What Eurovision Can Teach Us About Cultural Citizenship

Undoubtedly, the way in which we consume television media in recent years has undergone a dramatic evolution. With the aid of globalisation and the internet, our sense of cultural citizenship has flourished, particularly considering that free to air television, regardless of circumstance or wealth, is generally accessible to most people. In this respect, the public sphere has been increasingly important when considering the prevalence of “social tv”, a term used to describe the ongoing digital dialogue that exists within the realm of social media. As Neilson argue, “social media is re-energising TV—acting like a shot of pure adrenaline that’s fuelling thousands of digital conversations” (2019).

This dual-screen practice I’m sure is nothing foreign to any present-day media consumer. Think about your own experience: how long has it been since you’ve sat down to watch a show without having your phone in one hand, social media open and active. The use of a second screen dramatically changes viewing habits, with consumers now having the opportunity to engage in a real-time, online dialogue with what is known as an “imagined community”. As Lutz and du Toit (2014) argue, this perceived connection or shared experience with people we have never met is cause for deliberation regarding the potential future impacts of digital and social media. “The Internet-based communications revolution is a technological workin-progress as are the changes in the social base of democracy being made by these forces” (Lutz & du Toit, 2014).

Yet perhaps what I find more interesting about this phenomenon is the way in which our subsequent sense of cultural citizenship can be enhanced by social media. And more importantly, our approaches to negotiating tensions that may arise as a result of cultural difference. As Collins and Stern (2015) write, “Jenkins dubbed the evolving media landscape as one of media convergence: “Consumers are learning how to use these different media technologies to bring the flow of media more fully under their control… they are fighting for their right to participate more fully in their culture””.

Eurovision is exemplary of this sense of cultural participation. This ‘episodic’ example of the public sphere occurs only once a year, but provides an opportunity for people across the globe to interact in an online dialogue encompassing members of a diverse range of cultures. Rather than focusing on our cultural differences, The Eurovision Song Contest provides an opportunity for a celebration of inclusion and shared experiences across borders, and is truly reflective of transnational cultural connections.

It is not, however, without its often highly politicised tribulations. Each year it seems there is a new controversy or debate, arising typically from cultural disparities. Jeffery (2019) sums it up perfectly when she writes “where politics bleeds into the contest, controversy often follows”. Eurovision has much to teach us about the celebration of national identity and the role that cross-platform social media plays in our consumption of television. More importantly though, it can teach us a great deal about cultural citizenship and the tensions that may arise when this sense of identity is challenged or confronted.

References:

Collins, M & Stern, D 2015 (eds), ‘The Online Community’, In: Television, Social Media and Fan Culture, Lexington Books, London, p. 112.

Lutz B., du Toit P. (2014) New Imagined Communities in the Digital Age. In: Defining Democracy in a Digital Age: Political Support on Social Media. Palgrave Macmillan, London

Neilson 2019, ‘Social TV’, online article, viewed 20 August 2019, <https://www.nielsen.com/au/en/solutions/measurement/social-tv/>

Published by susiealdermann

Fifth Year Bachelor of Communications and Media/ Bachelor of International Studies (Dean's Scholar) student

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