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ESRA 2023 Glance Program

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Cultural Capital in a Digitalized World

Session Organisers Ms Elif Sari (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi))
Dr Christoph Homuth (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi))
TimeTuesday 18 July, 16:00 - 17:00
Room U6-01f

When Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron popularized the concept of cultural capital in the social sciences almost 50 years ago to explain social reproduction, the world was different. Not only were social structures and the extend of of social inequality different, but there was also no digitalization. For example, knowledge was not as easily accessible as today (Wikipedia vs. printed dictionaries) and cultural events were more exclusive due to improvements in societal wealth.

However, in today’s surveys, we still refer to this concept at its core when we measure cultural capital. But do our “established” survey instruments, such as the number of books in the household, participation in highbrow activities (e.g., opera, ballet, theatre), or home possessions, continue to be applicable measures of relevant cultural capital? Or are new forms of distinction emerging, and do "old" ones become less relevant? Are there any “new” forms of cultural capital in a digital world we should focus on, and how could they be measured? After all, not only are books on the internet, but also cultural events take place in the virtual world.

Additionally, survey methods changed over time and digital forms, especially web-based surveys became the norm which might impact data quality.

We welcome contributions that address these and related issues of measuring cultural capital in today’s world and explore, e.g, established instruments by analyzing age and cohort effects and gauge how large the explanatory contribution of established measurements of cultural capital for societal phenomena still is; or discuss new definitions and operationalizations of cultural capital that lead to innovative ways or new methods and instruments; or explore mode effects of established instruments.

Keywords: cultural capital, digitalization


The Relevance of E-Books for Measuring Cultural Capital

Ms Elif Sari (LIfBi – Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)
Dr Christoph Homuth (LIfBi – Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories) - Presenting Author

The number of printed books at home is an important and established part of the measurement of cultural capital in all educational surveys. It is often used as a measurement of social origin and so far also seems to be a suitable and practical operationalization for the (objectified) cultural capital of a household.
However, with advancing digitization, e-books are becoming more and more prevalent. Do e-books have the same (educational) relevance as printed books? Are e-books a significant indicator or sub-dimension of cultural capital in a digitalized world? Finally, how are e-books correlated with other, well-established indicators of cultural capital?
In the German National Educational Panel (NEPS), both printed books and e-books are measured in several cohorts (newborns, kindergartners, schoolchildren) at different points in the educational career. In our analyses, we compare the relationship between social origin and number of e-books in possession. We also analyze whether and to what extent the possession of e-books can be explained by traditional measures of cultural capital (for example works of art or visits to a museum).
Preliminary results using NEPS SC2 data show that there is a positive association between e-books and frequent reading as well as cultural participation (visiting museums or art exhibitions; cinemas; rock/pop concerts). There is no correlation with institutionalized cultural capital (formal education) and with other forms of objectified cultural capital (e.g., having a dictionary at home), except for books.
These initial insights indicate that probably not the same theoretical assumptions apply to digital books as to printed ones and that a critical reflection of previous survey instruments could be beneficial.

Changes of cultural and economic capital over time in two neighborhoods in Cologne, Germany

Dr Alice Barth (University of Bonn) - Presenting Author
Professor Jörg Blasius (University of Bonn)

Based on Bourdieu’s “social space” approach, we will demonstrate how lifestyles in two gentrified neighborhoods in Cologne (Germany) change over time. We use indicators such as preferred sources of furniture, food preferences, and interior style of the dwellings to create a two-dimensional space by applying multiple correspondence analysis (MCA). The axes of the resulting space can be interpreted as cultural and economic capital, or respectively, capital volume and composition. Further, socio-demographic characteristics are included as supplementary variables to confirm the interpretation of the axes. By doing this, we can assess which lifestyle characteristics are particularly indicative of high or low cultural capital and whether their relational position, i.e. their power of distinction, changes over time.
Our data source is the Cologne Dwelling Panel (2010-2022), a five-wave face-to-face survey in two residential neighborhoods that are differentially affected by gentrification processes. The data are especially suitable for the study of neighborhood change, as the sample unit are dwellings (apartments or houses) instead of persons or households, like in “classical” panel studies. For each dwelling, a resident is interviewed as its “spokesperson”. As such, new residents (in-movers) are included in the sample by design, which allows for a representative depiction of population changes over time.
We will assess changes in cultural and economic capital with data from the first wave (2010, about 1,000 cases) and the fifth wave (2022, about 900 cases). The joint evaluation of these two waves allows us to study changes in lifestyles in the neighborhoods. Further, we can assess changes in the positions of social groups within the space, e.g. whether in-movers’ capital volume differs from that of staying residents or whether the relationship between educational achievements and certain indicators of cultural capital changes over time.

Measuring Cultural Capital Using Book Collections. What Are We Missing by Not Asking About Digital Objects?

Professor Gunnar Otte (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) - Presenting Author
Dr Tim Sawert (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)
Mr Dave Balzer (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)
Ms Marie Schlosser (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)
Ms Annalena Röser (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)

In research on social and cultural reproduction, numerous studies locate the core of cultural capital in the literary field, using parental or personal physical book collections as indicators of objectified cultural capital. Given the ongoing digitalization of media and culture, the question arises whether digital collections, such as e-books, should be given greater consideration. Specifically: Are we underestimating the cultural capital of certain groups of people by not taking digital collections into account?
Our paper scrutinizes the relevance of physical and digital book collections by embedding them in a socialization and life course perspective on reading and status attainment. In a first step, we clarify the conceptual meaning of parental and persons’ own book collections as part of their overall cultural capital. In a second step, we analyze the empirical relevance of physical (parental and personal) and digital (personal) book collections in the process of reading socialization and current literary behavior.
We use data from the panel study “Cultural education and cultural participation in Germany” (wave 1: 2018). We look at how book collections in physical, digital, and combined form correlate with domestic and non-domestic literary practices, such as reading books, visiting public readings, visiting libraries, and writing literary texts, which can be regarded as proxies of incorporated cultural capital. It is further demonstrated whether the importance of digital books has changed across birth cohorts. Finally, institutionalized cultural capital, measured by parents’ and their descendants’ education, is added to our analyses to examine the interplay of family and school.
Our results suggest that physical and digital book collections are associated with literary practices and education in a similar way, with correlations being weaker for digital collections. Overall, information gains which can be obtained from including digital book collections seem to be modest.