Digital Divide or Dividend?
March 16, 2001 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Digital Divide or Dividend? Is the Internet killing unique local cultures or strengthening them?
posted by andrewraff (3 comments total)
Ahh duality.
posted by mblandi at 9:36 AM on March 16, 2001

Well, the internet isn't any more responsible for globalization than, say, the jet airplane. Time marches on; technology improves; distance disappears. The challenge for any culture, whether it's indigenous Inuit peoples or the people of middle America, is to keep what is best and lose what is no longer needed. Tepees, log cabins, and igloos are out; insulated, climate-controlled houses are in. Those native Alaskans probably all drive snowmobiles and very likely have television. They watch movies on VCRs. The kids in those schools may get picked up not by a schoolbus but by an airplane. The idea that they had a pristine culture before the internet is nonsense, and I hope no one argues that.

I think the opposite argument is much more true: the museum shop using the net to introduce shoppers to craftsmen is innovative. I don't know that it will have a completely positive effect: I can see some shoppers being put off by the experience, just as it's a little harder to eat a hamburger if you know how meat is processed. You can make that personal connection, but it's not a slam-dunk. This is very similar to the democratization of dialog that the internet has made possible. Before 20th Century Western culture, broadcast media did not exist. Now it may be superseded again, and that seems strange only to those of us immersed in it. But by giving us more choices in our lives, we're paradoxically given more responsibility to make those choices. We didn't have to feel responsible if a television star's project got cancelled; but when every visit counts, like to a weblog, we feel a little more personally involved in those choices.
posted by dhartung at 10:04 AM on March 16, 2001

Is the Internet killing unique local cultures or strengthening them?It's exposing them, and melding them; as cultures become as fancy as trends, and as trends become fused within our cultures. It's soley a give-and-take scenario that results in something new, but that doesn't also abandon the old.

posted by samsara at 1:01 PM on March 16, 2001

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