[Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol.5] Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Direction of Cultural Policy

Lee Sungmin

Korea Culture & Tourism Institute



1. Introduction: How to Approach the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Culture


It would be reasonable to say that the term “Fourth Industrial Revolution” became part of Korea’s official policy discourse during the year 2017. The Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution was launched in September 2017. Moreover, agreement was reached to clarify the vague definition of the term; the Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to changes in industry and society based on hyperconnectivity and superintelligence. Criticisms of the term still exist but the Fourth Industrial Revolution is currently regarded as a valid concept pointing out certain changes that take place today. As for those who are still dissatisfied with the term, their strongest criticism is that of the word “revolution.” According to them, the changes that enable us to achieve hyperconnectivity and superintelligence can be explained with the existing concept of “digital transformation.” They thus wonder why such changes are defined as “revolution.


Why do we want to express the changes, which haven’t been revealed fully, with the word “revolution”? To answer this question, it is necessary to consider the Korean context in which the shock of AlphaGo lies behind the explosive power of discussion on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The First Industrial Revolution served as a great turning point of replacing human labor with machine. In contrast, the Second and Third Revolutions didn’t generate widespread “fear” even though it was an extension of digital transition. It is true that these Revolutions brought significant changes, which depended on industrial sectors, and they even led to life-changing innovation. However, such innovation was far from the fundamental fear of “replacing humans with machines.” Under these circumstances, AlphaGo did spread the fear that humans may become useless. The fact that the word “revolution” appeared again symbolizes the beginning of existential reflection on the sustainability of “working humans.” When technology is expected to overwhelm humans, what alternative do we need to find?




Throughout the year 2017, I conducted research on the “Fourth Industrial Revolution and Direction of Policy on Cultural and Tourism Industries.” At first, optimism for “culture” dominated the research. In other words, if machine replaces human labor, working hours will decrease and humans will be able to fill their leisure time with cultural activities. In this context, we came up with this strong argument; considering the future competition with artificial intelligence, culture should contribute to improving humans’ own creativity. However, such optimism didn’t last long. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism wasn’t selected as a ministry in charge of the Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Korean government’s policy came to focus on “industrial” innovation. Expectations for the role of culture remained at the symbolic level. We were also unable to be optimistic about changes in leisure time. Industrial revolution itself doesn’t guarantee reduced working hours. Higher efficiency can contribute to reducing the number of workers. However, the decrease of the entire staff’s working hours can be achieved only through social consensus. Even if leisure time increases, it doesn’t mean that it immediately leads to more cultural consumption. For example, when it comes to using the time secured through autonomous cars, experts of different fields said that the content of their respective fields would be consumed mainly. However, if people don’t make extra efforts, they are also very likely to fill such time with other labor activities.


Culture, which belongs to humans, has been regarded as an alternative to the progress of technological civilization. However, will culture be still free from today’s revolutionary changes? Or, will culture be able to play the role of alleviating the side effects of the changes? In that sense, the discussion on culture in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution could focus on two points. The first point is about the influence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on culture. Technological development influences cultural production and consumption. In particular, the progress of superintelligence questions the premise that only humans can create something. In addition, the expansion of hyperconnectivity strengthens the participation of connected individuals in cultural enjoyment as well, changing the way of enjoying culture. The second point is about the role of culture. Despite continuous technological development, humans have been able to secure their position thanks to their capacity as cultural beings. Even if knowledge-based labor is replaced with artificial intelligence, humans’ own creativity is still expected to be powerful. Under these circumstances, culture will have to play a role of maintaining human creativity. Cultural policy should also consider cultural changes and culture’s role. This paper briefly reviews each change and discusses a desirable policy direction.



2. Fourth Industrial Revolution and Changes in Culture as “Experience”



[Picture 1]


First, what influence will the Fourth Industrial Revolution have on ‘cultural“ production and consumption? This research focuses on the fact that both cultural and tourism industries belong to the realm of human experience. To be more specific, experience is composed of humans accepting it (subject), time and space forming the context of experience (context) and the content of actual experience (content). In this framework of ”subject, context and content,“ changes in the realm of experience are summarized as [Picture 1].


Changes in the Subject of Experience: Post-Human

In theory, humans’ changes as subjects of experience are linked to discussion on “post-humanization.” Here, a post-human refers to a mixture of a machine and organism or a human connected to machine/technology (Hayles, 1999/2013). Living with technological development and supported by technology, humans have developed their different senses, intelligence and motor skills. Such “expanded” humans enjoy a way of life that is different from that of the past. While the past technological development focused on supporting humans’ physical functions, artificial intelligence is bringing cyborg-type hybridity not only to the human body but also to cognition and intelligence. Moreover, humans are redefining the nature of their existence in a complex network involving not only humans but also numerous non-human agents.


