[ISEA2008] Paper: Lev Manovich – How to Track Global Digital Culture


Public lecture, venue: LASALLE College of the Arts.

The exponential growth of a number of both non-professional and professional media producers over the last decade has created a fundamentally new cultural situation. Hundreds of millions of people are routinely created and sharing cultural content (blogs, photos, videos, online comments and discussions, etc.). As the number of mobile phones is projected to grow during 2008 from 2.2 bil to 3 bil during 2008, this number is only going to increase.  The rapid growth of professional educational and cultural institutions in many newly globalized countries along with the instant availability of cultural news over the web has also dramatically increased the number of “culture professionals” who participate in global cultural production and discussions. Hundreds of thousands of students, artists, designers have now access to the same ideas, information and tools. It is no longer possible to talk about centers and provinces. In fact, the students, culture professionals, and governments in newly globalized countries are often more ready to embrace latest ideas than their equivalents in “old centers” of world culture. If you want to see this in action, visit the following web sites and note the range of countries from which the authors come from:

  1.  student projects on archinect.com/gallery;
  2.  design portfolios at coroflot.com;
  3.  motion graphics at xplsv.tv;

Before, cultural theorists and historians could generate theories and histories based on small data sets (for instance, “classical Hollywood cinema,” “Italian Renaissance,” etc.) But how can we track “global digital culture” (or cultures), with its billions of cultural objects, and hundreds of millions of contributors? Before you could write about culture by following what was going on in a small number of world capitals and schools. But how can we follow the developments in tens of thousands of cities and educational institutions?
Impossible as this may sound, this actually can be done…

  • Lev Manovich, Russia/USA, is the author of Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database (The MIT Press, 2005), Black Box – White Cube (Merve Verlag Berlin, 2005), and The Language of New Media (The MIT Press, 2001). Manovich is a Professor in Visual Arts Department, University of California – San Diego, a Director of the Software Studies Initiative at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (CALIT2), and a Visiting Researcher at Godsmith College (London) and College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales (Sydney). Manovich  written 90+ articles which have been reprinted over 300 times in many countries. Currently is completing three new books about digital culture and media, and is also developing projects within Software Studies Initiative.                 manovich.net