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Cultural Exchange via Internet - Opportunities and Strategies
Forum of the House of World Cultures, Berlin, 12 October - 4 December, 1998

[as of December 1st 1998 the forum has been prolonged - ... open-ended]

Subject:Hopes and Impediments
Date:Wed, 11 Nov 1998 18:21
Author:Olu Oguibe  []

On this posting I'd like to begin by observing in quick response to the friends at Radio Bridge Overseas and the comment on theory versus practice, that my own expectation is that this forum would bring forth stories of practical successes in cultural exchange through the internet, new ideas for practicable strategies and projects, as well as theoretical explorations of lessons drawn from existing projects and instances, and the possibilities and implications of different strategies, ideas, and proposals. For every existing or tried attempt at cultural exchange through the internet, there are lessons to be drawn, as well as implications. A forum like this provides ample opportunity to share those lessons, but also to explore collectively, aspects of success or shortcoming that might not be obvious to those who are directly involved. That is the area of implications, and theory goes beyond the immediacy of experience to look at such implications. Not only are we all better informed on the feasibility of particular strategies through such explorations, we are also made more aware of certain fine details and sensitivities that could be ignored in the process of conceiving and implementing projects. Together we all; theorists, cultural workers, administrators, funders and fund-raisers, critics and technicians, are able to work better and with greater clarity and inventiveness for having shared in both the narratives and their analyses.

It is somewhat disappointing to me that this forum has yet to generate the level of active participation that ought to be rightly expected of an opportunity like this. Going through the recently published list of subscribers, it strikes one that with so many individuals and groups already actively engaged in programs of cultural exchange through the internet, there ought to be more discussion, more sharing of stories, experiences, and lessons; more talking without which we fail to provide one another or avail ourselves of the opportunity to learn, analyse, reconsider, conceive, initiate, project... It is even more disappointing that, after their initial, paid manifestos, all but few of the experts who provided the opening statements for the forum have taken a back seat. Have we exhausted the issues and ideas that ought to be considered in this forum? I think not. Have we exhausted the practical and intellectual possibilities of the subject itself? I think not. Though it may sound like a cliche, I still believe that one of the fundamental glories of the internet is that we have the opportunity to generate multiple voices and perspectives on such crucial matters, interactively and in critical tandem, rather than lean on the intellectual mercy of those few "experts" or "authorities" who have the opportunity or patience to write it all in the next, definitive book on the subject, or the funds and time to go to a limited-registration conference.

This, of course, is not the only--and will not be the last--such forum, yet, I believe that if we fail to raise our voices, we'd be missing one opportunity to further enrich one another in whatever small measure. Cultural exchange through the internet does not have to take the shape of a collaborative, on-line exhibition, a multi-cast between five cities, or a joint, mock guerilla assault on a prison data-base. Trading stories, ideas, reservations, criticism, suggestions and prophecies on this forum, would in themselves constitute a very fruitful and instructive example of cultural exchange via the internet. When else, then, if not now?

olu oguibe

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Forum of the House of World Cultures, Berlin, on the use of Internet in the cultural exchange with and between Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America. 12 October - 4 December, 1998

Project direction: Gerhard Haupt -
©  House of World Cultures, Berlin. 1998