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Culture in the age of the Internet

Hello Tedsters!
I wold like to start a new debate. I was quite surprised to see that no one has been discussing this subject so far at TED Conversations. We speak about technology, science and changes in the society, but it seems as we have forgotten about the culture, and how the new technologies change it.
I wold like to focus your attention to the changes in the culture that are caused by the Internet. This wonderful global network, that allows instant transfer of any intellectual content to almost any place on Earth. Seems brilliant, doesn't it? But have you noticed that the whole world is now watching the same movies, listening to the same music and reading the same books? I wonder if that is a good thing that slowly we are loosing our diversity? Maybe we should somehow protect local differences? Or maybe we should act in opposite direction? Doesn't it annoy you that living outside a specific region you can't access legally some content? I understand the legal and commercial reason why i.e. Hulu or Pandora are available only to U.S residents, but should it be so? Maybe the whole word should have equal access to all the cultural and intellectual wealth?
But if we would like to provide easy access for everyone to the "cultural products", witch I strongly believe should happen, how to protect the author's right to profit from it? Is the DRM the right answer? I don't think so, but honestly I can't come up with a better one.
I hope someone will find these topics as interesting as I do. The world is changing whether we want it or not. I think we need to find answers for these questions, because otherwise we will end up regretting that we missed the opportunity to steer this process that we still have now.

  • Feb 16 2011: Main problem seems to be the very word "culture": what does it mean?

    • In France, the classic view of "culture" is linked with the ability to create a masterpiece that fits with its time, but there's no specific word for the products delivered by today's entertainment industry, hence the confusion.

    • In the German meaning, "culture" is closer to civilisation and includes the representations shared by the community members.

    • In the (English or) American acceptance, it seems closer to the way of living, with values and behaviours.


    Now, for the French culture, and based on CNRS researcher Dominique WOLTON's work, there are no longer two kinds of cultures, elitist and mainstream, but four:

    1• Cosmopolite, which is no longer linked to a country or a civilisation. It is the result of post-modernism for a global minority of "happy few", but unconnected to the other forms.

    2• Elitist, which refers to Molière, Shakespeare, Goethe, Cervantes (one per country) but refuses to consider contemporary realisations as culture. It is a minority now but a powerful social connector.

    3• Mass-media, which is a mix of promotion and destruction of the previous elitist form. Main approach is consumerism.
    - Promotion, with the hugely popular Louvre museum, as a result of combined democracy, higher living standard and better education.
    - But destruction also, when Walt Disney animated films over-write Perrault's tales, as a product delivered by a powerful and lucrative entertainment industry.

    4• Popular, as the true Perrault tales and gastronomy recipes. It shares the same attributes with the elitist culture (minority and powerful social connector) and connects easily with it. This popular culture could also be linked to a minority, ethnic or religious group.

    To make things more difficult: one single person could behave according to more than one kind of culture!

    Back to the question, my answer is another question: "how internet is shaping the concept of culture?"
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      Feb 16 2011: "Main problem seems to be the very word "culture": what does it mean?"

      I love your post. With that single question you have falsified my hypothesis about unification of wold culture :)
      I didn't realize that this word can have so different meanings in different languages. In Polish word "kultura" is very broad term and means whole spiritual and material achievements of society, also characteristic patterns of behavior in a population.

      To answer your question I would have to ask another one: which "culture"? If we are discussing French understanding of the term with the classification you have presented I would say that the Internet is strengthening mass-media. Right now every one knows what Louvre is, but I had to check Wikipedia for Perrault.
      As we obviously have a different comprehension of the word "culture" I have trouble understanding what do you mean by "one single person could behave according to more than one kind of culture!". Do you mean it as a set of rules one can obey?
      • Feb 19 2011: Thanks for your answer and your questions!

        I would freely translate "kultura" into a grander word, civilisation. When I did the Tchestokova pilgrimage in 1984, I remember that candles, hand-kissing, flowers, respectful "you" (French "vous" opposed at "tu", for one person) were proudly presented as "kultura" by my Polish friends. This was how they were resisting against the materialistic communist regime—with the success all we know.

        Perrault wrote some fairy tale as Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Bluebeard, Hop o' My Thumb. As they are based on folk tales, they are the perfect example of connection between popular culture going elitist, not to mention Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet. So civilisation includes both elitist and popular cultures.

        About multi-level cultural behaviours: one person could eat fast-food and consumes Walt Disney products (mass-media), enjoy a classic tragedy at La Comédie Française (elitist), goes to Bayreuth for Wagner (cosmopolite) and enjoy a traditional pot-au-feu (popular).

