New Media for Exchanges
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The new Information and Communication Technologies seem destined to play an important role in intercultural dialogue. Many initiatives underway at present seek to use Internet and other new media as a bridge to promote dialogue and exchanges amongst different social groups.
The following are just a few examples of such initiatives:
Voices of Youth is a platform for exchanges of opinions established by UNICEF. Voice of the Youth presents online forums open to all the world's youth on such themes as children's rights, amongst others. The site launched the 4th World Summit on Media for Children and Adolescents in April 2004, and the summit discussion forums are still open.
The Stockholm Challenge is a network that promotes projects in which the new technologies are employed to improve quality of life. For example, the site showcases projects using ICT to preserve cultural legacy and identity through exchanges between communities and countries. The Italian site European Kids has developed an active communication network amongst schools in Europe, Asia and Australia.
These and many other initiatives show that Internet offers many attractive possibilities for bringing different cultures together. However, bringing participants together is not the same as establishing a real dialogue, and the enormous potential of the new technologies often goes to waste. In this discussion, a series of questions remain open:
1. Does Internet possess any specific characteristics that facilitate dialogue between cultures? What are these characteristics?
2. Can differences in access to Internet have a perverse effect, accentuating the differences between social groups?
3. We call Internet a tool facilitating dialogue between different cultural contexts, but is there a risk that Internet may end up homogenising the cultures that come into contact through it?
4. Internet can be used as a tool enabling anyone to create their own content. This helps to provide access to different viewpoints, contexts and cultures. But does this fragmentation, as we might call it, of reality into infinite contexts really help intercultural dialogue, or does it convert it into something much more complex?
5. Does the enormous diversity of information on the Web help to build the elements of a culture, or is it so fragmentary that it allows us only partial glimpses of reality?
6. When we speak of Internet as a tool facilitating dialogue amongst cultures, are we pinning too much hope on cyberspace? Are we not delegating to Internet the task of solving problems we ourselves cannot?
7. It is often said that Internet enables non-verbal language (image, sound) to facilitate communication between different cultural contexts, overcoming the language barrier. Do real examples exist to demonstrate that this affirmation is true?
These questions are all being discussed at the Forum on "The Role of the New Technologies in Cultural Dialogue". Take part in the debate and help us to build bridges for dialogue.