Mobilizing for enlightenment in the digital age: a cultural history of the right to education – University of Copenhagen


Mobilizing for enlightenment in the digital age: a cultural history of the right to education

Project by Helle Pordam, PhD & dr.phil, professor of American Studies

The contribution of this sub-project toward answering the general research questions, outlined above, will be to address directly sub-question 1:

How will user participation in content – and digitization in general – affect the moral-political-educational obligations of CHIs?

Subquestions 2 and 4 – how do these infrastructures and public-private partnerships in data management affect the role of CHIs as public organizations and accessible platforms for public dialogue? And what impact will the increasing (financial) needs of CHIs for entertaining their ‘customers’ have on their ability to educate the public? – will also be touched upon, if less directly.

In addition, Porsdam will investigate;

i) how the impact of intellectual property (primarily copyright) concerns impact on digitization and cultural Bildung efforts undertaken by CHIs such as the three collaborating CHIs of ‘The Past’s Future’, and
ii) how these see their role and obligation as NATIONAL institutions in a world that is rapidly globalizing - not least due to digital transformations.

The overarching mission of the Danish Ministry of Culture is “to create access to Bildung [Da.: dannelse] and development for human beings and for society in general through art and culture.” The Ministry’s accompanying vision is: “Culture that enriches and moves.”

This mission and this vision, which are mentioned in all framework agreements between the Ministry and cultural institutions such as our collaborating CHIs, as well as in various strategy papers, e.g. the Strategy for Digitization 2012-159, are fairly close to the cultural Bildung scheme outlined above.

The word Bildung is not directly mentioned in any of the mission statements of our collaborating CHIs. It – or a version of it – does seem to hover in the background, though.

The stated mission of the Royal Library is to promote education, research and enlightenment. Those of the National Museum and the National Gallery are to make it possible for everyone to learn about and experience their cultural history, and to help promote a creative and reflective society, respectively.

These differences show how the three Danish CHIs emphasize different parts of that “access to Bildung” emphasized in the mission of their ministry – and also that Right to Education which is protected by international human rights instruments: the promotion of good quality education and the furtherance of inter-cultural understanding.

For all three CHIs, digitization has created the possibility of putting their missions (and visions) into practice. The Danish Digital Library (DDB) has now come into existence and in August 2013, seven Danish national institutions (including the three CHIs that are our external partners) received a large sum of money from the Ministry of Culture for the digitization of cultural heritage.

The present project is a direct continuation of Copyrighting Creativity: Creative Values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property (CULTIVATE, 2010-13), Porsdam’s project under the HERA Joint Research Programme for the theme "Humanities as a Source of Creativity and Innovation".

The point of departure is that part of human rights which concerns cultural rights. These rights are currently emerging as the new frontier of human rights.

In spite of the paucity of specific human rights provisions, culture is increasingly occupying center stage in international law, and UNESCO has produced soft law within several distinct areas of cultural rights and policy: the right to education, linguistic rights, traditional culture and folklore, and cultural diversity.

Cultural rights are fundamental to the protection of all other rights. ‘Culture’ is increasingly seen as a basic component of political, social and economic development and with the 2009 appointment of a Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, these rights are now institutionalized within the UN system.