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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:Globalization II
Date:Fri, 04 Dec 1998 22:22
Author:Britta Erickson  [britta2@leland.Stanford.EDU]

Greetings! Late night I posted a message to the forum. Since then, I've been reading over the discussion of whether or not to provide personal information, and that seems like a good idea to me. In my letter to the forum yesterday, I was questioning the idea that the impact of the internet will be enormously different from that of earlier communication innovations. A big part of the internet's significance is the philosophical/psychological sense that the world is becoming unified. That's very important, but people have felt this before, with the advent of steamships, airplanes, telephones, telegrams, and so on.

I am someone who is trying, like so many women, to take care of my family and do other meaningful work at the same time. We live in Silicon Valley in Northern California, where the whole computer industry took off. Children around here are incredibly computer savvy and all the schools - even the elementary schools - are wired for the internet. My children's generation will grow up knowing how to use this huge resource effectively. Already my children, who are 5 and 8, are starting to use the internet. My parents have tried using it and it doesn't really work for them. Still, they have the sense of the internet existing as an important tool to deliver information, as well as for communication, and thus they participate in the sense that world is being brought together via the net.

As for me, I am in the middle. I am grateful for e-mail, as it lets me communicate with people around the world quickly and affordably. My field of expertise is contemporary Chinese art. I have made contacts and friends in China via e-mail; I have used the net to locate people and arrange art shows; I am helping to set up a website that will be an important resource for information on contemporary Chinese art, with visual and textual histories of various artists' careers; and I have my own website, which consists of a bibliography of contemporary Chinese art. So I use the ether every day, in a variety of ways. Without it, much of what I do would not be possible, or else would take very much more time, effort, and money.

But in spite of all this, I just am not sure I buy into the idea that there is, or can be, globalized culture. All of us who communicate in this forum may join together as globalized cultural workers, but we are like little beads dotted about on a big net draped over the globe - it's real but tenuous, and doesn't necessarily connect very deeply onto the global superstructure. Am I getting too disconnected from reality in my thinking here? I don't know. And I don't intend my remarks to be pessimistic sounding. Perhaps it's just that I live in the part of the world that probably experiences the most hype about computers. Our roadside advertising around here is about having this or that operating system, chip, or whatever - I don't even understand what half of it is about. But anyway, whenever people talk about globalization, or about how our era is so different from others because of facilities for rapid communication, I start wondering...

Is there anyone else out there who wonders? I look forward to hearing others' thoughts, either soon or in a month or so.

Happy Holidays!


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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