Facebook as a Catalyst for Beneficial Participation in Culture

By Buchner, Anna; Zaniewska, Katarzyna | Polish Sociological Review, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Facebook as a Catalyst for Beneficial Participation in Culture


Buchner, Anna, Zaniewska, Katarzyna, Polish Sociological Review


Abstract: The article considers how Facebook service impacts its users' patterns of experiencing and co-creating culture. The discussion is based on the results of the 2010 research regarding Facebook activity of Warsaw cultural institutions conducted by the authors. The text attempts to answer the question whether Facebook has a positive effect on the cultural life of a specific local community and whether Facebook activity can be interpreted as beneficial participation in culture, as defined by Andrzej Tyszka.

Keywords: Facebook, culture, beneficial participation in culture, free time, Warsaw.

Facebook is currently the most influential Internet community with more than 850 million users worldwide (including more than 12 million in Poland). As a global phenomenon of enormous reach, the service obviously inspires interest of social scientists. However, Facebook is a social networking service and as such it is based predominantly on recreating the real world relations which usually have a local reach. Therefore, it is possible to research thousands of local Facebooks - specific cities or regions. Monitoring small and medium range phenomena occurring in the World Wide Web (WWW), e.g. on Facebook, are most instructive for the study of urban culture, its specific needs and participation forms. The service can be treated as a lens focusing on contemporary transformations of the models of experiencing and co-creating culture.

Andrzej Tyszka believed that beneficial cultural participation does not entail making maximum use of all cultural opportunities, but using them in an appropriate way, according to individual needs, perceptive abilities and lifestyle. Benefits of this type of participation include:

- broadening and organizing acquired knowledge thus increasing awareness of the experienced world and consequently - understanding one's own situation

- access to existential values which make life attractive and facilitate self-fulfillment, self-celebration, and self-expression

- establishing one's social standing by reference to the symbolic meaning of "cultural objects" and the prestigious role of producers of cultural behaviors (Tyszka 1971).

We believe it is worth to study whether Facebook is a positive mediator in the cultural life of a specific local community helping to meet its cultural needs and to what extent it supports culture creators.

This article considers new forms of cultural participation and transformations of cultural needs we observed while conducting the study "How did culture end up on Facebook?" The research focuses on Facebook activity of Warsaw cultural institutions. The service features profiles of such facilities as Zachçta Gallery, Grand Theater, Rozmaitosci Theater, Modern Art Museum, Chlodna 25 coffee bar club and Powiçkszenie club. At present, nearly all Warsaw cultural institutions, both state- and private-owned, "exist" on Facebook, however this was not the case when the service was launched in Poland. This trend has been observed for the past two years, therefore the majority of facilities (apart from pioneers such as e.g. Rozmaitosci Theatre) joined Facebook when it already had many users both in Poland and in Warsaw. Cultural institutions decided to enter virtual reality which became part of everyday life and therefore - a sphere of cultural participation for Warsaw citizens. This makes the current Facebook activity of cultural institutions a particularly interesting research problem.

The discussed phenomenon is connected with a new cultural experience model described by Wojciech Burszta - culture mediated by mass media, omnipresent, producing an insert type personality. This personality type is characterized by constant openness to new suggestions and willingness to include all available data, coming from both personal and media experiences, if they can compose a coherent whole for a specific amount of time (Burszta et al. 2010).

The media are also subject to crucial transformations which, according to Henry Jenkins, derive from the onset of a convergence culture. …

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