Cultural Preservation in the Digital Age

Photo by Pramuk Perera on Unsplash

One of the benefits of the internet and advances in transportation technologies has of course, been bringing humanity closer together. This has also created some problems. Some minor and some rather unpleasant. Much of both outcomes, we now know. One of the bigger challenges as we move further into the Digital Age, is protecting cultural diversity.

While it may seem that loss of cultures is inevitable and underway, our interconnectivity and digital technologies may in fact, play a vital role in protecting cultural diversity.

As we become more connected, both through communications and transportation technologies, it means more cultures are at risk of being diluted or so deeply absorbed into a more dominant one that it effectively disappears.

There is reason, however, to hope. While we may easily speculate that dominant cultures like Western and Chinese sociocultural systems could result in a global monoculture or perhaps two or three dominant cultures, this is not inevitable. And highly unlikely.

There are just over 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, some 3,000 or so are expected to go extinct in the coming decades. Some no doubt, will. That’s been happening ever since we started talking to one another. Languages have branched out and evolved. Some die from oppression, others as populations dwindle and cultural assimilation due to migrations and other factors. There are many reasons and oppression is probably on the smaller scale.

As languages fade out, so do many of the other aspects of a culture such as literature, art, family kinship systems, economic and political systems. Some risk marginalization as dominant powers use soft power as part of projecting their ideology for control and influence.

Cultural diversity has long been at risk stretching back thousands of years. The challenge with today and our connectivity is that this can happen much faster. But the opposite is also true.

Because of social media and the social interconnectivity afforded by this tools, we are seeing many marginalised cultures able to revive themselves. Welsh and Gaelic languages are seeing a revival and popping up in places they normally wouldn’t. So are First People’s languages in North America.

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Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Digital Anthropologist | Chief Innovation Officer | I'm in WIRED, Forbes & National Geographic etc.