Cultural Exchange via Internet - Opportunities and Strategies
Forum of the House of World Cultures, Berlin

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Summary of the discussion (9):  14 - 22 December, 1998

This is the last summary before the break in the debate which will be continued beginning in mid-February 1999. Another 24 contributions were made before the conclusion of the forum's first phase, among which were the following:

Once again, Héctor Zetina expressed his opinion on the topic of globalization, consumption and poverty, referring to the situation in his home country Mexico. His fellow countryman Juan José Díaz Infante felt that, in countries like Mexico, poverty and indigenous peoples are equated with each other, and wrote: "Poverty is an imposed perceived value of our society." Sam de Silva followed that up and asked: "maybe i don't fully understand this email - but does the email suggest that 'poverty' is a construction??" He added polemically: "i feel that many of the messages are being posted by people in comfortable positions - people who just comment on culture ... but i guess those are the people in power." Díaz Infante answered him: "Poverty has to do with a conceptually constructed loop." He justified his assertion "wealth is a relative term" with examples from history and arguments from books by David Maybury Lewis and Alvin Toffler.

Joana Breidenbach did not agree with the statement "that the perception of poverty is completely dependent on culture." ... "how can those of us who live in the west deny, that our relative wealth, high life-expectancy and relative freedom are not desirable for every human being?" ... "Radical relativism, which holds that societies are so different from one anoher that no concept (such as poverty) can be transferred, is in my opinion wrong."

To begin with, Juan José Díaz Infante gave an example of this from Oaxaca. He explained: "I do not think that you and I dissagree on the search of equality for everyone, nonetheless we need to work in a system of valid premises in order to reach conclusions that can have a chance of being inserted into the existing system." Further down in his long contribution was written: "Trying to clarify my point of view...: The medium (the order of the economical system / the loop) is totally saturated, it has no more room where to move, the political formulas have failed."

In her previously mentioned posting, Joana Breidenbach also referred to Hans Braumüller. In connection with the topic "folklore and tourism" Hans had more acurately described, among other things, his project "Crosses of the Earth" in the context of indigenous peoples' self-determination. He also felt: "'Folklore' takes power away from the communities to engage in a fight for their rights..." and concluded: "I wish for an indigenous group to be present at the next Documenta, or any of the Biennale in order to question contemporary culture on this planet." Joana replied to this, in part, with: "I agree with your statement, that indigenous artists are very often relegated to producing "folklore" or "ethnic art", while metropolitan mainstream artists are doing "art". ... But this western art system is being challenged on many fronts and recent exhibitions (for example on African art) have pointed explicitly to this categorisation and questioned it in intelligent ways."

In connection with the Americanization of global culture, Cynthia Beth Rubin emphasized: "American culture is diverse and fluid. What gets exported is what sells abroad, not necessarily what reflects the actual culture of the USA..." Juan José Díaz Infante added that the "export of 'american culture' is the export of a system of marketing. ... The countries are seen only like potential markets. ... Politicians, administrators (etc.) not only in the US but all over the world are educated in such especialized manner that their action do not pertain to the sphere we call 'cultured'."

Nils Zurawski praised the forum's high standard. In the discussion on global culture, he only missed "the notion of globalization as a rethorical tool, as an ideology, and much less an empirical fact. ... I believe that global culture is a culture of representation, of control of images and thereupon control of people and their fate. ... New information technologies may contribute to their self-determination ..., but can be obstructive as soon as gatekeepers, such as curators, 'helpers' in general or media representatives etc. take control." He also expressed his opinion on the debate on poverty.

Armando Molina, editor of the online magazine "Voces" (art, literature, cultural life) described his experiences publishing on the Internet. Luis Cantillo and Lina Dorado introduced their web project "Colombian Art Index".

Britta Erickson's suggestion that the House of World Cultures should install an "Internet exhibition on the effects of the internet/speedy communication on world culture" received a great deal of attention. Also in a second posting she mentioned several possible routes considerations on this could take.

The House of World Culture's board of directors took notice of this idea with great interest and has already begun to discuss it. In the coming weeks it will be discussed further within the HKW. When the forum's debate continues in February 1999, after the coming pause, concrete statements on this topic will be able to be made and put up for discussion.

Summary: Gerhard Haupt

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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. 1998/1999

Project direction: Gerhard Haupt -