        I agree with you that internet is mainly mass-media level not per se but because it promotes a very American-oriented acceptance of culture and culture, ie products to buy.

        However, let's remember internet is just a tool: a fast, ubiquitous, infinite tube.

        Two real challenges:

        1• One can't understand foreign culture if he/she doesn't know his/hers own culture. Do know your own culture first! Or, more catchy: be civilised before meeting with barbarians!

        2• How to use internet to promote our vision of culture, ie. "kultura" of civilisation, which is authentically European?

        To be continued...
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          Feb 19 2011: To answer the challenge you find i have to agree that one should first know his/hers own culture/civilization before trying to understand a different one. But that, I'm afraid, is a luxury we can't afford. Children now days first meet "the barbarians" and then go to schools. And even when they go there it is moot at least, if their time is well spent - but that is a subject for a different discussion. Let me just say that I know a kid, who learned in school how to write an SMS on his cell phone without looking at it. The Internet can be a cultural cornucopia allowing everyone for a "total immersion" whether one wants it or not. And I know the theory that we surround ourselves with the content similar to what we already know. But still it is inevitable to be under an influence of different culture. I think a foreign language could be a good example. I can tell from my own experience, that because I watch movies and read books in English I start using typical English phrases directly translated into Polish. They don't exist in Polish tradition, but still people I speak with understand them, so they also must have had been "exposed". For contrast I've been living in Italy for a year, so when I got back I've still used for some time Italian syntax, some phrases or gestures. My friends fortunately found it more funny then annoying. But all of my mistakes ware very obvious, as non of my friends ware never "exposed" to Italian.
          We must remember that the language is a product of a culture/civilization. It carries a sort of philosophy, a way we see the world, problems and other people. The best example for what I mean is how we talk to each other in different languages. In Polish, when you speak to unknown adult you have to address them Pan/Pani (Sir/Madam), in German you would use in this situation third person plural, wheres in English there is no special form for such an occasion. There is just "you".
          As my words limit is ending I will address second challenge later.
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          Feb 20 2011: As for the second challenge, that is a very good question. But the answer is painfully simple: with money. The US entertainment is so popular because it is heavily promoted. The other way to gain popularity on the Internet are the LOLcats, but I don't think that we would like to aim in that direction ;)
          I think that before exporting our culture outside the Europe we should focus on promoting it within the continent. Even though almost all European states are now in EU, and we have free-trade policy, we still don't have laws allowing for easy distribution of digital content within the EU. I understand that it is caused by distribution model that we have now, but for me it means that the model has to be changed. And that is something that should be done on the Brussels level.
        • Feb 20 2011: I think US entertainment is not only popular because is it heavily promoted but also because frequently it is a very good entertainment. It shows the spirit of freedom, adventure, positive outlook on the life and it is a good motivator. I am referring to some of the best movies every made that includes Star Wars (at least the originals), Dance with Wolves, E.T., Full Metal Jacket, Lord of the Rings, Matrix etc.

          Now we need to make also available good entertainment that exists in other countries through the Internet to the world.
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          Feb 20 2011: Zdenek, LotR is a British novel and the idea of artificial world used in Matrix has been used much earlier, in Polish novel The Futurological Congress from 1970 and also in many other novels from the whole world. So it's not the ideas that made them popular but the promotion.
        • Feb 22 2011: Marcin, I am not saying that all US movies have original story but rather that not only promotion but the presentation of the stories makes the movies popular all over the world. The movies are directed and produced such a way as to motivate, inspire and entertain people everywhere.
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          Feb 23 2011: Zdenek, I'm sorry, but can't agree with you. Take for example movie Solaris - I'm sure you know the US version, but how many people know about the prior Russian one. But in that case you may say that was in different times, when the world was still divided by the iron curtain. So another example, in 2004 I've seen a very good Danish movie about two brothers changed by their experiences - one came home from war in Afghanistan, the other one came out from a prison. I've seen it during a film festival, it was never normally distributed in cinemas. So I was very surprised to see five years later an exact same movie also called Brothers entering every cinema but this time made in US. That's why I strongly think that is mainly because of the promotion that we watch so many of US made movies.
        • Feb 24 2011: Marcin, I absolutely agree with you and I hope more foreign movies are shown in US. Personally I am watching a few of them every year and I wish I had access to more.

