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Cultural Exchange via Internet - Opportunities and Strategies
Forum of the House of World Cultures, Berlin, 12 October, 1998 - ... open end

Subject:Internet Globalization
Date:Thu, 3 Dec 1998 07:40
Author:Cristina Ferran Jadick  []

Thanks to all who have contributed to the conference forum so far. The writings have been insightful and I appreciate the time and effort contributors have put in to provide them for our benefit. I regret not having responded sooner but as a wife, artist and mother of a 2 month old and 4 year old, free time is a limited commodity these days.

From an idealistically egalitarian point of view I think that the Conference Forum is a wonderful concept allowing for the free, unfettered global interchange of ideas. However, the conference membership list, although representative of people from many different locales and cultures, is to a certain degree homogenous. It reflects an exclusive sampling of human endeavor (ie. highly educated intellectuals: writers, journalists, art critics,professors, artists etc.) which will skew the scope and perspective outcomes of this conference. It is my impression that the broadest possible spectrum of contributors (in all respects) would be most beneficial to cultural interchange. (Although perhaps I'm misinterpreting the intended mission of this site.)

It was through two strokes of good fortune that I gained access to this conference. The first is that a friend serendipitously introduced me to the Universes in Universe website and the second is that I am privileged to have had the economic wherewithal to afford to buy my own computer equipment; (opportunities not available to most people which limits the input outcome for a conference like this.)

My experience with computers is minimal but I can honestly say that I am a "beneficiary" of the internet. My scope of thought about the world, people, ideas, culture in general has been expanded monumentally as a result of my net explorations and exposure to this website in particular. I have felt an affinity with many of the conceptual ideas and experimental methodologies of some of the artists I have read about. Through the world wide web (and this website) I've been exposed to research and discussions that heretofore were completely out of my sphere of influence. Personally, I find it meaningful that the subject matters discussed here are weighty issues affecting humanity. I don't often have the opportunity in my normal daily life to get involved in discussions which have the potential to shape or influence world communications.

I feel a bit intimidated about offering my own "two cents" worth of commentary because I am not an academic,intellectual or computer wiz ; I am a Houston based artist. I grew up in a bilingual Cuban-American household in a New England College town. My art making has taken place in my home studio isolated from outside influences;particularly from the art market system. I have been an outsider as far as the Houston art scene is concerned and have until recently been completely oblivious to the international alternative art scene. Like Francisco Córdoba, I make art beyond the format of established rules. I prefer to follow my own instincts when expressing myself artistically. Conceptually, my art has dealt with human struggle, cultural identity and memory; oftentimes as therapeutic responses to significant world events.

In a non-traditional manner, anything I deem appropriate is used as an art medium. Usually, these are things common to my everyday living environment (ie. fireplace ashes, gauze, vegetal extracts, beeswax, backyard clay/mud, etc.) in addition to traditional art materials. I mix media together in ways that visually describe the feelings and sensibilities of the concepts I'm trying to convey. Sometimes it is difficult for me to keep motivated to produce this highly personal art in face of the oblivion it induces as a result of its' being removed from what is established as the popular art fashion among critics and consumers. Fighting the feeling of implied illegitimacy as a result of this "otherness", is a constant struggle for me. Although it is gratifying to be "true to myself" when making art, I regret the sense of isolation that maintaining this posture produces.

Having little computer background and little knowledge of how things are outside of the countries I have either lived in or visited extensively, I don't feel qualified proposing possible solutions to some of the problems spoken about in contributor writings. Perhaps, I can stimulate further thought or discussion by asking my own questions.

What are the potential benefits of internet globalization?
- Broader based economic success for those who are computer and functionally literate. (This can be debated as the definition of economic success varies according to value systems)
- Broader based freedom of expression/speech (offers opportunity to overcome inhibiting oppression)
- Better communication among peoples hopefully fostering improved understanding and greater tolerance.
- Egalitarian shifts in power.

What are the potential detrimental effects of internet globalization?
- Further marginalization of the global poor and disenfranchised, (particularly the functionally and computer illiterate.)
- The "unknown factor"; the unintentional unleashing of destructive forces or creation of negative effects that we have no way of forseeing.
- Potential for abuses by gov'ts, groups, individuals against net users; ie. censorship, invasion of privacy, misuse of personal information available on the net to manipulate, exclude, categorize, isolate, target for specific nefarious purposes.
- Use of the internet may be a potential form of "Colonialism", where the values of the dominant culture overwhelm the culture of "Others". This can lead to a backlash effect resulting in social/political unrest.
- Information overload, dissemination of "bad" information.

What can be done to control/minimize the negative effects of internet globalization?
- I don't know.

What are the barriers people around the world face which inhibit access to the internet?
- Poverty and economic insufficiencies that limit access to functional and computer literacy as well as to the computer equipment itself.
- Access inhibiting political and social oppression.
- Ignorance of specific websites can limit access to opportunities; only the "informed" gain access.
- Too much information on or about the web overwhelms users and causes confusion.
- Net users personal time constraints, (many causes of this.)

How can barriers to internet access be removed/lessened?
- I don't know.

What do we hope to accomplish with internet globalization?
...A difficult and complex question to answer...
- Lift the standard of living of all. (This is debatable, since what is "standard" depends on who you speak to.)
- Promote understanding and tolerance among all people.

What cultural value systems will be put forth on the net and take root globally?
- A frightening question with respect to all the negative possibilities, but the positive possibilities are encouraging.
- In general, they will be the value systems of those who currently have access, ie. the highly educated and economically privileged. That may not be a good thing.

That's about all I can think of for now. Would be interested to read any commentary in response.

Cristina Jadick

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