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Today digital trends are increasingly connected with the world of culture and arts, involving different aspects of culture, media and information technologies, and influencing new forms of communication. This course paper will review 3 fundamental aspects and particular subcultures of the digital culture. The term “digital culture” includes 3 main aspects – digital culture in videogames, in music and in the Internet. It also includes the vast array of subcultures that have grown up in the last years around these aspects. These new trends have deeply modified all of our day to day activities. In the Digital culture: pragmatic and philosophical challenges Marcelo Dascal speaks about the changes that are transforming the nature of international communication and are modifying the way in which we carry out research, engage in study, keep our accounts, plan our travel, and so on. This article depicts the changes in today’s digital culture and that is why it is the article this course paper starts with.
The relevance of the issue is explained by the pace of technological evolution which is much more rapid than the cultural one. “No one controls the direction that technological development is taking, it is directing us” (Dascal, 2006) This phenomenon of the digital culture influences all the spheres of our life. Today people cannot imagine their lives without digital culture.
In the work Youth culture, music, and cell phone branding in China (2005), Jing Wang admits that nowadays music, Internet and video games are all connected with each other. The article examines the place of music in an emerging youth culture.
As for the games culture, this course paper will refer to Live in your world, play in ours (by Sheila Murphy and What is video game culture? Cultural studies and game studies by Adrienne Shaw.
Besides, the course paper also relies on the work by J.A. McArthur A geek meaning of style (2008) that considers “the culture today should be understood as an open and dynamic process that is based on interactive communication. It changes every minute”. This means that digital culture is a living system that always changes. That is why it is interesting to discuss the so-called geek subcultures.
The present research is a brief review of the articles and an attempt to define how the digital culture and subcultures are reflected in academic studies. This paper summarizes various aspects of digital culture in two steps. It defines three key aspects of the digital culture and demonstrates three main subcultures of digital culture.
Aspects of digital culture
In the study of digital culture one thing can be pointed out is the sociological aspect. Digital culture is considered to be a socio-cultural phenomenon. There are three main aspects in digital culture. These are video games, music, and the Internet.
It is possible to say that computer and man communicate. To the question “How will man and computer work together?” there is an answer: “â€¦through speech.” (Dascal, 2006) Today there is a tendency for the newspaper articles to point out that video gamers are not necessarily who we think they are. As one article asserts, “the stereotype of the gamer as a glaze, incoherent teenage boy is wrong” (Shaw, A. 2010) What is video game culture? Cultural studies and game studies, p407). In the culture the gamer identity is defined by technical proficiency, “geek” cultural capital and maleness. While the games that they play make up a wide range of genres there is little diversity among the gamers themselves. According to the data, released by the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), 62% of PC gamers are male and 60% of those gamers are under 36 years old (Murphy, 2004). Dovey and Kennedy (2006) define video games culture by the way of the major discourses used by members of the video game development industry. “Games culture isâ€¦a critical site, where discourses around technology, technological innovation, and technological competence converge with dominant conceptions of gender and race” (cited in Shaw, 2010, p405)
Music is definitely an aspect of digital culture J. Wang claims “according to a BRANDchild study nearly 50% of wired urban teenagers frequently download music from the Internet.”(2005, p 187) Basing on this statistic data, no doubt it is important for the youth. We can even say that it has become a new way of communication – communication through music. Today people all over the world buy music from iTunes and it is a major part of digital culture that is growing form year to year. The changes happen in music sphere extremely fast and the reason for that is the computerization of the modern world. Almost everybody has a computer and an Internet access, and therefore has unlimited (free or paid) access to music. Such an access is very convenient although uncontrolled.
Besides, music has become mobile with the wide spread of portable phones and other gadgets. “Mobile music is said to be the panacea that cuts across cultural borders, able to attract global “cool” youth”. (Wang, 2005, p 188) Actually, the world youth prefer music, which is well-known in many countries, therefore music becomes international, no matter what language it uses. Gadgets are developing very rapidly, new mobile means and new opportunities for listening to music arrive. Music has become “a field in which tastes and preferences have become more eclectic than ever before” (McArthur, 2008)
Transnational marketers consider music as the fastest way into the mind and soul of today’s youths (Wang, 2005) It rarely needs to be argued that music is the global language of the “Now Generation”.