          I only think that many US movies can stand on their own as well. While their promotion helps, I think their entertainment and sometimes educational value attracts people too. I lived in former Soviet Eastern block and we had zero promotion on US movies but people loved to watch them for various reasons I mentioned above.

          As with music, many US companies created distribution channels and have strong grip on influencing what movies will be shown in theaters. Fortunately in age of the Internet, YouTube and Netflix I think we will see a different trend.

          Again, I think we agree on the same. We need to promote films from all over the world so that people have choice and directors from other countries can be known abroad =)
    • Feb 19 2011: Vilo, I find your categories helpful, but I think the Louvre belongs in the Cosmopolite category. I don't know if it is because my base is California, but Disney in the same category as the Louvre? No, no, no...
      • Feb 19 2011: That's the magic of culture: the person is key.

        The Louvre is elitist / mass-media for French and elitist / cosmopolite for people living far away.

        I remember an American friend visiting Paris: he asked me to see one specific painting he used to study and copy when he was a child at school. As I was his coach in Paris, we duly went to the Louvre and he saw the painting for real! Personally, I go and visit the Louvre quite often, selecting one specific section at a time. It's just part of the landscape.

        When I visited North California some years ago, I was deeply interested in the National Parks and the Napa Valley, and the wine. I don't remember the Alcatraz prison, although I did visit it.

        What I want to say is, each of us we're carrying our own culture with us. The magic happens when our own culture allows each of us to interact with others. That's why I wrote "be civilised before meeting the barbarians".

        As a barbarian (I'm not American), I can't judge your culture but, as a civilised person (I'm European), I do talk with you. Same for you: as a barbarian (you're not European), you can't judge my culture but, as a civilised person (you're American), you do talk with me.

        So as civilised / barbarians both at the same time, we're even and we're equal. And the culture provides the inter-se, the between-us, the link that defines and makes mankind.
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      Feb 19 2011: Culture represents the whole of human achievements as a result from active and intelligent manifestation.

      Try viewing alien visitors coming to earth. They would refer to our customs and particularities as belonging to human culture.
  • Feb 16 2011: I'm a teenager and I'm not well read on the globalization of culture as a phenomena.
    But I do spend a lot of time on the internet and one of the things that worries me is, even tough there are a great deal of niched and serious works of art out there, the thing that get spread are almost exclusively comedy. Don't get me wrong, I love comedy, but I love other things too. When it comes to viral trends there's a typical "high school in-confidence" thingy going on! Everyone you know sees what you say when you say something on facebook, so it takes great courage to say something controversial, or (in this case) to link something you're not sure that your friends will like. So at the end of the day, the thing people are comfortable linking is funny youtube clips and the occasional comic strip, and I just think there's so much more to the world than "lol that's funny". Sometimes it's stimulating and fun to deal with serious or interesting content. Sometimes I'm afraid people my age can't take anything seriously anymore since they expect everything to be comedy, comedy comedy!

    Tough maybe this tendency isn't as real as I believe and I just have this perspective because all my friends are teenagers like me.
    btw TED is a beautiful exception to this tendency. :)
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      Feb 17 2011: I think you may be underestimating your peers' mental capacity. At high school, I occasionally chatted on a little more serious issues with my buddies (and it was usually I who brought the topic), and while for the most part, we'd all side with certain stereotypical points of view, you'd occasionally have one or the other bring up interesting points. Points that would days later be tackled by journalists or responsible authorities(i.e. our "interesting points" were more correct and important than you'd assume).

      While yes, this conversation doesn't often happen in cyberspace, it doesn't have to be this way. As you said, TED itself is just the best example. Facebook could be, but only for issues that you can potentially do something about, like education issues for example, morality issues or [insert whatever your hobby is] issues.

      Also, the right comedy itself can be a gateway to more serious issues. In fact, some of the more serious issues I'm talking about were often raised in comedy TV talk shows, following news casts. Yes, a LOLCat doesn't help, but something like "The Daily Show" or the "Union News Network" (google them...) does.
    • Feb 19 2011: "TED itself is just the best example"

      Is TED promoting a specific culture (content) or providing a platform (container)?

      I know container are not culture agnostic, so we have the same question twice:

      • what is the implicit culture of TED as a container?
      • what is the implicit culture of TED as a content?
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        Feb 20 2011: TED in particular is almost culture agnostic I'd say. It promotes "western" ideals, but not necesarily US ideals. Combine that with the frequent insight of eastern ideals, and their rationale (though spearkers don't present those as "better", just as "alternative" ideals) and the platform becomes almost culture agnostic.

