Economic and cultural interactions during a pandemic

Olga Barbina

It can be considered that businesses and organizations that are not represented on the Internet or do not have their own pages on social networks are not taken seriously, thus losing a significant part of potential consumers or being under the radar. A pandemic is forcing the technologically stuck institutions to migrate to the web.

Due to the pandemic, public events were canceled – for theaters, museums, cinemas, etc. cultural spaces closed their doors indefinitely. The Internet environment became the main available platform for continuing its activities and communicating with the viewer.

Observing the course of cultural events in the new conditions, one can notice various unique problems and peculiarities. First of all, the saturation of web events and information has increased, which makes it difficult to track the events that could be of interest to oneself. Many who were excited at the beginning of the pandemic to watch world-class film festivals (such as We Are One: A Global Film Festival), visit world galleries or listen to lectures, eventually missed them or, due to high saturation, lost interest in them altogether.

Despite the availability and variety of events on the web, they cannot completely quench your thirst for culture. The experience of observation and participation becomes duller, it lacks a social aspect. Preparing and dressing up before the cultural event, and the time allotted to it, gives the event more importance, creating a sense of celebration.

Interestingly, the fee for the event changes the attitude towards it. When you pay for a movie theater, you are much more likely to watch the movie to the end without interruption than watching it on your home TV or computer. Another important aspect is that when people pay for an event, they make more informed choices, as well as better prepare for the upcoming event. For example, under the online broadcast of experimental music, there were comments – “what is that noise?” and “how could anyone pay for it?”. That is the point, that only those who are interested are paying for it – the fee for the entrance ticket screens out the random passer-by.

The audience is disciplined by the direct contact with the performer that was lost during the pandemic – for example, rarely does a visitor get up during a show to leave the hall, while quitting an online broadcast is perfectly acceptable. A person’s alienation from his internet representation and anonymity allows him to write comments with less self-censorship, without thinking about the performer’s feelings.

On the other hand, the above is not an argument against freely available cultural events, on the contrary, it is hoped that their accessibility and openness will allow to broaden the horizons of those viewers who joined the event by accident and decided to stay.

During the pandemic, the cultural sector can not function properly and generate revenue from its customers, and the support from the national government becomes important. It is with this significance that we can look how different countries are dealing with the situation. For example, the German government has allocated € 50 billion to cultural institutions, while Spain has stated that culture is the last priority during a pandemic. Scholarships and benefits for cultural workers have been promised in Latvia, but there is an opinion that they are difficult to obtain. On June 4, the website of the Latvian Ministry of Culture reported that the government had allocated 10.6 million euros to support cultural institutions “to mitigate the consequences of the emergency”. With the funding, the government indicated how important the field of culture and art is to the state.

Downtime benefits are an important feature of a pandemic, affecting a wide range of sectors but having a significant impact on the cultural sphere as a whole. In the context of quarantine, the governments of several countries were forced to pay benefits in order to avoid an even deeper crisis against the background of general chaos. Without state support, many directly affected by the effects of the pandemic would not be able to purchase goods and services during or after the emergency.

Due to the emergency situation, the possibility of a universal basic income is being actively discussed globally, which would support the existence of the existing political system and could both protect the population during difficult times and provide them with long-term financial security. British journalist Paul Mason believes the pandemic is one of the catalysts for the new system, which will extend beyond the framework of capitalism. It is clear that the support programs currently adopted are short-lived, but we must not ignore the general trends in the world, technological and digital progress. It is equally important to think about the development of robotics and automation technologies, which are constantly changing the labor market. There are fewer and fewer jobs that cannot be fully or partially automated, so the government will in any case have to deal with how to materially protect the population.

It remains to be hoped that the pandemic situation will be a bridge to dialogue, which will help to create a more secure and therefore less anxious and responsible society, which will allow each individual to create more culturally and socially significant activities that are more difficult to do within the framework of capitalism.

Illustrations by the author, created during the quarantine.