A little more than 13 years ago in September 1999 (issue no. 245), Olivier Donnat outlined the development of the cultural practices of the French over the period 1973-1997 in these columns, highlighting the increasing part played by the audio-visual media in those practices. A decade and one further survey later, in a context in which a veritable digital revolution has taken place, how do things stand with these practices now and what are the major trends at work in this area in France?
Drawing on the five waves of investigation of the cultural practices of the French carried out between 1973 and 2008, Olivier Donnat begins by presenting four major trends: the increase in audio-visual consumption; the fall-off in the reading of printed media; confirmation of the propensity of the French to frequent cultural facilities outside their own homes; and the increased participation in amateur cultural practices. He then shows that these developments occurred in two phases, linked to technological innovation (the rise of television and audio-visual equipment, the spread of the Internet and the new communications technologies), and are characterized by the increasing part played by screen culture rather than the previously dominant print culture. Detailing this movement towards the screen and its consequences for cultural practices (showing, among other things, that the lesser success of the book does not mean a fall-off in reading practices), Donnat presents the changes at work and their principal drivers (technologies and age-related dynamics – particularly generational effects). He concludes by stressing the ambivalence that remains regarding the effects of the spread of screen culture on the democratization and mediation of culture.