        So, while the majority of content on TED is prompting "western" culture (the common parts of it), the platform/container itself allows for eastern culture to be presented.
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    Jun 9 2011: The internet is one of the correlations to the ever connecting world. Any source of mass unbiased information will be.

    Cultures are what separate the world the most, what is/are involved in the details of each individual nation's cultures, subcultures, sub-subcultures, etc. is what divides people within nations.

    These cultures that people are born into, grow into, move into, change to, fight for, or any other fashion in which to live life within create who we are and what our values and ethics are. We are all products of multiply cultures clashing at this point in time. Internet is speeding this up as Marcin gives example to.

    "Culture" has 3 major meanings (sourcing Wikipedia):
    - Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
    - An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
    - The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group

    Ignore one, that is also a cultural interpretation, opinions about art are not facts. I know circular logic, but bare with me.

    Number two, to me, sounds a lot like what religion is considered. A culturist, advocates what good their culture can do. Their culture is what they believe (in) to be beneficial to the word. "Atheist Movement" "Gay Movement" "Animal Rights Movement" "Civil Rights M" "African American M" are just some of the cultures that produced significant change to America. The problem is, these people were forced to become sub-cultures and sub-subcultures rather than originally being equal in the debate. A competition among cultures can be interpreted when protest, crimes, revolts, rebellion, divides, and any other social movement.

    Number three, again, community.

    Communities are formed to protect each other. We humans need to allow one global culture for a world united, it will ultimately happen by constant culture clashes anyways.
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    Apr 14 2011: DRM is the "answer" within the old eco-system for authors. the new internet system will provide a different new answer for authors. the new system is based on a culture also, the culture of moving pictures and viewing and sharing. such practices are - in economic words - so-called club-goods, products and habits between private goods and public goods. the payment of such club-goods is difficult and not solved in many sectors and branches, not only culture in the internet. take f.e. banking or kindergardens - public interest, privately paid. we all know these systems are not working the best way we want them too.

    The internet - I believe - is at least for the moment showing more of diversity existing in our world. how would I know otherwise of these great TED talks in L.A., the Jazz in Chicago or foto-school in Düsseldorf?

    So the question is different: is internet - while showing more diversity as ever before - reduce diversity today or for the future? isn´t this a paradox?
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      Jun 9 2011: From your profile I see you are the most qualified person in this thread to speak about the problems I have pointed out.
      I wonder what do you think about the idea that the published music now days should be threated more like a cost of marketing and the real revenue is in the live concerts and collectible items? Do you think it is realistic? Because I have many doubts.

      What do you think about e-books? You say that DRM is the answer within the old system. But how could we protect profits for the authors without it?

      To answer your question I think that there is no paradox in this situation. In my opinion it is similar to the situation with communicating vessels. When we allow the transfer of information between different cultures eventually they will merge and equalize.
      By the why have you noticed how the Internet has become something so ubiquitous that we don't write its name with capital letter anymore.
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    Apr 8 2011: i would hope the internet would do away with culture, as it has with many other things. Culture mearly feeds the ego.
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      May 17 2011: Only a culture that has change as apart of it should be valued. So maybe that is what Marcin was thinking. If culture was taken from the internet it would only benefit other cultures with new incites.
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      Jun 9 2011: I think I don't understand? You whant Internet withiot the culture?! How do you imagine this could be even possible?
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    Apr 8 2011: I think its a good thing. In fact, I think it's a very good thing, this internet stuff. As technology improves and spreads it brings people together. The tribal 'in-group' is becoming a global phenomenon.
    I love the global citizen mentality. I think that this mentality is going to come onto the world in full force and that it is possibly the greatest thing that will ever happen. It's happening now. Our generation is pioneering it and wondering what comes next. But very very soon there won't be a anyone alive who remembers a world without the internet. People will grow up learning to connect from the beginning, with people everywhere. We'll be able to see humanity across any distance without fearing the unknown because there won't be any unknown. No more distant scary lands, only mangled stereotypes that just don't hold together anymore, leaving a world of human solidarity.
    Anyways,
    I do not believe that this implies the loss of culture. If you mean, in a distinct local sense, of course! Such a thing was bound to happen eventually. However, I think, most importantly, we're building a global culture that compliments our local ones. One can see such phenomena in any country already. There are national values that everyone is tied to, but local values that keep it fresh. The world culture will be like this.
    Altogether, the internet is a great landscape of all bits human, generated in some small part by almost everyone in the world. Before long, it will really be everyone in the world. With this will come not uniformity but eclecticism, diversity, and innovation on the grandest scale ever known.
  • Feb 28 2011: Let's talk a bit about tools now!

