society. The shift from traditional forms of creativity to a more open space where people share content at different stages characterizes the digital society. The general tendency to constantly share content leads to the transparency of the digital society.

4.3 The technological culture of the digital society

The technological culture of the digital society is contingent on information technologies.

Today it is becoming clear that modern cyberspace can be understood as an effective tool for access to information and knowledge and as an environment that significantly influences the way people construct their worldviews. This is due to the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence in almost every sphere of human experience.

The basis of the technological culture of the digital society is the so-called cognification or intellectualization of the environment. The emerging environment is defined by machine learning technologies based on big data analysis. It replaces energy with information as the main source of human life.

The cognitized environment mediates and even participates in human interaction. Thus, technological culture integrates spiritual and social culture, forming a holistic culture of the digital age.

5. Conclusions

Theoretical study of the digital revolution as a cultural phenomenon is presented. А three-dimensional model of the digital culture was developed. Digital society’s spiritual, social, and technological cultures are presented. The presented model reflects known digital transformations of society and opens a way to the future study of the digital society by analysing expected emerging anthropological, social, and technological phenomena.

The digital society trends characterizing the spiritual, social, and technological facets of digital society’s culture. These trends are individualization, transparisation, and cognification, respectively. Human beings in the digital world develop their own unique spiritual culture, opening it to others and enriching themselves with the cultural achievements of other.

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