“Everything today is supposed to be global, except that in practice no one has ever had a truly global view"

Bruno Latour

Cultural Trends Lab

The lab was founded at University of Tyumen (Russia). The lab is directed by Dr. Lev Manovich, a pioneer in using computational methods to study contemporary culture, and a professor at The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY).

Elsewhere project

Our current project is in area of cultural analytics. It extends the work carried out by Manovich and his colleagues since 2007 in California and New York in new directions. The city of Tyumen act as the logical research base for this new project - investigations of dynamics of global culture that includes many smaller size cities as opposed to only a handful of global capitals.

Project in detail - motivation, methodology, datasets:

Lev Manovich. Elsewhere. (January 2019).

Project summary:

Where do new cultural ideas, sensibilities, and trends come from? It is easy to assume that a handful of world cities continue to act as the “centers,” and the rest of the world is still a periphery, where new ideas come with a delay. Certainly, the same “top” cities get disproportional amount of attention in cultural publications, research studies, and various ratings. But what is the real picture? How did globalization and the rise of new communication tools changed topology of culture? What is happening in contemporary culture in tends of thousands of smaller cities located far from world capitals and global airports? Can we predict which strategies - copying global trends, localizing these trends (fusing them with local traditions), mixing trends from different sources, creating offerings unique for the region, and trends that can spread globally - maybe successful in a given region or community? To answer these questions, we need to create the first detailed maps and timelines of contemporary global culture and see what patterns and relations they reveal.

Project goals: .

  • Propose and test a new research methodology for digital humanities and computational social science.

  • Create unique datasets that for the first time combine data about many types of cultural activities covering thousands of cities on all continents.

  • Use data science and visualization methods to map, measure and compare cultural activity in cities worldwide and the growth and diffusion of contemporary culture over time after 1990.

  • Understand how local cultural projects, groups, creators and locations can improve their global visibility, and provide them with the tools that they can use to compare themselves with their counterparts in many countries, and make their offerings more unique.

  • Help to make more visible globally innovative cultural projects and activities taking place in Siberia.

Contemporary culture is studied across a large number of fields that include sociology of culture, communication studies, humanities, urban studies, and computer science (large-scale analysis of users’ web and social media behavior and content.) Each of these fields carves out particular types of cultural activities and objects for analysis, and often ignores everything else. Our project proposes a more integrative approach that reflects changes in lifestyles and values over the last 10 years. It also aims to develop and test a new methodology – computational analysis of the types of “big cultural data” that until now have not been analyzed on such scale.

Writing about the emergence of social science methods in the 19th century and the work of Frédéric Le Play, historian Theodor Porter notes: “The basic task of social science, as Le Play and many of his contemporaries conceived it, was to work out a form of observation appropriate to the new social and economic conditions of the nineteenth century.” Today we need to work out forms of observations appropriate for our new cultural conditions – i.e., substantial quantitative and qualitative changes in cultural production and participation worldwide - after three decades of globalization and development of a series of new communication and publishing media (the web, social networks, data visualization, interactive maps, open data, use of AI by culture industry, growth of tourism, etc.)

Our goal is not only to observe but also to enable change. 30 years after the end of Cold War and beginning of the new stage of globalization, the world’s cultural and intellectual landscape is dominated by the West more than before. While the West is gradually losing its economic power and innovative edge, it continues to colonize the world intellectually. When will most ambitious young creatives and intellectuals line up to study in Tyumen, Bangkok or Nanjing as opposed to London, Berlin or Moscow? More importantly, if this happens, will they find truly different ideas and values there? Will our digital news and communication environments run by algorithms lead to more intellectual inequality, where small number of ideas are endlessly repeated while others become invisible? We hope that the maps and the tools we create will help people see more accurately if the world is becoming more homogeneous - and inspire them to create projects that increase intellectual and cultural diversity.