    Once upon a time, during the industrial revolution, there's was a medium-sized town welcoming the railways: the big city would be closer and the medium-sized town expected people and investments coming from the big city. What happened? The big city attracted the most talented people and provided the perfect place to invest. This is a true and common story for many towns: ease of communication tends to reinforce the strong.

    Internet is not the first quantum leap in communication. Each innovation came with its grand design—and its reality. Printing, with the Bible for all—and the Protestantism; radio, with international broadcasting—and totalitarian propaganda; TV with realtime Apollo landing in Moon—and reality shows; internet with open and free culture—and questions like this very conversation.

    What are the specifics of internet: everything, everywhere, every time. Sounds familiar? Sure, these are the very attributes of God: omniscient, omnipresent, eternal. And incidentally a major temptation for internet users.

    Let's consider the word used in Germany for internet: infobahn. The autobahn in Germany were built during the Reich for strategic reasons: ease the move of tanks. Is the infobahn a strategic tool to promote and impose American entertainment? Here comes the story about the medium-sized town and the big city.

    Entertainment products may be protected by DRMs, but "culture" as civilisation is DRM-free. I personally doubt that internet is compatible with "culture" as civilisation, because of its God-like attributes. It may take a long time for internet being polished and civilised before it becomes a true cultural vector.

    History has transformed a printed book from a tool to a civilisation support: time will do the same with internet.
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    Feb 24 2011: on the macro level one can see the net blurring the lines between nationalities. I am sure within a decade or so pandora, hulu, and such will be accessible throughout most of the world. The demand and technology is there we are just waiting on the lawyers. What is interesting though is the decline of national identity, with the increase in cooperate branding. As we are now able to communicate with ease to anyone regardless of location. Whether someone is Canadian, Colombian, or Chinese, is not important especially since we are all just guest on the web, when we meet. What is important is shared interest. I found your topic interesting so I am responding. That said prior to the net it would require more effort to have this conversation and I might choose to talk about a less stimulating topic with people closer by. Regionalism wins, and the highest form of regionalism is nationalism. Now I have an option to easily communicate with people based not on location but on shared interest. In a perfect world interest we would feed off each other organically, but someone has to pay for all of this so enter advertisers who are quite good at influence us. So now we mesh our identity with brands instead of flags. Whether you drink miller or a micro brew, shop at whole foods, or walmart etc become a clue on whether you are my tribe or part of the other. Up side is less racism, more enjoyment of different cultures (foreign movies etc.) Down side less political tolerance, and disney-fication of different cultures.
  • Feb 16 2011: Well, the answer's not simple. I recently read an excellent report on mainstream culture written by Frédéric Martel: "mainstream". To sum up, he states that, even though we seem to share, in occident, a common americanized culture (as you say, reading the same books and watching the same movies), there actually exists many different 'samebooksamemovie' groups. His 5-year-research led him to study the indian diaspora through bollywood which is 1 billion spectators more than hollywood (no less!!), the asian cultural market, south america and african countries.
    The conclusion is that the whole world is not watching the same movies and reading the same books. Our accidental world seems to, I agree.
    I strongly encourage you to read this book.

