Publish at March 04 2009 Updated January 26 2023

The cultural practices of young people in the face of transmission institutions

The institutions that ensure cultural transmission must review their practices.

The Department of Studies, Forecasting and Statistics of the Ministry of Culture (France) has just published "Cultural practices among young people and transmission institutions: a clash of cultures?" .

Do young people still love culture?

If the question of the "clash of cultures" deserves to be asked, it is of course because of the profound changes in young people's behavior towards cultural objects and transmission institutions. ICTs are at the heart of the reflection here: have they diverted young people from legitimate media (television, print media, radio...), practices (amateur artistic practices, museum visits...) and value systems ("learned" vs. "popular" music...)?

Well, no. According to the author of the article, "

For all cultural leisure activities, the younger generations are among the most consuming, proof of an undeniable cultural massification, and we observe that the level of investment in traditional practices is directly correlated to the investment in digital practices

. There is an effect of accumulation of practices, not replacement of one by another.

The cultural practices of young people as a whole are marked by the following phenomena:

- An omnivorous culture: the ease of access to cultural products and their abundance on digital networks favor the accumulation of goods and their diversity. Young people do not hesitate to try, even if it means rejecting later. Their amateur practices follow the same principle, especially since digital tools, again, allow them to dabble in photography, musical composition, literary creation... and to abandon these practices without damage.

They are not afraid to try new things.

- An increasingly blurred line between scholarly and popular culture: parents, for example, continue to ensure their role of cultural transmission. But they make their children discover the Beatles or Michel Jonasz, rather than (or at the same time as) Beethoven and Erik Satie.

In addition, the strong power of recommendation of the virtual networks in which young people evolve also contributes to moving the lines between what is "good" and what is not. Young people are less prisoners of their social environment than in the past in terms of cultural tastes, but very much subject to their peer groups.

- Highly individual practices: the "bedroom culture" is the result of lifestyles that allow young people great freedom to organize their time. What, in scholarly terms, is called "a trendy de-encompassing of young people's free time". This freedom allows them to fine-tune their individual choices, thanks to massive equipment in digital tools (computers, music players...).

Faced with these changes in practices and values, how do the institutions of cultural transmission that are schools, museums, and media libraries react?

Are educational practices turning young people away from cultural institutions?

The school is experiencing some difficulties in positioning itself. We often talk about this in Thot and will not expand on the issue this time. Let us therefore limit ourselves to recalling that the problem is not only access to knowledge, of which the school no longer has a monopoly, but also the modalities of transmission, which are still top-down and not very participatory, while young people live in a community culture.

The interest of the article, which examines all the institutions of cultural transmission, is to show how school practices impact other cultural practices; thus, the author explains that young people are losing interest in museums ... because of the school:"

Their disenchantment is growing with these facilities that they associate too much with the school. The pedagogization of cultural activities certainly serves their obligatory democratization since students are captive audiences, but rarely the lasting construction of a taste for the activity." Similarly, she observes that the introduction of children's literature into school curricula has not increased young people's taste for reading... On the other hand, media libraries fare better than museums, insofar as they offer a mix of resources attractive to young people, and have worked a lot on their mediatization practices, which are perceived by young audiences as different from school mediations.


From this article, we will retain that institutions must reposition themselves in the face of the expectations and practices of young people, born in the digital universe. This is not new. What is more so, however, is to emphasize the extent to which the school institution negatively influences the subsequent practices of young people. Is the school, with its ogre-like appetite and its propensity to transform any work of art into a "pedagogical object", in the process of denying the necessary personal and free experience that leads to the elaboration of a chosen culture?

Cultural practices among young people and institutions of transmission: a clash of cultures?

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