Loss of Culture in a Digital World Joel, Diane, Ankita, Andrew, Kristina

Overview

Technology is progressing to the point where we can interact with many different nations and cultures; is it possible to show that the bitsphere is not only aiding this progression but accelerating the rate at which it is occurring? Global interactions are expanding and becoming richer and fuller but these interactions can also become impersonal and dangerous. Can cultural assimilations in the hopes of forming global villages, pose dangers such as loss of individual identity? Within this, can identity also be expanded to an individual's culture or personality?

Problem

As we culturally assimilate in the hopes of forming global villages do we face the danger of losing our personal identity and individual cultural identity or even our personality?

SOLUTION

As part of our research required a qualitative approach, we chose to have our media piece featured not as the solution, but as a lens into our individual, subjective and contextual viewpoints on culture, and the technological impact on this. It was through this exploration that we were then truly able to explore the inevitability of cultural hybridization through assimilation. The idea of “hyphenated” culture was also oft brought up within these pure reflections, and we believe that this will help others better understand our approach on research/ exploration. Our solution still holds true in its unconventional text format; and the culture exploration videos assist to set the theme for the other sections of our work.

What is Culture?

Before we address our problem we wanted to create a definition for culture. We hypothesized that having a better understanding of what culture is would help us identify a solution to the possible loss of individual identity and culture.

As we explored a possible definition for culture we discovered that all of us have our own ideas of what culture means. It was clear that we all had a uniquely different perspective on the definition of culture. To help us understand each other better and to get a true meaning of the word culture we decided that we would all define what culture means to us.

By expressing our own cultural definitions it would provide us with a better understanding of how technology could impact our identity. Below are 5 videos created by each of the group members. Please enjoy each of our definitions of culture, and any potential associated impact of technology.

Culture has a deep meaning for all of us, it is rich in diversity and in many ways we are already linked by our shared interests. Each of our cultures are uniquely defined by our history, our experiences and our connection to a digital culture. We will explore in more details our identities, global communities, the digital culture, the Bitsphere and finally the impact of ICT on cultural survival.

How Does Identity (even Cultural) tie into our Individuality?

“New ideas and understandings about how to interpret the world around us … mean a greater understanding of one's own place in the world and of oneself, one's desires, and one's capacities - in other words, one's identity” (Stanley, 2006). After collectively defining what culture meant to all five members, we were able to determine the outliers that could be impacted. Culture(s) could be identified by an individual’s heritage, spirituality/ spiritual beliefs, language(s), behaviours, norms and values, dietary choices, music and (fine) arts, fashion, history and tradition(s), and more.

These are also the same things, just as we had hypothesized, that can also define the individuality of a person. However, some of the other things raised included losing one’s sense of identity...not simply through naturalization, and assimilation, but through no longer ‘belonging’. By leaving behind a ‘homeland’ can cause some, especially immigrants to be foreigners with a sense of no-man’s land syndrome. And as much as personal identity ties into culture through a sense of community, and group identity, it loses its initial strengths when exposed to less and less of it’s origins, as it starts to manifest all the classifications of foreign cultures that one’s then predominantly exposed to. This is especially evident when the shift occurs from an individualist to a collectivist culture, (and presumably vice versa) (Hopper, 2015).

Further research reflects the idea that, “Loss of individualism and group identity occur when globalization encourages a 'Western ideal of individualism'” (Gibson, 2007). So ideally the path to idyllic cultural citizenship, comes with steps to higher forms of civic cohesion.

Global Communities & Technology

In order to understand how our identities and cultures fit into a global community we should look at an organization that embodies the meaning of a global community. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is an organization that brings cultures together to find unity and equality. UNESCO was formed in 1945 and has 195 members (countries), and 10 associate members from all over the world, including Canada who became a member in 1946.

UNESCO is responsible for supporting basic human rights, quality of education and preserving a cultural environment rich in diversity and dialogue (UNESCO, 2016).

When the Government of Canada defines culture, it follows the lead of UNESCO, and adds to the definition by stating, "For a culture to thrive, it needs a supportive distribution system and investment infrastructure, as well as a stimulating environment for creators and artists (Government of Canada, 2016).

In Canada, we have a strong cultural identity which is interwoven with a global identity. Our global identity represents many of our cultural believes and most significantly our cultural diversity. With the introduction of a digital culture our global identity is more transparent and becoming more diverse. Saying that there is a risk to losing a cultural identity and individuality within a global community, especially, with the increase of use of the 'Bitsphere' and ICTs.