    On another topic, I am opposed to DRMs the way they are proposed nowadays because it, most od the time, bounds a content to a specific player, hence tying: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tying_(commerce)
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      Feb 16 2011: I agree that there are many different "same-groups". But don't you think that also these groups will eventually merge? Somehow everyone in Europe or US knows what manga is. You can observe an influence of something I think of as a "samurai myth" in modern US movies. I think that it is only a question of time when these groups will start merging. Especially now, when new Indian and Chinese economics are quickly rising and will be able to support the marketing of their "cultural products".
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        Feb 27 2011: Well actually they don't - in fact this is what I touched upon in my direct reply to the topic as well. While people might know what manga is, that doesn't mean they are likely to be more interested in it. In my own case - I listen to a certain type of music (metal).
        While my friends know what it is, this in no way means we are merging. In fact, as I interact more with others that share my tastes, receive suggestions, explore other things related to what I already like - the more we diverge. It is the same with others as well, people in the "same interest" groups merge with each other, but diverge from others.... simple because there are underlying ways of thinking and tastes that result in the formation of groups in the first place
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    May 17 2011: Hola Amigos. Muy interesante el tema que planteas para debatir sobre la cultura, porque sin ella, no habría cambios. Fíjate, tu estás en Polonia, Europa, yo estoy en Venezuela, América Latina, te estoy escribiendo en español, pero tu podrás leer casi fielmente lo que quiero trasmitirles, gracias a las TICs. por eso, es que vivimos en una Aldea Global, las barreras se están derrumbando y no por eso, Ustedes van a dejar de ser europeos y nosotros latinos, o asiáticos o africanos o estadounidenses. La información y las comunicaciones abarcan e influyen sobre una parte importantísima de la cultura, de la nueva cultura que enfrenta éste mundo de hoy con las tecnologías 2.0, porque son el vehículo para conectarnos, podemos entendernos, interactuar, podemos mezclarnos, intercambiar ideas, a pesar de que nos separan miles de Kilómetros de distancia y más aún de referencias sociales, políticas y culturales entre nosotros. El Mundo vive hoy en día una revolución en positivo, desde mi punto de vista y las tecnologías han influido con fuerza en esos cambios, los habitantes del planeta actual, ya no pueden ver las fronteras de igual manera, un caso evidente de ese paso a la Aldea Global es la Unión Europea, el comercio, el intercambio de conocimientos, las posibilidades de estudios a distancia, las migraciones o la simple conversación a través del chat, han energizado esos cambios, la política, el manejo de noticias, la visión posmoderna y actual de la Democracia, todo está en manos de todos. Pienso en definitiva, que el gran cambio cultural de todo éste proceso se sintetizará en que ahora "la verdad", está en la manos de todos, es transparente, ya no pertenece a los poderosos, a los medios de comunicación, no está dictada por los diferentes gobiernos nacionales, la verdad emerge límpida, del intercambio y la Conectividad. Saludos
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      Jun 9 2011: Witam! Pisanie w języku ojczystym to ciekawy pomysł - też spróbuję ;) Zgadzam się, że internet przynosi bardzo pozytywną zmianę pozwalając nam na globalną komunikację bez większych przeszkód. Z drugiej jednak strony mam wrażenie, że jednocześnie coś tracimy w ten sposób. Zawsze w historii każde ułatwienie przepływy informacji na większe dystanse powodowało ujednolicanie kultur i zanikanie ich niektórych indywidualnych charakterystyk. W zamian za to pojawiało się w nich coś nowego. I właśnie nad tym się zastanawiam, czy jednak trochę nie szkoda, że niektóre rzeczy możemy stracić.
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    Apr 14 2011: Good reads on this thread.
  • Apr 13 2011: It doesn't matter if everyone had access to the same books, movies or music. Not everyone would read them, watch them or listen to them all. That would be impossible. There would still be enough differences in our personal tastes to ensure that there would still be cultural diversity in the world. True, there would be more and more similarities in our cultures, but I think that this would lead to a better understanding of people that we've never met and may never meet except in an online relationship. Can that be a bad thing? I don't think so. Unfortunately, there are countries in the world that try to limit access to the global internet.
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    Apr 6 2011: I think the internet as similar as the industrial revolution. It changed our concept of economic, politics, and even culture. My home country, South Korea, have been changed dramatically.
    However it didn't change everything. Many countries, almost every, still maintain their own culture. In my mother country, South Korea, we still respect and bow our elders, teachers and love our own traditional culture.
    The internet does same thing that the industrial revolution did. It will change the world and each country's culture but it is impossible for the internet to wipe up the indigenous cultures.

    Finally, I hope you see this Ted : http://www.ted.com/talks/jay_walker_on_the_world_s_english_mania.html

    Thank you
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    Apr 4 2011: Profiting from ideas (especially those that benefit a lot of people) is a vulgar concept that stems from a bygone age.

    I'm not sure how to define 'culture' other than the changing ways in which we live our daily lives.

    The internet will change attitudes. Privacy, for example, is undergoing a huge re-definition and the 'establishment' isn't keeping up with the 'kids' to use a delightful colloquialism from '60's counter-culture.

    Good ideas will always reveal their merit and gossip will always spread seemingly faster than the technology can disseminate it. Systems of faster communication will never generate great ideas, only allow them to be shared which highlights the absolute necessity for free and uncensored sharing of information to and for everyone.
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    Feb 22 2011: There are several questions, but I'd like to focus on the ones where you talk about diversity with respect to the internet. Personally, I am a strong believer that true exposure reveals a different type of diversity - this too can be called a culture, but I think "sub-culture" might be a more appropriate term.

