Filiciak, Hofmokl and Tarkowski (2012)
|Filiciak, Hofmokl and Tarkowski (2012)
|The circulations of culture - on social distribution of content
|Filiciak, M., Hofmokl, J., Tarkowski, A.
|Filiciak, M., Hofmokl, J., & Tarkowski, A. (2012). The Circulations of Culture-On Social Distribution of Content. Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities: September 1st, 2012. Available at SSRN 2246508.
|Definitive , Open Access
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|About the Data
|The project consisted of two surveys.
The first one was a nationwide pilot survey based on computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI), conducted from May 19 to May 26 of 2011 by Millward Brown SMG KRC company, on a representative sample of 1004 persons over 15 years of age.
The second survey took a deeper look into the mechanisms of acquiring and recommending content. It was conducted on the Internet, based on computer assisted web interviewing (CAWI), and included only respondents who were Internet users. The sample consisted of 1283 people. The study was conducted between 20th September and 2nd October 2011. The identity of all respondents was confirmed offline at an earlier date (they were recruited during personal interviews). To take part in the research, the respondent had to have an Internet connection in their household and use the Internet and email at least a few times every week. Respondents received remuneration for time spent on filling out the survey. The research was conducted on a random, nationwide sample, and the demographic structure of the analyzed set is representative for the population of Polish Internet users (according to Nettrack results) with regard to gender, age (16 to 50 years old), place of residence, and education. Given our earlier assumptions about age and the limitations of methodology (online) we can assume that we’ve covered 25% of the Polish population from a demographic standpoint, and about 45% of Internet users from the 15 to 50 age group.
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The report “Circulations of Culture. Social Distribution of Content” is an attempt at analyzing the phenomenon of informal cultural content sharing in Poland. It describes how books, music, and movies circulate among Poles who sometimes buy them, but more often than not acquire them via the Internet and borrow or copy them from friends. We focused our study on the comparison of formal and informal circulations of cultural content, in the form of either digital or cultural copies. We decided not to study broadcast media use, due to the lack of circulating copies that allow comparisons with informal circulations online. Yet the public discussion, revolving around file sharing networks and more broadly around obtaining and making use of cultural content in a digital form, usually situates these practices on the margin of typical activities of Poles. Such practices still seem to be –as they are described in the public discussion- an embarrassing subject; stigmatized as an illegal activity that hurts legal content markets, creators, and intermediaries. We conducted this research study in order to provide this public debate with an empirically absed descriptuon of the circulations of content in digital form and foremost on the Internet. And also to show the cultural and social aspects of this phenomenon that go beyond the question of its legality. First and foremost, we seek to explain why informal circulations of culture in digital form are an important issue for research on contemporary culture. Secondly, we stress that exploration into this issue provides important evidence for cultural policy. The goal of our project was purely exploratory – instead of making rigid assumptionsin order to verify them, we decided to analyze the answers that the respondents put down in the questionnaires, their attitudes, and the opinions they expressed. This approach sought to help us understand how often, in what way, and why Poles engage with informal content circulations. Most importantly, we chose not to distinguish nor discriminate between legal and illegal circulations – mainly because the border between the two is often fuzzy and unclear for people who participate in either of them. Therefore, this is not a report about “pirates” that conduct illegal activities, but rather about people who engage in informal content sharing practices. But abandoning the simple legal-illegal binary has yet another reason. The goal of this report is to foster real dialogue on the issue of acquiring cultural content in Poland. The overuse of labels such as “piracy” or “theft” will not improve the chances of establishing such dialogue. An opposition between “formal” and “informal” is in our opinion a much better way for framing this debate. We conducted a quantitative, survey study and one of our primary goal was to establish the scale and general character of the informal content circulation – especially the distribution of digital formats. The project consisted of two surveys. The first one, a pilot survey, was conducted through computer-assisted personal interviews between May 19 and May 26 of 2011 on a sample of 1004 people over 15 years of age, which was representative for the Polish population. The goal of this survey was to describe the scale and basic characteristics of informal circulation in the whole Polish society. We were in particular interested in differences between Internet users and non-users, and between age groups. The second survey was conducted over the Internet through computer-assisted web interviewson a sample of 1283 people. The survey was conducted on a random nationwide sample and the demographic structure of the analyzed set was representative of the Polish Internet user population (according to Nettrack) with respect to gender, age (16 to 50 years old), place of residence, and education. We have focused upon the population of Internet users based on the results of the first survey, according to which non-users do not participate in circulations of digital content.
