There is a consensus that stratification in society and social inequalities are not only material and economic but also cultural phenomena, and that the role played by culture is context-specific and historically variable. Many key debates of recent cultural sociology – the rise of the ‘cultural omnivore’, the fate of the classical ‘highbrow’ culture as well as the popularization, commercialization and globalization of culture, to name a few – deal with temporal changes. Yet, thus far sociologists have not succeeded in developing a broad and systematic understanding of the dynamics of cultural stratification.

This project fills this lacuna by exploring the dynamics of cultural stratification. Using a multidimensional and innovative research design, DYNAMICS brings the indispensable temporal dimension to the fore of cultural sociological research. It will do so by taking into account (a) the different time frames – long, middle, short – during which changes might take place and (b) both sides of cultural stratification, production and consumption. Moreover, it (c) utilizes a comprehensive, multi-method research design including three empirical parts and (d) develops a novel, unifying conceptual framework paying attention to a wide range of dimensions significant for the processes of cultural stratification, most notably, popularity, legitimacy, novelty, geographical fluidity, velocity and context dependency.

The first empirical part, continuing the work done in a previous CUDIGE project and focusing on long-term time frame and cultural production, is a comprehensive study of newspaper coverage of culture/arts in six European countries from 1960 to 2010. The newspaper data allow examining whether the content of legitimate culture has become more heterogeneous and whether the tensions between ‘high’ vs. popular and national vs. global culture have changed.

The second empirical part, with a focus on a middle-term time frame and cultural consumption, uses survey data and examines the changes in the social organization of lifestyles and tastes in Finland over the last ten years. It asks if specific tastes and activities have changed regarding popularity and legitimacy; if the correspondence between social and cultural hierarchies is about to dwindle; and if the number of omnivorous consumers is increasing.

The third empirical part focuses on the fastest-paced dynamics of cultural stratification by analyzing social media data. Computational methods of text analysis will be used to explore the trajectories of specific cultural objects and around which topics aesthetically normative cultural distinctions appear in the context of an online discussion.

By providing general understanding and empirical detail about the recent changes in cultural stratification, DYNAMICS will be highly innovative and of high impact in relation to previous studies and public debates on cultural inequalities.