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How cul­ture is be­ing ab­sorbed by the in­ter­net and what comes af­ter

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - Kateryna Hladka

How cul­ture is be­ing ab­sorbed by the in­ter­net and what comes af­ter

While even ten years ago the cul­ture was di­rectly tied to the abil­ity of a cer­tain artist to be fea­tured on TV, nowa­days th­ese dy­nam­ics swiftly shift to­wards one’s in­ter­net pres­ence. Pub­lic’s taste be­comes more in­di­vid­u­al­ized — every­one lis­tens to and watches what­ever they want and when­ever they want; con­sumers are not de­pended on TV sta­tion’s pref­er­ences and tim­ing any­more. More­over, as the tech­nolo­gies de­velop, ev­ery­thing that’s on of­fer does so as well; with time, the dis­tance be­tween the artist and the con­sumer be­comes nar­rower day by day.


In the West pres­ence of artists, cul­tural man­agers and jour­nal­ists on YouTube has long ceased to be a nov­elty, and quite fre­quently their au­di­ence is way wider, than the one on tra­di­tional chan­nels. In Ukraine, on the other hand, de­spite hun­dreds of on­line blogs (and those are mostly blogs of politi­cians or celebri­ties), this par­tic­u­lar chan­nel of dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion is far from be­ing a full-scale in­de­pen­dent mar­ket yet. There seem to be sev­eral rea­sons for that. First of all, we are fac­ing seg­re­ga­tion of the au­di­ence onto “in­ter­net” and the “TV” groups. In 2013 sev­eral chan­nels gained their pop­u­lar­ity as a re­sult of the Ukraine’s Rev­o­lu­tion of Dig­nity, but once the rev­o­lu­tion was over, th­ese chan­nels strug­gled to of­fer an in­ter­est­ing and mean­ing­ful con­tent.

In March 2019 “Detek­tor Me­dia”, a civic or­ga­ni­za­tion, pub­lished re­sults of a me­dia re­search, where they’ve asked re­spon­dents to iden­tify the news sources they use and the me­dia out­lets they trust the most. As of Fe­bru­ary 2019 some 74% re­spon­dents claimed that those out­lets in­clude var­i­ous tra­di­tional TV chan­nels, while only 27.5% named Ukrainian on­line me­dia out­lets as the main source of in­for­ma­tion. When we talk of pub­lic trust, 40% of re­spon­dents claimed that they mostly trust Ukraine’s main TV chan­nels, while only 14% trust on­line news por­tals, and 12% — so­cial net­works; 6% claimed they trust other sources of in­for­ma­tion. Nev­er­the­less, com­pared to 2018, dy­nam­ics of the use of on­line me­dia are

grow­ing and hence it al­lows the cul­tural sec­tor to use the on­line out­lets as a tool to at­tract more at­ten­tion to Ukrainian artis­tic achieve­ments.

YouTube, as well as other so­cial net­works such as Face­book and In­sta­gram, not only of­fer peo­ple a way to ex­press and pro­mote their work, or al­low in­di­vid­ual artists to open a per­sonal on­line chan­nel, but th­ese plat­forms of­fer the same to var­i­ous cul­tural es­tab­lish­ments or in­sti­tu­tions. Nearly all of the museums, the­aters, dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies and the newly formed in­sti­tu­tions, such as Ukrainian Cul­tural Fund, have an ac­tive ac­count in sev­eral so­cial net­works. Yet, if we talk about Ukrainian seg­ment of YouTube, it re­mains mostly Rus­sian-speak­ing.