Of course, it goes without saying that Internet has changed the world we used to know. Today it is one of the main parts in digital culture. Such a global phenomenon as Internet culture has appeared thanks to development of the net and has become a social event in human history. “The Internet today is not only huge quantity of computers, but also the improbable quantity of the people, for which network is an essentially new way of dialogue almost not having of analogues in the material world”. (Silver, 2004, p 57)
The Internet gave everybody a chance of self-realization in this vast space: digital youth subcultures can not be centered round musical preference. (McArthur, 2008) The Internet may be a new resource for the affiliation and expression of sub-cultural identity. It may serve as a place for sub-cultural development. Moreover, it is a place where some subcultures (such as hackers) are born. The use of the Internet as a resource for subcultures suggests that subcultures today are able to affiliate across location and time constraints. It is no doubt effective across time and space.(McArthur, 2008)
Video games have produced a variety of subcultures. Some authors look at games as a social practice. For example, T. Taylor (2006) describes an “outline gaming culture” as a social practice and a shared identity created in the game space. (cited in Shaw, 2010).
In the gamers culture, subcultures are “marked by their look, specific linguistic jargon, and a sense of solidarity. Gamers often wear clothing that reference specific games, comics, television shows, or movies that are not widely known outside of a small following” (Shaw, 2010)
One of the biggest subculture of video gamers in the world is the “World of Warcraft Community”. As Hackeleman (2011) claims:
As game developers have strived to create engaging environments and immersive stories for players to experience, independent machine producers have taken an unofficial and sometimes controversial role by expanding the game universe from a different perspective: tinkering with the game engine itself. The demand for this type of user generated content has risen as the addictive qualities of games like World of Warcraft have stimulated the creation of vast social networks and thriving online communities that provide gamers with the ability to stay connected while outside the virtual space. (2011, p 2)
To understand the size of the community one can look at its Facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/warcraft) where 1,430,549 people (assessed on April 26 2011) claimed their affiliation with the game by “following” the games group page. According to the official website, more than 11 mln people play World of Warcraft around the world (http://www.worldofwarcraft.com) That is a size of a big city and if we bear in mind that they meet offline, buy different objects form each other and have their own language, they are a real culture, which is only one example of the video game culture. Many other communities of video gamers (such as Second Life, Sims Online, Grand Thief Auto Online) have their own subcultures which include almost 300 mln people playing online (based on estimate provided in Yahoo Answers).
In different countries people have different attitudes to this. According to my observations, in Russia most of these players are thought to be computer geeks because they are different non-gamers and communicate with other gamers much easier. But “when looking at the worlds most advanced video game culture South Korea â€¦ it is stressed that Koreans are very different from Americans because they treat pro-gamers as heroes, unlike U.S. sports culture that values real athletes.” (Shaw, 2010)
The next digital subculture which is considered is connected with the aspect of music. Studies of youth subcultures during the past 30 years have typically coincided with studies of popular music preferences. (Bennet, 1999, cited in McArthur, 2008. p. 58) There are many different music genres, which vary respectively to the style of music. For example, there are widely known rappers and rockers, but in modern world we commonly associate them more with their look and outfit, than the music genre. Those features, which show belonging to certain music style, allow to identify the typical representatives of different music subcultures. That means that there is not only music – it is backed up with the different types of culture. One of the most influential musical subcultures existing nowadays is punk. From the Wang’s point of view there are 2 types of punk-lovers: “originals” and “wannabes”. First group focuses generally on the punk music itself, while the other is more concerned about the “fashion code”, and punk music is simply part of their lifestyle. This process went further so much that it has become common to “treat “punk” as a sociological rather than a musical phenomenon from start. Punk is often considered as implementation of youth’s rebellious moods, but often their interest in punk culture symbolizes the “search of band that will help them [students] say “I am unique” without making them look weird or socially unacceptable”.
According to Jing Wang, there is a so-called “punk syndrome”, which refers to the mentality, culture, lifestyle of punk-lovers. The typical representatives of this subculture are “angry young high school kids”, and the music is their way to show disobedience or the way to cope with the pressure they receive at school. In his article Jing Wang talks about several high school kids, who managed to pull through their entrance exams with the help of punk music. The anger of music, played with drums, bass guitars and songs performed in the aggressive or even “shouting” ways affects enormously people’s emotions.
An “online culture” has developed as online social relationships have deepened and matured (Silver, 2004) The net is an accessible and user-friendly area in which subcultures can form, meet, and interact both in online and offline mode. Different groups of users appeared: anime geeks, hackers, flooders and etc. The Internet provides an opportunity for would-be members of cultural groups to seek out people who have similar thoughts to them.
