Fundació Catalunya Europa RE-CITY

Manuel Castells

Culture and education, keys for combating inequalities in the digital era


The last decade has been characterized by an extraordinary technological development based on information and communication technologies, while social inequality has been accentuated. But for Manuel Castells there is no direct relationship between the two processes. And the digital division in terms of Internet access is dissipating. The fundamental inequality comes from the different cultural and educational capacity of people to efficiently manage the economy of digital information and culture. The challenge lies in the innovative modernization of the education system.


"The idea that there is a dividing line between those who have Internet and those who do not is medieval. What is left now is the generational transition". Manuel Castells, renowned sociologist and economist, author of The Information Age, talked about that in the conference where he addressed two major global processes: Social Inequality and Digital Communication, in the cycle "Fighting inequalities, the Great Global Challenge", Organized by the Fundació Catalunya Europa with the support of la Caixa, Barcelona City Council, Generalitat de Catalunya and Club of Rome.

The Internet, says Castells, is the fastest broadcasting technology in history. Currently, 5,000 million users and 7,000 million mobile subscribers are counted. The impact of this technology is so great, that a study done in Latin America shows that people prioritize the capacity of mobile communication to food. This is what Castells calls permanent connectivity.

But despite the rapid technological expansion globally, inequalities not only persist, but they have also increased. The key is not in the connection by itself, but in how we use it in terms of information, signals and content. It is here, where culture and communication play a fundamental role. "Internet inequality is linked to the cultural capital of families," says Manuel Castells. As Melvin Kranzberg theorized: "technology is neither good nor bad, but it is not neutral either. Like every tool, you need an application framework".

By genres, where inequality is produced it is not in the use, already in the same educational level differences are detected, but in other terms. For example, there is an antifemenine systematic bias in engineering schools around the world. This bias is even more important in the world of hackers, where the few women who move around do not usually reveal their gender. Or the world of video games, which represents 25% of Internet traffic, is still extremely masculine.

Internet expansion has also led to important changes in the way of working and learning from new generations. "What is learning in a world where all the information is on the Internet?" Castells asks. "The new generations, have less capacity to memorize, but exponentially increases the ability to recombine, which is the basis of creativity. The human brain is much more powerful and creative than the machines".

Undoubtedly, this paradigm shift is entailing accelerated social changes. The supposed destruction of jobs is one of the main concerns. For Castells, this is a false myth. According to several studies, the most advanced companies increase the jobs. But the increase in productivity allows the generation of new jobs does not originate only in technology, but that there is a need for organizational rethinking at a business level. According to Castells, it is essential to accompany the technological transition of an educational and educational transition. "There are two types of workers, the self-programmed ones, that is, people with a capacity to resituate themselves, to seek new jobs and generics, which can be replaced by any other worker or possibly by a machine." This division is the one that causes us to have one of the highest inequality indexes in history.


    Manuel Castells is Professor of sociology at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Professor of communication technology and society at the University of Southern California, a Fellow at St John's College in Cambridge and an Academician at the Royal Spanish Academy of Economic and Financial Sciences. His last book is “Ruptura. La crisis de la democracia liberal”, (Alianza 2018).