Ser­hiy Neretin, is a for­mer first deputy head of Ukraine State Film Agency, as well as some­one who has long worked on Ukrainian chan­nels and has spent con­sid­er­able amount of time in Ukrainian film in­dus­try. His ex­am­ple clearly demon­strates how some­one can trans­fer one’s pro­fes­sional ac­tiv­i­ties from “tra­di­tional” me­dia out­lets to an on­line plat­form, such as YouTube. Some 10 years ago he came up with an idea to cre­ate video-mag­a­zine about the cul­ture and var­i­ous cul­tural events, and he even shot a trial edi­tion of this mag­a­zine, how­ever at that time Ukrainian TV chan­nels did not ex­press any par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in this un­der­tak­ing. When Ser­hiy left the Ukrainian State Film Agency, he at­tempted to re­vive his project. “I am par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in Ukrainian-speak­ing seg­ment of YouTube. I be­lieve that this out­let is not only able to form pub­lic opin­ion, but in fact I’m sure this is what it’s do­ing at the mo­ment. Even if we take a look at the sit­u­a­tion with me­dia in Rus­sia, they have all the kinds of pro­grams — so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, en­ter­tain­ment and mu­si­cal. All of the smart TV hosts in Rus­sia (if there are still any left there), such as Parfy­onov or Sobchak, have es­tab­lished their YouTube chan­nels a while ago and they cur­rently have mil­lions of fol­low­ers. I don’t even know where to be­gin, if we talk about United States or Eu­rope — dig­i­tal mar­ket here is about to take over tra­di­tional me­dia out­lets. It is only a ques­tion of sev­eral years, when Ukrainian dig­i­tal mar­ket will be full. I re­ally like projects of Ro­man Vin­toniv (Michael Shchur), Yan­ina Sokolova, or Ro­man Skrypin on Youtube. It is not enough to just have a chan­nel, your con­tent has to be in­ter­est­ing, cap­ti­vat­ing, rel­a­tively provoca­tive and un­der­stand­able for young peo­ple be­low 30,” ex­plains Ser­hiy.

Ser­hiy also in­sists that his video-mag­a­zine widens the op­tions and ex­pands the au­di­ence, while his solid ex­pe­ri­ence in film in­dus­try and jour­nal­ism al­lows him to be pro­fes­sional in cre­at­ing his con­tent. Nowa­days he has sev­eral pro­grams that he is cur­rently host­ing — th­ese pro­grams pro­vide an over­view of cul­tural pro­cesses and events in Ukraine. “If you look care­fully at TV screens that are man­u­fac­tured across the globe, you’ll see it’s just a one big gad­get. It is one big screen, where you can down­load what­ever you want and watch it at any time you want. Times on a reg­u­lar, “tra­di­tional”, TV chan­nels is on the other hand strictly reg­u­lated. I would like to cre­ate short films, doc­u­men­taries, smaller shows that may only last 5 or 10 min­utes. This is not the for­mat TV sta­tions are af­ter. If you have your own blog though, you can pub­lish your own in­ter­est­ing and rel­e­vant video and it will be shared im­me­di­ately. YouTube has com­pletely changed the game rules for us,” tells Ser­hiy. He claims that YouTube au­di­ence has grown older, and they are ready to em­brace the new qual­ity con­tent pro­duced in Ukraine.

Over the last 6 years film in­dus­try has also been ac­tive try­ing to find its niche on­line. First of all, not only state sup­port for Ukrainian movies has been in­creased, the num­ber of th­ese movies has also grown. This has also cre­ated new un­com­fort­able chal­lenges for Ukrainian movies, espe­cially bear­ing in mind tra­di­tional cau­tion against ev­ery­thing that’s “Ukrainian, [and there­fore is] a low-qual­ity prod­uct.” Cre­ators of nearly ev­ery Ukrainian film shot in Ukraine go ex­tra mile just to be present on so­cial net­works and to be as in­ter­ac­tive as pos­si­ble. The movie “De­voted” (“Vid­dana”) based on Sofia An­drukhovych’s novel “Felix Aus­tria” is sched­uled to be shown in cin­e­mas in Jan­uary 2020. Copy­rights for this movie were bought by Film.UA Com­pany back in 2017. “De­voted” has its pages on so­cial me­dia, there is a promo-team tak­ing care of its pub­lic­ity, pub­lish­ing some of the less known facts about this movie — about the cos­tumes, sound­tracks, which were, by the way com­posed by Tina Karol and Ju­lia San­ina, the lead singer of The Hard­kiss. The main aim of the film­mak­ers is to cre­ate an in­ter­est in the movie even be­fore the of­fi­cial re­lease date. On­line plat­forms are ideal tools for it. Nowa­days this is what hap­pens to ev­ery “Made in Ukraine” film.


When Ukraine be­came in­de­pen­dent, frankly speak­ing, it couldn’t boast of a solid film crit­ics’ com­mu­nity, and as the in­ter­net started tak­ing over, the role of film crit­ics be­came even less no­tice­able and ef­fec­tive. For ex­am­ple, when The Great Gatsby danc­ing show was first hosted in Kyiv, most of the in­vi­tees, the art crit­ics, came from abroad. Ac­cord­ing to the au­thors of this project, such stance en­hanced their pro­fes­sion­al­ism, rep­u­ta­tion, al­lowed them a wider au­di­ence and re­spect for artis­tic prod­uct. In Ukraine crit­ics are of­ten just a num­ber of en­thu­si­asts, who do not re­ally in­flu­ence the art scene that much. There are mi­nor ex­cep­tions, though, like for in­stance,

some com­pe­ti­tions, where film crit­ics are also present on a board.