    The whole world might have access to the same movies, books, and music (there are caveats of course), but everyone accesses different types of content. The ability to strike up conversations among common interests through the internet also creates sub-cultures based on personal interests and personality traits - people get together with those that think alike, and have more interesting and enriching conversations.

    What is normally brought up when discussing the loss of culture due to globalization is losing out on historical values, traditions and art forms. I am of the view that sub-cultures are far more representative of individuals, since they reflect personal choices and decisions as opposed to ones that people have much less control over. So, while we may be losing our 'cultural' diversity, the possibility of forming unique sub-cultures based on preferences and inclinations is probably bringing everyone closer together, and helping people get in touch with their own true opinions.

    Essentially, the internet is actually maintaining and increasing our diversity of thought by allowing people to get in touch with any niche they would like, which is (to me) more important than diversity of traditions and rituals.
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    Feb 21 2011: Marcin. Your question got me thinking...

    The analogy between the internet and written language is an interesting one. Both are technologies that enhance communication amongst masses of people.

    It seems like the foundation of your conversation has a lot to do with the homogenization of culture (and the resultant loss of separate sub-cultures). Could we extend the analogy to written language and ask - did written language in the form of sacred scriptures also result in the homogenization of culture? Perhaps in the standardization of thinking that religion brought, via writing, there was a similar effect that we can learn from.
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      Feb 23 2011: I'm sure that the religion brought the standardization of European culture, but I think it has been done rather by sword then books.
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    Feb 19 2011: I've read all the comments. All helpful. In the English language, at least, I believe that Will and Ariel Durant should have the last word. Below are links to the summaries of just two of their works that I most admire, and one quote.

    Review: Philosophy and the Social Problem–The Annotated Edition
    http://www.phibetaiota.net/2008/10/philosophy-and-the-social-problem-the-annotated-edition/

    Review: The Lessons of History
    http://www.phibetaiota.net/2004/01/the-lessons-of-history/

    QUOTE from latter: They end with “the only lasting revolution is in the mind of man.” In other words, technology is not a substitute for thinking by humans.

    Culture is most precious for its ability to sustain a diversity of world experience IMHO. Every language that dies is a culture that dies. Just as with the other species, we are killing off what could be our most precious resource, indigenous cultures with a historical memory of man-nature co-creation and co-relation that we desperately need to restore.
  • Feb 17 2011: I don't think anyone should dictate what others should watch. If people around the world like American entertainment then let them have it. I think it is their right to choose which ever culture or entertainment source they enjoy and usually it is a mix.

    I think globalization of entertainment is a good thing because it will make the market more competitive. You can already see movies from around the world competing for audience in US as well. US also produces many low quality movies so allowing people to use Internet to access movies from other countries will spread different cultures that were previously contained within limited area.

    However I recognize that some of the US entertainment esp. the "reality" dating shows are not good examples of real life relationships. We need exposure to more options and I am sure we can find both entertaining and educational shows from all around the world.
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    Feb 17 2011: Thank you all for joining the discussion. I agree that globalization of culture doesn't have to be a bad thing, but on the other hand I still think that with that change we are loosing something.
    I would also like to ask you for your opinion on the other subject of this discussion. If however we agree the globalization by unobstructed access to cultural products should be something worth aiming for, do you have any ideas how could we achieve that goal without hurting the right of the authors to profit from their work? Right now our distribution systems are based on belief that the customers are mainly thieves only waiting to copy what they have bought and put it on the Internet. So the e-books, music and all other media are being protected by DRM. As a result the customers are having problems with what they have bought, and - since there are no unbreakable security measures - people who obtained these goods in other way can use them with o complications.
    These are things that have been said many times before and everybody knows about them, but nothing chances.
    Do you think that any other distribution model wold be possible, and what would have to change to make it happen? Would it be as simple as changing the laws, or maybe we really are thieves and it is the society that would have to change?
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      Feb 17 2011: I think artists simply need to find revenue streams other than "pay-per-view".

      The music industry has found it though live concerts and souvenirs (e.g. T-Shirts).

      Shows have found it though video adverisments (well... that's not exactly a discovery, it's just a successful port of the old model onto the internet).

      Similar thing (i.e. ads) has been done on e-book-like websites, though not to e-books themselves. For some reason (I'm guessing offline access and ad absense), many people still prefer an e-book over a big-e-book-like website read, and some (definetly not me...) are even willing to pay for e-book.