Changes in the Context of Experience: New Space and Time

Throughout history, technological development has brought important changes in humans’ perception of time. In particular, today’s technological development is gradually strengthening the mutual penetration of leisure time and working hours. This phenomenon leads to changes such as more spare time and multitasking (Lee Jae-hyun, 2004; Jauréguiberry, 2000). In response to these changes, desire for deep work (concentration on labor for creativity) and deep leisure (high-quality leisure time) is also increasing (Newport, 2016).  

Meanwhile, technological development has continuously expanded human life’s spatial scope (Harvey, 1989/1995). Spaces and places have been regarded as important for a long time from the perspective of forming human identity. However, the expansion of mediated space has diluted the importance of places as such natural and physical environment. Post-humans’ representative living space is a “non-place,” a type of “mediated space” (Augé, 1992/1995). To be more specific, augmented space and hybrid space are formed through the combination of physical space and data space (virtual digital space) (de Souza e Silva, 2006). This trend is strengthened by the technology of mixed, augmented and virtual reality.


Changes in the Content of Experience: Convergence of Symbolic, Physical and Communication Experience

Changes in the content of experience are summarized as the convergence of symbolic (content), physical (travel) and communication experience. First, content, which forms the core experience of the symbolic world, is expanding its convergence of genres in diverse ways. Second, travel, which is the most representative way of consuming the experience of the physical world, is also strengthening its convergence with media experience. Third, social communication is characterized by the expansion of communication and interaction with non-human agents such as things, software and media. In short, the diverse aspects of human experience will be recomposed of new combinations through convergence led by digitization.





3. Policy Implication: Fourth Industrial Revolution and Roles of Culture and Policy


When these changes further penetrate human life, policy needs to consider the following questions. First, if stronger convergence blurs the boundaries of culture’s internal realms, how should we modify the current framework of policy support in a flexibly way? John Dewey explains that art is the result of expressing human “experience” of meeting the outside world. From this point of view, changes in experience will definitely bring changes in the form and content of culture. Humans’ changed life will continuously require new forms of experience, in other words, new forms of art and content. The history of culture has always been the repetition of the collision, competition and coexistence of new cultural practice and the existing culture. Demand for the existing, institutionalized art and content may still exist but the need to make changes will also be suggested continuously.


This leads to the crisis of the existing institutional support and regulatory framework. Securing the diversity of types inside the same genre could be more valuable than the boundaries between art and content. Whom either an indie game developer or commercial artist should the government support and how? Going beyond the debate on effortless artistic activities and that on the efficiency of content promotion, we need fundamental reflection on the purpose of the government’s support for culture.


Second, when the boundaries between production and consumption become blurred, who should be the target of policy? In a world where anyone can become a creator, to whom should policy be directed? If everyone is a creator and enjoyer, how could we set boundaries between support for creation and that for enjoyment? What should be the first priority? We need to ask ourselves these questions.


The last question is about how to deal with the relationship between culture and its surroundings. As I mentioned when discussing the question of time, encouragement of people’s participation in cultural enjoyment and production is closely linked to the issue of humans’ time and environment. This goes beyond the scope of simple cultural policy.


For example, some countries approach the Fourth Industrial Revolution not just as an issue of strengthening industrial competitiveness but as a bigger question of social revolution following digital innovation. A case in point is Germany’s Einstein Foundation. Therefore, it is more and more necessary to consider the influences of changes in life in a big framework and to clarify the position of culture in this framework.


The discussion that this paper has elaborated on so far leads to reflection on culture’s social functions or roles. Should the government support the reproduction of forms (e.g. art) that are results of expressing human creativity? Or, should it support cultural life on the basis of the social influence and contribution of enjoying art? The discourse on cultural policy, which implies transition to cultural democracy, dilutes the hierarchy of cultural forms. The increase of the demand for well-grounded policy ceaselessly requires us to answer the question of culture’s social usefulness. Further discussion is needed to answer the following questions:1. How could we encourage culture’s roles strategically in the context of the changes brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution? 2. How could we obtain relevant social support and resources? 3. How could we redistribute the support and resources effectively?


Finally, the researchers of this paper went back to the question of indices. To be more specific, we need to make active efforts to come up with indices that describe people’s cultural enjoyment more accurately and that explain the social meaning of such enjoyment. This is to express current changes in a sophisticated way and to plan appropriate policies. This suggestion may not satisfy those who want an immediate solution. Nevertheless, if we believe that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is ultimately about strengthening individuals’ creativity and about discovering new potential through their “connectivity,” we should start by devising strategies to become closer to these individuals. This would be the most effective way of keeping the discourse on the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” from being reduced to a fad among policymakers.


#Bulletin #Bulletin Vol.5 #Cultural Policy #Fourth Industrial Revolution #Gyeong

@Lee Sungmin

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    Writer/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

    About/ Everything about the GyeongGi arts and culture, GGCF

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