Culture is digital: Cultural participation, diversity and the digital divide

Digital media are seen as important instruments of increasing participation and diversity in arts and culture. To examine whether this view is justified, this article draws on two bodies of research that have hitherto remained disconnected: research on cultural participation, and research on the digital divide. Building on these insights, the article examines the Taking Part Survey data on digital media and cultural participation in the UK between 2005/06 and 2015/16, focusing on museums and galleries. While the results confirm that digital media provide an important means of engaging new audiences, they also show that the engagement with museums and galleries both on- and off-line remains deeply unequal. Most worryingly, the gaps between the haves and the have nots are even wider on-line than in the case of physical visits. Rather than helping increase the diversity of audiences, online access seems to reproduce, if not enlarge, existing inequalities.