      Advertisments, as well as souvenirs are not exactly appropriate for movies though (doable, but will do more harm than good). So there's still a large revenue stream to be discovered there.
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        Feb 19 2011: Unfortunately there is a problem with ad-supported model. Somehow it does not work good enough if the access to content has to be limited to special region. If the only reason wold be in economics, that would be easy to solve. There are many global brands that could advertise with the globally accessible content. Is that the laws then?
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    Feb 16 2011: I would say culture on the internet actually increase diversity. The only reason that people seem to be " watching the same movies, listening to the same music and reading the same books" is because that is what is the most popular and it gets the most press and visibility. Because of the internet though, it's reach and it's access to information I can now explore other peoples views and likes. I can experience new cultural arts that I would not have been exposed to if I didn't have access to such a great communication medium. So, yes, the media is flush with bright lights and loud sounds that every one seems to know, but every individual is unique and diverse in their interests and the internet allows them to share that. Then, if the their is enough interest generated, maybe you'll see it in the mainstream. I would say that there are a lot of books and artists that would have gone unnoticed if not for the internet.
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      Feb 16 2011: I do agree that the Internet is a grate channel of communication and allows us to discover new contents all the time. For example that is how I have discovered an Australian band called Ambush On All Sides or Ukrainian called 5'nizza. The first one is a typical rock band, the second one plays reggae combined with hip-hop and some rock. IMHO the are very interesting, but don't you think it is global unification of culture when guys in Ukraine play grate reggae?
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        Feb 16 2011: Are you viewing global unification as bad? I think I'm losing your argument. Do you view the blending of style, culture, media, are as a diversity killer? I would disagree on that point. I think it increases the diversity by giving us new views and genres. A Ukraninan Raggae band sounds pretty interesting actually(I'll be checking it out) Rock and roll itself came from the twisting and morphing of blues and jazz. The roots of style will always be there, granted, in the explosion media has experienced in the past decade, I can see where people are losing the history of certain styles and cultures as it is rapidly eclipsed by new forms, but they shall never be forgotten.
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    Feb 16 2011: "But have you noticed that the whole world is now watching the same movies, listening to the same music and reading the same books?"

    That's not exactly true... the whole world is watching US movies, listening US music and reading US books... but they consume the best of those in addition to whatever their local equivalents have to offer.

    For example, since I'm a Bulgarian, I listen some Bulgarian music in addition to the popular world names, and I'm sure you listen to (or at least you're aware of) some Polish music yourself. You're probably not as familiar with Bulgarian signers as me, and I'm surely not as familiar with Polish singers as you (whatever your knowledge is, mine is zero, so you win :-P). But if I say "Lady Gaga", I'm guessing we can all say "Yes, I know her".

    A similar thing can be said about movies and books, though in the case of books, I'm not much of a book reader (as many techies).

    There was a TEDTalk related to this topic... let's see... ah, there it is:
    www.ted.com/talks/ethan_zuckerman.html
    So... it boils down to diversity being there, but with us isolating ourselves in social silos of sorts.
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      Feb 16 2011: Of course there are Polish movies, novels and music, but they are much the same as any other product of culture in Europe or US. I guess, that if we would play a Bulgarian and Polish modern rock or pop or any thing else, that person - not knowing the languages - wouldn't be able to say if they are from different countries. I am sure you also can observe the change that has happened in culture of your country after the fall of communism and the "iron curtain", when we gained access to the "western world".
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        Feb 16 2011: That's a little different... yet I'm starting to see your intended point... you're talking about the "styles" or "genres" being (nearly?) universal.

        But wasn't that true even before the age of the internet? Before the fall of the iron curtain? Yes, this has been accelerated with the web, but older rock music (for one example) is similar to the US rock music of the same time... the only thing that changed was the transmission of ideas, which is now easier, while it was previously only done by people to travel abroad and "smuggle" arts when coming back.

        I guess there's only so much genres that could exist and remain broad enough to allow for creativity. Folk songs are the only kind of songs that have always been (and still are) unique to each culture. And there's a semi-dogma about people creating new songs in this style. I say "semi" because with enough pop twists added, singers will usually be "forgiven", but if they mimic things too much, "traditionalists" tend to protest... at least that's the case here, but I'd assume it's a similar situation for any country's folk music.

        P.S. With Polish and Bulgarian both being slavonic languages, you can be sure that non-slavs won't tell them apart :-P.
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    Feb 16 2011: You should share things, that you think most of the people do not know.
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      Feb 16 2011: I am afraid that is not that simple. I am a dentist, but besides treating caries I also sometimes teach students and publish papers. So I fully understand that authors want to get paid for their work as in a way I am one of them.