8.1 General context
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The most recent major surveys on the cultural participation of young people reveal certain cultural behavioural trends among French youngsters:
Young people and the reading
The CNL – National Book Centre (Centre national du livre), a public institution of the Ministry of Culture, conducts annually a national survey on young people and how they relate to books and reading. In 2018 the main findings of this study show that reading is appealing and a regular activity: 77% claim to enjoy reading, 78% read because they want to and devote around 3 hours a week to it for recreation. The study demonstrates the impact of the family environment on reading practices: the children who read the most have parents who are regular readers themselves and have a high level of education.
The datasets show that:
- Most young people read, particularly because they want to, even though the majority of them read in the context of school, university or work.
- Wide disparities exist between young adult women and men: women read more readily because they want to compared with men, reading for an additional 1 hour 40 min a week and 3 more books a year.
- The family context influences how young people relate to reading: 15-25 year olds whose parents read regularly for themselves or for their children clearly read more than others.
- Digital activities leave a small amount of room in the day for reading*.
- Reading in "paper" format is favoured, even though other ways of reading are also popular among 15-25 year olds.
- 15-25 year olds mainly read novels. Fantasy, crime and science-fiction are primarily the most popular genres. Many young people also read graphic novels, comics and manga.
Source: Study carried out on behalf of the CNL by Ipsos: A. Vincent-Gérard and B. Vaysettes, Les jeunes adultes et la lecture [Young adults and reading].
Young people as "cultural omnivores"
The survey, Barometer DJEPVA 2019 on youth carried out by the National Institute of Youth and Non formal Education in partnership (INJEP) with CREDOC- Research Center for the study and observation of living conditions shows the existence of a great diversity of cultural practices among young people. The study distinguishes several families of cultural practicies: "traditional", "artistic creative" and "digital".
The survey shows a dynamism and diversity of cultural activities among young people:
• "91% of young people thus have creative amateur activities implying an active posture and often social interactions.
• " young people have passion for the realization of manual work or decoration (65% of young people) and the production of photo and video (60%) ".
• "Dance (48%) and singing (48%) concern one in two young people".
• "18% of young people have at least seven different artistic hobby practices".
• "Almost all (95%) of young people have done traditional cultural activities and outings in the last twelve months, with a certain taste for cinema (83%) and reading (78%)".
• "Next come digital cultural activities (86% of young people), where the practice of streaming is the dominant practice: 81% say they watch movies or series in streaming and 76% listen to streaming music."
Indeed, the category of 18-30 year olds multiply more than all French people cultural activities: they combine them, then presenting themselves as cultural "omnivores". This situation goes against the prejudices against the young people described as passive consumers. On the contrary, the survey highlights the fact that 18-30 year olds are by far the most active and creative age group.
Source: Baillet J., Brice-Mansencal L., Hoibian S., Bene J., Dahan C., Timoteo J., From spectators to creators: multiplicity of cultural and artistic practices of young people. INJEP analyzes & summaries, December 2019.
The datasets from these surveys yield an insight into the challenges to be addressed by cultural public youth policies: removing these barriers by sparking interest, making cultural facilities and practices more accessible and developing and promoting cultural opportunities.
Of the concepts most strongly characterising cultural public policy, it would be worth mentioning: "cultural democratisation", the notion of "heritage" and the concept "of cultural exception".
"Cultural democratisation" defines the fact of making culture accessible to as many people as possible. This ambitious idea forms one of the cornerstones of cultural public policies – those of the Ministry of Culture more specifically. Ever since it was first created back in 1959, the latter has been "tasked with making the key works of humanity, and of France first and foremost, accessible to as many French citizens as possible […]" in the words of the writer André Malraux, ministre d’État, who was entrusted with founding the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
For fifty years, this principle has long been the subject of debate: two approaches to democratisation have thus been pitted against each other, one so-called "elitist" approach which involves fostering access for all to "classical" or "erudite" culture, and the other involving broadening the notion of culture and recognising cultural plurality and equality (rural or urban culture for example). These debates have shaped and organised the crafting and implementation of cultural policy. Against this backdrop, some have preferred to talk of the concept of "cultural democracy" rather than of cultural democratisation. By cultural democracy, we mean the recognition "of the diversity of aesthetic experiences", cultures and the lack of any hierarchy between the latter.
These days, the various cultural stakeholders, the Ministry of Culture included, are seeking a balance between these approaches, especially when it comes to developing cultural youth policies. Cultural democratisation and the recognition of new cultures (such as digital for example) remain at the heart of cultural youth initiatives.
In a similar way to cultural democratisation, the notion of "heritage" is one of the linchpins of French cultural public policy. Heritage defines "the common legacy" of a society. For a long time confined to monuments and museums, the notion of heritage has since broadened to encompass intangible cultures. According to the Ministry of Culture, these concern, for example "oral, musical or choreographic traditions, languages as vehicles of these traditions, traditional sports and games, festive events, local craft know-how and knowledge linked to what we know about nature or the universe". Heritage forms a distinct sector in its own right of cultural initiatives and policies, particularly those aimed at young people. Such initiatives set out to help young people to get personally to grips with heritage themselves.
The notion of cultural exception, promoted by France since the 1980s, is based on the idea that culture is not a commercial product like any other. Although its economic dimension does need to be taken into account, the role that culture plays in the personal development of each citizen as well as that of society means that this economic sector is a common good; this then requires the public authority's involvement to ensure there is an ongoing cultural offering that is of high-quality, varied and accessible to as many people as possible.