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Digital Technology and Cultural Policy

Working Paper #19, Fall 2001

Kieran Healy, University of Arizona

This paper reviews how digital technology, and the devices and broadband
networks associated with it (the Internet, for short), can be expected to
a ect the ways in which books, music, the visual arts, libraries and archived
cultural heritage (cultural goods, for short) are produced, distributed and
consumed. The paper has four parts. First, I place the growth of the Internet
in historical and comparative perspective. I argue that the United
States is presently engaged in a regulatory e ort similar in intent to those
imposed on earlier communications revolutions. In this context, I outline
the ways that the Internet can be expected to change how people produce
and consume cultural goods. I distinguish between practices the technology
makes possible and practices likely to become established as typical for the
majority of people. Second, I discuss some of the new arenas for cultural
policy thrown up by the Internet. I argue that, just as it has bound many
kinds of cultural content into a single medium, the Internet has tied together
a variety of regulatory issues and brought cultural policy into contact with
areas of policy-making not normally associated with culture. Third, I focus
on the relationship between creativity, consumption and copyright law.
Fourth, I describe a number of key conflicts over the Internet's architecture
and content. How these are resolved through policy choices will have important
consequences for how we consume and experience cultural goods of
all kinds in the future.

Full text version in PDF format.

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