As Parker (1989) claimed “computers have become a part of the genesis of a new crime from that has added computer programmers, computer operators, and electronic engineers to the traditional categories of criminals”. (cited Turgeman-Goldschmidt, 2005). Hacking is a widespread international phenomenon, and hackers’ actions occasionally reach the media headlines. They are one of the most interesting subcultures that appeared on the Internet. According to Turgeman-Goldschmidt (2005, p 8) the hacker community is clearly male dominated and hackers are typically young adults. Moreover “most hackers have no previous criminal record, are White and nonviolent, and come from middle- to upper-class backgrounds”.
The subculture can be divided in several communities of different type hackers. First ones hack the computer system to achieve fame – “jokers”. Not likely to cause serious harm to the system, and express themselves making various humorous captions, viruses with different visual and sound effects (music, shaking or turning the screen, drawing all sorts of images, etc.) Next community type is “professional crackers” – they carry out hacking a computer system to steal or substitute information stored there. They are characterized by systematic and organized action. The last ones are called “vandals” – they carry out hacking a computer system to its destruction: delete data, create viruses or Trojan horses.
But no matter what their type of hacker community is according to Taylor (1999, cited in Turgeman-Goldschmidt, 2005) there are six motivators for hackers : feelings of addiction, urge of curiosity, boredom with educational system, enjoyment of feelings of power, peer recognition and political acts. During his research Turgeman-Goldschmidt (2005) gives an explanation to each motivator in the hacker subculture. First of all, he says is the feeling for addiction to anarchy and anarchy is extremely entertaining. Secondly, their curiosity for hackers lies in the desire to learn and know as much as possible. Overall, it is stated that original hackers mostly do it not for revenue, but for the idea of free knowledge. They fight against Microsoft and help Linux in any way they find. They are trying to change the world the way the can, fighting with globalization, starting wars against the multinationals, and just by helping to find bugs in the anti-virus software.
The considerable group of hackers regularly organizes hacker conventions. It operates a conference in Las Vegas which is annually visited by several thousand participants from all over the world – from the U.S. to Australia. Each year the World Congress takes place in Germany is the of hackers, under the auspices Computer Chaos Club. “CCC” is a three-day conference on technology, society and the future of mankind. (Coleman, 2008) During these meetings hackers even manage to create their own outlook, own language, and made their own bible. “For the hackers â€¦ hacking is a new form of entertainment based on the play-like quality that characterizes the use of digital technology and is a new form of social activity. Hacking can be considered a new form of entertainment that could not have existed before the development of an adequate technology”. (Turgeman-Goldschmidt, 2005) Today hackers became a wide dangerous subculture.
Digital culture is a largely modern phenomenon. It should be understood primarily as part of general culture, one of the most important aspects of cultural activity in general.
There are many other subcultures in the digital culture, but my research is focused primarily on three most popular ones. These three subcultures demonstrate aspects, which are more or less typical for other subcultures, associated with digital culture.
As for my experience, during the research I have found out a lot of new about aspects and subcultures in general to particular differences inside different type of subcultures. In general, it was unexpected to learn that every subculture consists of those who are “original” and those who are “posers”. Every subculture does have a group of people that are a part of it only because they adore how people of this subculture look like not even understanding the main idea of it. This can be proved by a subculture I have analyzed in my course paper – punks. I did not know that there are so many posers that just like the outlook, not knowing the history, nor understanding the main idea of the subculture.
Besides, I have never heard of the attitude towards pro gamers in South Korea. They are thought to be almost national heroes there. The interesting fact is that every year they have a championship, in which anyone can participate. It is as popular as watching the hockey matches in Russia. Special TV channels translate news for gamers and computer geeks, youths and aged watch the championship matches together. In result the winner gets a major gift from the sponsor (which reaches $500,000) and incredible respect. The amount of money for winning the tournament motivates people to play professionally from early childhood. As a result, different kind of gamers all together are a tremendous size subculture in South Korea.
In Russia digital subcultures are just getting born because our Internet and technology evolution is several steps back from the United States of America or South Korea. But I am sure that in several years we are going to have our own specific subcultures that would be interesting to analyze.
Drawing to the conclusion, it is necessary to remember that this issue is extremely complicated and it worth more research. It is always interesting to analyze people, there communications, and new subcultures that reflect current situation in the country. That is the reason why I plan to keep on my research work in a slightly different way after I finish this course paper – to analyze the digital subcultures in Russia and their influence on businesses for the next course paper.
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