Main Results of the Study
Principal conclusions of the report:
- 13% of Poles purchase content, as opposed to 33% that obtain it through informal, digital circulations. Only 13% of Poles have purchased a book, a movie, or a musical recording in the year before the survey. Informal circulation is the second source of cultural content with the broadcast mass media like radio and TV being the first. The informal sphere covers 39% of Poles – thus being three times as large as the market-bound circulation of cultural content.
- Engaging with the informal circulations of digital content strongly correlates with age. We should assume that populations ages 40 and older do not participate in smaller circulation of digital content.
- The survey did not corroborate the thesis about informal circulations supplanting the formal ones. The people who most actively engage in the informal content circulations (i.e. Internet users who download files) constitute the largest segment of the purchasers. They comprise 32% of all people purchasing books, 31% of all people purchasing movies, and over half of all people who buy music. The 15 to 24 age group made up the biggest part of the group of people that both purchase content and download it from the Internet – despite common assumptions that younger generations lack funds to purchase content.
- A quarter of all Poles engage with the informal circulation without purchasing any content from the formal circulations. Membership in this group is strongly linked with age – the percentage of such people is much higher in the younger age groups, while significantly dropping off in age groups over 50.
- 62% of Poles do not participate in either the formal or the informal circulations of cultural content. The primary form of cultural activity for most Poles is probably watching television and listening to the radio.
- The average Internet user buys three times more books and movies and seven times more music in comparison with people who don’t use the Internet. Internet usage is the primary distinguishing factor when it comes to interest in cultural content, which is furthercorrelated with age and education. More importantly, these differences are even more pronounced where accessing content doesn’t require any financial commitment, such as borrowing books, movies, or music.
- Active Internet users are a group especially inclined to participate in circulations of culture. Strong differences are revealed when Internet users are split into less active and more active ones: 88% of active Internet users participate in the informal circulation of music, 73% participate in informal book circulation, and 78% engage in informal movie circulation (in the three months preceding the survey). 72% of active internet users claim to have downloaded files from the Internet – e.g. from file-sharing networks or from file hosting services.
- 92% of active users claim to have engaged in informal circulations if their definition is expanded to include all avenues of content access (such as streaming, sharing files with friends, etc.). If we include the informal circulation of content stored on physical media (e.g. sharing and copying books or CDs and DVDs) in the aforementioned definition, then practically all of the respondents (95%) claim to have engaged in such content circulations.
- 75% of active internet users indicated price and a wider selection of content available on the Internet as justifications for their behavior. Two-thirds of them pointed to such factors as availability without delays (typical of formal circulations, where global content arrives in Poland often with a delay) or the selection available.
- Internet distribution impacts the way active internet users interact and use media formats. Only 8% of people who download music from the Internet download entire albums only; 31% download both albums and single files, while 61% download strictly single audio files.
- The most commonplace attitude of active Internet users (50% of respondents) towards the informal circulations is moderate and focused on the broadening of cultural horizons. For them, the crucial factor is the ability to know more and see more, not acquire free content.
- Additionally, two countervailing attitudes exist between fans of the informal circulation (8%), who think that “everyone’s downloading content,” and its staunchest critics (11%), who claim that downloading is theft and that the law should be more stringent with people who acquire content from the Internet via illegal means.
- A fourth group (13%) claims that “downloading is simply easier.” Interestingly, prices do not discourage them from acquiring content from the formal circulations, but rather the inconvenience of using the formal channels, that are not present when engaging the informal ones.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
- Considering the extent of the informal circulation and its coexistence next to the formal circulation, cultural policy cannot be based on a binary separation of the two circulations, the people participating in them and stigmatization of one group.
- Cultural policy cannot be based on the assumption that one circulation will be replaced by the other and we can’t let that happen. If we do, then we will arrive at the conclusion that this substitution is furthered not only by the negatively-branded Internet phenomena, but also by the commonplace sharing of content in the household, and even the activity of public cultural institutions, the latter also enabling us to access content via non-market means.
- We’re already facing situations where access to content that’s allowed from the standpoint of the Polish legal system is hindered by technological instruments. The state, with its instruments that are supposed to regulate that sphere, has to look for balance between the interest of copyright owners and the public good. Favoring either side of the issue is completely unacceptable.
- Cultural policy should be based on the assumption that multiple content circulations can coexist and might frequently overlap. And the goal of cultural policy should be the establishment of institutions and cultural frameworks that will harness these various circulations to foster creativity, as well as the possibility to use it, while remaining grounded in facts and considering the arguments of all involved parties.
Coverage of Study
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|May 19 - May 26 2011
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|September 20 - October 2, 2011