Islands and bridges, diversity and semantics

Guilherme Marin e Paulo Edison de Oliveira Indio
translation: Guilherme Marin

In times of network social organization through constant technological improvement of Internet, many conflicts accumulate around the sharing and production of audiovisual content. For the discussion of issues for which we do not have solution it was created the Internet Governance Forum – IGF, which, in its third edition in the year 2008, was held in the city of Hyderabad, India.

The collective imaginary often associates the Internet to an anarchic model of free expression of ideas and exchange of content, therefore, when joining a certain group of people for the debate about the bases and the establishment of rules immediately comes to mind the western positivist model social contract.

Generously was curated the tables of discussion that sought further three themes about the challenge of inclusion of the next billion users on the global Internet, the difficulties of access and infrastructure that will require this inclusion, and yet, how this process is dealing with such human diversity of languages that are not representative as posted contents if compared with a limited number of languages that prevail on the web.

Among these issues there are fundamental questions such as: Include for what? Included in the service of whom? The creation of infrastructure to meet which market demand? The standardization of a language serves the interests of which countries and areas of knowledge?

Humanity is immersed in an economic, historical and social crisis, and is going through a period in which the model of society based on consumption and the ideal of social organization are discredited, while we comfortably watch the trivialization of life and inhumanity in economic relation basis.  The network relations, both economic and social, are part of modern society and have been providing, through internet, the space for the exchange of knowledge among the diversity of people that constitute humanity.

According to estimative, humanity should reach the significant mark of one billion users of Internet in 2009, therefore, the time is appropriate to reflect a global ethic from what we already observed in these early stages of consolidation of social transnational networks and we must ask ourselves about the challenges we will face in the process of inclusion of the next billion users.  It is important to discuss how we can share this space with the next generation who will be joining the network communities, produce texts, podcasts and videos globally distributed in channels connected to the mobile, the internet and digital TV.

The meeting of such diversity of cultures inevitably have some impacts, while we lose the special reference between west and east, center and periphery, and we began to identify ourselves, conceptually, as networks.  The contemporary economy, according to geographer Milton Santos, is organized in networks, however, demand is defined from the external to the internal, and the marketing campains through mass propaganda brings an interference on the ideal of society towards the standardization of social aims and behaviors.  It is the suppression of culture, local knowledge and external dependency that generates concentration of intellectual properties, income, exploitation and misery.

The future requires us to seek solutions that act in mediation for purposes of balance, as opposed to the negotiation model used predominantly in Western culture, which favors situation an umbalance and can easily be seen by analysis of the infrastructure for connection on the poorest regions of the planet, whose precariousness increase the cost of alternative technologies more sophisticated. Unfairly we live a model where the costs of products and services are much higher for those who can not afford it, the largest part of world population.  We must remember that there is no lack of examples of foreign investment for “development” that generated at the same time dependence, standardization of consumption and relationships.  In Latin America, for instance, the historical process of importing technology rather than producing technology, make the region dependent on international affairs increasing poverty and concentration of wealth. Any investment should be mediated, there is a need to think of what are the main socio-environmental consequences and who will be benefited by it in the long term.

Besides the technical and physical aspects relating to accessibility, we have to face the challenge of producing content that really identifies this diversity. According to this point the choice of India as host of the IGF-2008 was also very appropriate because of its population size and cultural miscellanea of their billion of speakers distributed in several languages from each region of the country.

The disruption of spatiality, as established, nears the rural and urban, the materialism and the spiritualism, and the concept of value have never been so distant from the icon of the money as it is at this precise historic moment.  We must access the significance of the precious traditional knowledge of ancient cultures, its orality, its mythology, language and arts, are priceless and historically developed by the human ancestors.  In this new context of the global network, the concept of humanity becomes more meaningful. After all, are all men and women of this world participants of this community called humanity?

What attracts on the Internet is the possibility of accessibility of collaborated knowledge built on a number of countries. The scope of the database and applications available will have a direct relationship with the ability of individuals to move in different languages, today with preponderance of the English language.

Countries such as Burkina Faso, who adopted as the official language a language other than that which keeps the traditional knowledge of its population, have very sensitive cases, as most of the communication between citizens is given by the tradition that holds the knowledge of their oral culture. Few are the languages that were transcribed in traditional characters compatible with the computer interfaces available. This is very the primary base of the internet, to provide knowledge.

There must be created cyberspaces where users can recognize and identify themselves. Only then there can be generated affinity and proliferate the production of content, locally. The audiovisual production assumes importance as a fundamental instrument for the registering of oral and body language that are capable held organized communities, and also enable direct communication between the geographically isolated spots, who share cultural identities. The Internet is based not only on production of knowledge, but the interactivity is what builds critics and communities from the posted content.

The fear lies in the fact whether there will exist an effort in this direction or we will maintain the Western Enlightenment logic that seeks to establish a priori forms covering the entire experience.  In a world where cultural diversity is increasingly striking us, we can not even think of totalizing models because that move towards injustice.

Our historical moment demands respect, solidarity and ethics. We shall not trivialize these words, because we live an emergency on environmental and social issues, and the overall way of life becomes part of everyday kinetics of each individual person on the planet. Personal relationships in virtual environment should seek break this pattern of mass culture that we live often encouraged by governments and companies that have within themselves, whether in the bureaucracy or in the industrial production process, the standardization of numerous repetitions each identical to the other in order to gain efficiency , reduce time and costs.

People can not be summarized by forms or processes. The road to cultural preservation and dissemination must provide balance and respect for the free choice of the Internet user.  The lack of content in traditional languages in Burkina Faso keeps people off the Internet. The teaching of the French rather then the Mòore or the Dyula will not result on effective inclusiveness, but on the exclusion of Burkina-Faso’s cultural identity from the web and thus turn impossible the empowerment of the cyberspace by its population.

It is necessary that government, companies and NGO’s, join collaborative efforts so that contents and applications become available to all.

Local society has to participate promoting organized actions to guarantee empowerment to the main actors in the cause of a more just global society, with respect for differences, and the Internet is an important tool that enables the production and access to knowledge from all and to all.

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