Referencing cultural content on the internet, prescribing culture?

Referencing cultural content on the internet, prescribing culture?

Forum d'Avignon 2011: Referencing cultural artworks, prescribing culture? By the Atelier BNP Paribas

Who references and who prescribes – concretely – culture on the Internet? To answer this question, the Atelier BNP Paribas for the Forum d’Avignon referred to many documents and … on interviews of prescribers, kings of the Web or physical markets.

A first acknowledgement appears, without surprises: for now, referencing on the Internet goes through search engines, predominantly Google. The situation is changing and a new balance appears, taking into account Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, it naturally changes the way of prescribing culture. Google highlights popular websites; the “prescribing” websites offer “more” (i.e. information with added value) than the cultural goods themselves. The new tools foster a direct prescription of the cultural good – so are doing recommendation engines or comparators.

In any case, the new prescribers of the Internet are not the traditional media, which are at the end of the value chain. These later have not always engaged for the Web, or have declined opportunities offered by the digital universe without setting up any particular system of prescription. Yet, this is precisely this system that can increase the visibility of a media on the Internet – a system made of cross-references between contents – a network of recommendations or “graph”. By relying upon existing technical referencing tools, some media on the Internet have neglected the concrete relationship to customers. This disintermediation has been reflected by a re-intermediation in favor of technical key players.

In other words, since Google’s birth in 1998, the firm has invested 100 Bn$ in the Internet and digital networks if we add up operating costs between 1995 and 2010: this is what Google paid to become the most used service with 1 Bn$ users in 2010. Amazon spent around 132 Bn$: here is the cost to become the leader in sale of cultural goods and one of the main key players of the international electronic trade. 

Google, Amazon, Facebook: those are not cultural services. Their prescription system has been invented to support the development of electronic trade in the widest sense and then applies to the media. This raises the question of the economic independence of prescription: sponsored links or majors’ blockbusters are the artworks that are broadcasted in the best way as they generate the more remunerative. But if these tools theoretically offer a wide exposure to the diversity of artistic creation on the Internet, does it break down the myth of the direct access to artworks, of the value per se of the artwork without any marketing machine around it?

The rules of the game have changed and will keep changing. Tomorrow, referencing will deal with places, objects, going beyond digital artworks: who will be the next cybertrader of our daily lives, referencing our physical world? At last, it can be that the cultural heritage to be referenced will be different: catalogues already are universal for what regards books and music; video and cinema should follow. The alliance of publishers could rebalance the relationship with the new go-betweens of the Web.

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