As the digital culture develops we have to learn to adapt to the evolution of a cultural identity through ICT's. To help Canada with preserving a cultural identity through the evolution of the digital culture, Canada supports the ideals set by UNESCO through the concepts of 'Knowledge Societies' (UNESCO, 2016). These societies cultivate digital awareness that identify distinct knowledge concepts and help with creating a space for hybridization of cultures. 'Knowledge Societies' are built on four pillars: Freedom of expression, universal access to information and knowledge, respect for cultural and linguistic diversity; and quality education for all (UNESCO, 2016).

"UNESCO supports the preservation of documentary heritage by strengthening existing preservation frameworks, and emphasizes long-term preservation of digitized and digitally-born information. UNESCO equally encourages multilingualism and respect for cultural diversity in cyberspace" (UNESCO, 2016).

Digital Culture

Just as with individual culture, digital culture is extremely difficult to define. According to Wikiversity digital culture is the “phase of communication technologies, one that follows 19th century print culture and 20th century electronic broadcast culture”. Digital culture, or Cyberculture, is the period of time happening right now; the time of networked computers, digital images, and personal(ized) technologies.

Gilkey (2015), states that the technology that powered the industrial revolution created the industrial society. The mass production of automobiles created the suburbs, the commuter, and vacationers. The radio created listeners and television created the culture of Hollywood. And now the Internet is creating a culture that is so fast paced that this webpage will be 'old news' within a few months.

The emergence of digital culture can be associated with the intensive use of communication technologies and how individuals interact with each other both online and in real life. Cyberculture can also refer to the cultures of virtual communities but can extend to include topics such as, cybernetics, and cultural assimilation or movements.

The cyberculture we are a part of can affect many different aspects of our everyday lives; the vernacular we use, our sense of humour, and the activities we find pleasure in are all influenced by the lives we live online. An individual’s cyberculture can be shaped by social media sites such as, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, and online communities, such as Reddit and 4chan. Culture itself has been studied and documented for many years, cyberculture has only become a global issue in the last few decades and even more in the last 10 years with the rise of smartphones and other personalized technologies. Our culture and cyberculture are now one and the same.

The Bitsphere & Culture

How people interact in today’s world is a complete turn from how we communicated in the past. Many would say that this is happening in all aspects of life but there are very few places that have advanced so far (or in some cases regressed, eg: Youtube comments) than communication. Where normally you had to walk outside your door to have a conversation, you can have a conversation with anyone, from anywhere at any time. The “Bitsphere” is described as an electronic yet living organism with simple beginnings which has grown to be more complex and diverse much like the biosphere. (Denning & Metcalfe, 2012, p.165)

The Bitsphere has provided an influx of information to anyone wanting to learn about another culture. Ursula Franklin (1990) remarks that this information, though easily and readily available, has not provided much understanding. You could argue that information and its access are truly the easy part, understanding has and will always trend slower than having access to the information. The important part is different cultures can access and interact in a safe space, as this can assist in the understanding and the building of a new global culture. The more knowledge and information that is available, the more it leads to interactions; with increased interactions the cultural growth will evolve and follow.

The more the Bitsphere grows, the more complex it becomes. This encompasses the internet and related applications such as social media, gaming, schooling and online businesses. There are gaming communities made up of people from many different cultures; they come together based on a love of a particular game or genre of games (Xbox live, PSN, WOW). The interactions are full, some will act out their characters, some just come together for a casual experience. These interactions are not specifically based on culture but they are members of different cultures interacting, which is a positive step for the formation of a worldwide culture, separate but one. Ursula Franklin (2008) described the Bitsphere as “the struggle for community” within the Biosphere and that’s what I see happening throughout the internet, as people are trying to find their place and role within a larger community. Among the examples of this struggle are groups on Facebook, gaming clans, online study groups/associations and online trade groups for online businesses. This shows people of many different walks of life and cultures getting together to achieve something. Sharing ideas may predicate the loss of culture to some degree it still could lead to a hybrid culture of the two (or more) parties that wasn’t present before; instead of a loss, it is the construction of something new.

The Historical Impact of ICT on Cultural Survival

Conclusion

When different cultures assimilate, a hybrid culture spawns which results in an addition to the global community and not, in fact, a loss of individual culture. During the assimilation one culture is more dominant and will leave behind more elements in the hybridized culture.

Cultural evolution is inevitable, however with the support of UNESCO and their ‘Knowledge Societies,’ culturally deep structures can withstand technology changes and advancements. The sharing of knowledge and cultural beliefs in the digital world helps to expand the global community. Even with the expansion of global communities there is not a total loss of cultural identity.

References

Credits:

Created with images by sasint - "children study of laptop" • edgarwinkler - "un flag internationality" • nikolabelopitov - "archeology history ancient" • Jayel Aheram - "Globes"

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