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

Date:Fri, 04 Dec 1998 08:26
Author:Britta Erickson  [britta2@leland.Stanford.EDU]

There is a lot of talk these days about globalization, and I vacillate between excitement at the prospect of a world closely linked, and doubt that it is really anything so new. Assuredly, the internet/www (I still don't know what I'm supposed to call it) allows instant communication across the globe. The fact that we can all share our thoughts in this manner attests to that. And yet, haven't there been other times when people felt this way? When ships from one land began travelling to another on a regular basis, when telephone and television use became widespread, and so on? People may simply tend to think their own time is the most remarkable.

Is it the sense that there is a possible global community/discourse that is significant, or is it the actual interchange that is significant? These are separate issues. The sense that there is rapid global communication creating a global community may have a profound effect on people who are not directly participating in the communication. And obviously, the actual information and ideas exchanged can effect people who have never even heard of the internet, as business and governments use it to promote their ends, or as junk culture spreads rapidly via the net. (By the way, I do not mean "junk culture" in a derogatory way -- I happen to like it but don't know what else to call it.)

I think the internet is wonderful, and I am thrilled to be able to exchange ideas with people around the world in this way, but I am just not convinced the surge of e-communication is so different from other communication surges in other times. We are used to talking about things in terms of superlatives, and we are impressed by speed and numbers -- the world has more people, more computers, more communication, faster this, faster that -- but at the end of it all, will this communication surge turn out to be such a big deal either philosophically or materially?

Britta Erickson
66 Peter Coutts Circle
Stanford CA 94305
Tel/FAX:   650 857-1007

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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.

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