This research project aims at studying changes in taste structures and cultural preferences among Estonian and Swedish students. Empirically the project continue to work of an already completed survey, conducted at Tartu University and Södertörn University in 2002. Theoretically it strives to answer the question about taste structure and change in societies marked by contemporary similarities and historical differences in relation to societal power structures, and the implication of time on habitus. In a traditional Western Democracy, like Sweden, the commercial forces in society have long had a dominant position against political, cultural and scientific interests. In the former Soviet states, of which Estonia is one, memories of the governmental forces’ total domination are still alive – despite the contemporary social structure and liberal organization of society and economy. These contemporary and historically oriented dimensions of culture are likely to create differences in taste structures among students in the two countries. In our earlier study, we have already shown how a kind of cultural paradox characterizes both student groups in which the Estonian students in their attitudes, embraces the commercial culture while using a widespread array of cultural expressions of both high and low character. The Swedish students show disgust towards the commercially organized culture while this type of entertainment, media and culture dominates their usage patterns.
The strong change that we have seen in the Baltic region since the early 1990s indicate the importance of seeking to identify the micropatterns of structural change here. Following our previous empirical study, a diachronic comparison between the two national student groups can now be made. This represents a unique and important contribution to both the theory of cultural taste and to our understanding of the Baltic Sea region and the countries involved in its rapid change.
The empirical material consists of a survey of students at Tartu University and Södertörn University (The student groups under investigation belongs to the substances Philosophy, Business Administration, Teacher Education; Media and Communication Studies and Political Science) and a large number of qualitative interviews, participant observations and comparisons between countries’ media landscape regarding ownership, marketing, finance and cultural and media content.