Maksym Dem­skiy, di­rec­tor of mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary fes­ti­val GOGOLFEST, be­lieves that fre­quently crit­ics are rather in­com­pe­tent and they rarely have the knowl­edge of the new project. Kateryna Leonova, ac­tress and the leader of SHANA band, thinks the role of crit­ics has evolved and they turned into a com­pass, which helps artists to nav­i­gate within the chaotic ocean of changes and in­no­va­tions. “I have a feel­ing that this is a tran­si­tional pe­riod. Some­thing has passed and there is a place for some­thing new for us. This “new­ness” comes out of ev­ery­where; it pours out from ev­ery out­let pos­si­ble. No­body is truly the first one in this chaos — lead­ers change, maybe this will change too and one day there will be some sort of new ide­ol­ogy, a pact that this so­ci­ety is will­ing to ac­cept and fol­low. All of this is born right now. I be­lieve that the role of the crit­ics is vi­tally es­sen­tial in this process; it is im­por­tant for ev­ery as­pect of cul­tural life — in film, in the­atre, in mu­sic, lit­er­a­ture — you name it. Sooner or later, it will be the critic’s job to set the qual­ity stan­dards for the best ones, and thus dis­qual­ify every­one who wasn’t good enough to fit. Artists have to em­brace the


fact that there are lead­ers of thoughts, lead­ers of pub­lic opin­ion. We don’t nec­es­sar­ily mean the amount of likes on In­sta­gram (how­ever, nowa­days, it seems that this has be­come an un­avoid­able part of our lives), but also a more gen­eral, deeper per­spec­tive and abil­ity to demon­strate the gen­eral pic­ture of the present times; draw­ing some par­al­lels with the past, and sens­ing the ten­den­cies for the fu­ture. This is a very im­por­tant and com­pli­cated work,” con­cludes Kateryna.

When it comes to lit­er­a­ture, the state and qual­ity of crit­ics in this field is not too promis­ing ei­ther. Very of­ten there are pub­lish­ing houses sim­ply ask­ing jour­nal­ists to write a re­view on the book. An­other is­sue is the lack or lim­ited avail­abil­ity of plat­forms to pub­lish such re­views. Does it mean we are run­ning the risk of see­ing the crit­ics dis­ap­pear­ing as a pro­fes­sion? We can­not tell for sure right now. This may also just mean that the tastes of the au­di­ence have evolved or changed and crit­ics will have to fight for their place un­der the sun. Per­haps, it doesn’t mean we will see them di­rectly in­flu­enc­ing the art prod­uct (for ex­am­ple in New York, a word or two of some well-known crit­ics may eas­ily change the script in a play), but cer­tainly crit­ics will help the au­di­ence in fil­ter­ing the in­for­ma­tion.


More and more of­ten we hear the term “cre­ative eco­nom­ics”, which comes up in con­ver­sa­tions about cul­ture, its devel­op­ment and the role of var­i­ous dig­i­tal plat­forms in this process. Cre­ative eco­nom­ics is the busi­nesses and peo­ple, who cre­ate cul­tural, artis­tic, in­no­va­tive prod­ucts and ser­vices, as well as art spa­ces where artists can gather and ex­change ideas, or part­ner with each other. Ac­cord­ing to the data pro­vided by the UN, in 2018 cre­ative eco­nom­ics had nearly 3.4% share in the global GDP, while the amount of peo­ple em­ployed in this in­dus­try reached 25%. More­over, the pace that this in­dus­try has been grow­ing with has now taken over the ser­vice in­dus­try. What does this mean? It means that from now on we can claim that the world will live in the hu­man­i­ties ver­sion 2.0. In

Ukraine ex­perts are tar­get­ing the mu­sic in­dus­try. Think of Swe­den, where af­ter less than 25 years years, mu­sic be­came one of the coun­try’s key sources of in­come — un­der­stand­ably, not with­out ABBA’s help. Nowa­days Swe­den is rightly con­sid­ered as one of the lead­ing coun­tries in the mu­sic in­dus­try.

