Professors Latonero and Sinnreich discuss growing trends in digital culture at ICA-London

Individuals are increasingly using digital tools to reshape their cultural world according to a recent survey sponsored by the Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.

Dr. Mark Latonero and Dr. Aram Sinnreich (Rutgers University) presented their findings, soon to be published in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, at the International Communication Association’s 63rd Annual Conference, “Challenging Communication Research,” in London on June 19, 2013 as part of a panel on copyright and digital privacy. Professor Latonero joined more than 70 other representatives from USC Annenberg at the conference.

Latonero and Sinnreich detailed the trajectory of “configurable culture” from the margins of society to mainstream practice over a four-year time span as awareness, usage, and engagement of digital forms such as remixes and mashups have increased among US adults. While awareness of blogs and music remixes is mainstream, with over 50% of respondents reporting familiarity with these forms, other examples such as modifying video games remain marginal with only 13% having heard of these “mods.”

The survey-based research also suggests that international respondents are interacting with new digital forms more than their US counterparts. For example, 43% of international respondents reported using digital tools to remix their own music compared to 20% of US respondents. While younger people are much more likely to participate with configurable culture than older respondents, the findings suggest the age gaps are narrowing.

Sinnreich and Latonero also note that these digital practices have increasingly blurred the line between what constitutes cultural ‘consumption’ versus ‘production’ in music, video, and social media. According to another article based on the survey – just published by the authors in the Information, Communication & Society – the increasing proliferation of such practices raises legal questions as many of these digital practices are illegal under current copyright law, thus giving rise to “an increasingly irreconcilable tension between copyright law and increasingly widespread internet culture.” How such tensions will be resolved remains a source of significant interest and debate.