So why can’t Ukraine fol­low Swe­den’s ex­am­ple and turn mu­si­cal in­dus­try into one of the most prof­itable in­dus­tries for the state? The rea­son is pi­rates. Ukraine con­tin­ues its war on il­le­gally dis­trib­uted videos; how­ever it is not as easy to pro­tect the mu­sic. There is Ukrainian Anti-Pirate As­so­ci­a­tion (UAPA), which calls for mar­ket­ing man­agers not to put any ads on pirate web­site not to pump them with money. Some brands did in fact shut down such co­op­er­a­tion, but oth­ers still do part­ner with il­le­gal on­line plat­forms. One of the rea­sons for this is that many of th­ese brands’ of­fices are lo­cated in Moscow. This cre­ates a vi­cious cir­cle — on one hand, some brands are de­mand­ing for Ukraine to fi­nally take con­trol of pirate con­tent dis­trib­uted on its ter­ri­tory, or oth­er­wise they won’t en­ter the mar­ket, and on the other hand — th­ese same brands are stim­u­lat­ing the pirate ac­tiv­i­ties from their of­fices lo­cated abroad. Maybe in­tro­duc­tion of more puni­tive mea­sures could be an an­swer to this prob­lem?

Only when Ukraine is done with the pirate con­tent, we can ini­ti­ate pre­sen­ta­tion of Ukrainian mu­si­cal scene abroad to for­eigner part­ners and in­vestors. Pres­ence of ma­jor stream­ing com­pa­nies, such as YouTube Mu­sic or Ap­ple Mu­sic in Kyiv would equally help too. Olek­sandr Varenyt­sya, di­rec­tor of “Mnoho Vody” PR-agency claimed in one of his ar­ti­cles that there are only 6% of those who lis­ten to the legally-down­loaded mu­sic on their phones. This process is rather new and re­quires cer­tain pop­u­lar­i­sa­tion.

Ukraine should also cre­ate more plat­forms for young mu­si­cians, who would get a wide range of new op­por­tu­ni­ties. In­ter­net-plat­forms can re­ally give Ukraine a chance to de­velop its mu­si­cal in­dus­try as a whole, not just as a base for in­di­vid­ual artists.

Nev­er­the­less, de­spite the fact that there are so many unan­swered ques­tions, many pro­cesses do go nat­u­rally and ten­den­cies in Ukraine don’t re­ally dif­fer from the ones in the West. For in­stance, the art does em­brace dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies — and in this case the au­di­ence can not only co-au­thor or in­flu­ence the fi­nal prod­uct, they can also be more in­volved into this cre­ation. Th­ese ten­den­cies give us the chance to reval­u­ate our past and see our fu­ture from cer­tain per­spec­tive.

“Chal­lenges of grav­i­ta­tion” ex­hi­bi­tion will be pre­sented in Kyiv’s Mys­tet­skyi Arse­nal cul­tural cen­tre from Oc­to­ber 2019 un­til Jan­uary 2020. The ex­hi­bi­tion is ded­i­cated to the life and art of Paraska Plytka-Go­rytsvit, Ukrainian pho­tog­ra­pher, artist and writer. In ad­di­tion to some hand­made books, pho­to­graphs, photo works, and sculp­tures, vis­i­tors can also see big light in­stal­la­tions on the wall and “walk around” Paraska’s VR­house. This project is one ex­am­ple of how past and present are merged within Ukrainian cul­tural space. What seemed to have been left be­hind and hav­ing had be­come his­tory, has been re­vived and is now cre­at­ing new senses. Unique­ness of this project also lies in its mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary ap­proach. There are many talks, dis­cus­sions, meet­ings or­gan­ised by the “Ra­dio Kul­tura”; round­tables for pro­fes­sion­als and ex­perts of the cul­tural space.

It is likely that the emer­gence of new de­mands and ideas in cul­tural sphere may lead to reval­u­at­ing bound­aries of cul­ture as such. Per­haps it will come in close con­tact other spheres — sci­ence, ed­u­ca­tion, ur­ban stud­ies or even IT. Art cre­ates new spa­ces; it de­cen­tralises and leaves the Soviet past be­hind. One of the rea­sons be­hind it is the fact that uni­fi­ca­tion of a vir­tual and real will be­come the key for Ukraini­ans not only to get to know their own cul­ture bet­ter, but also to re­late to it.

Ex­otic Carpathian. The key to Alina Pash's suc­cess is her way from a tal­ent-show “X-Fac­tor” to YouTube videos watched by mil­lions

From TV chan­nels to the in­ter­net. Ro­man Skrypin’s ex­am­ple and Ro­man Vin­toniv proves that it is pos­si­ble to cre­ate qual­ity and pop­u­lar Ukrainian-lan­guage con­tent for YouTube

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