Cultural Diversity, Intercultural Communication and Digital Culture
Research Project Description
Reflecting on the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the Culturelink Network is about to launch a new research project entitled Cultural Diversity, Intercultural Communication and Digital Culture.
Project Background and Hypotheses
There are numerous initiatives undertaken by international organizations, networks, institutions and non-governmental organizations to protect and promote cultural diversity. UNESCO and the Council of Europe have adopted two declarations on cultural diversity. At the UNESCO's General Conference in October 2005, the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was adopted. There is an increasing number of researchers that focus on the field of cultural diversity, connecting it to intercultural communication, cultural policy and cultural industries (Bennett, Differing Diversities, 2001; Lewis, The Cultural Imperative, 2002; Cvjeticanin, Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development, 2003; Wolton, Il faut sauver la communication, 2005; Ellmeier and Rasky, Differing Diversities: Eastern European Perspectives, 2004). Cultural terminologies are introducing new terms such as transcultural diversity associating it to transnational space and civil society (Robins, Transcultural Diversities, 2004). New approaches to cultural diversity are developing, emphasising the specificity of cultural goods and cultural services as holders/transmitters of identity (International Flows of Selected Cultural Goods and Services, 1994-2003, UNESCO, 2005; Smiers, Regulations in Favour of Cultural Diversity, 2003). Cultural diversity is perceived as a stepping stone for intercultural dialogue and communication (Intercultural Dialogue, European Commission, 2002).
Intercultural communication is defined as a dynamic process of interrelation, transference and exchange of cultural values and cultural specificities, and a process of interaction of diverse cultures which are being increasingly marked by new information and communication technologies (Vertovec and Cohen, Conceiving Cosmopolitanism, 2002).
Digital culture is a new complex notion: digital trends are increasingly interloping with the world of culture and arts, involving different aspects of convergence of cultures, media and information technologies, and influencing new forms of communication (Mercer, Convergence, Creative Industries and Civil Society, 2001; Jone, Virtual Culture, 2003; Castells, Internet Galaxy, 2001; O'Regan, Creative Networks, 2004).
The recognition of diversity among cultures as an integral part of their identity and the very element that promotes intercultural communication and cooperation is a phenomenon of our time, which has seen the development of new approaches to cultural diversity. These approaches promote specific cultural expressions, goods and services as bases for the intercultural communication. Globalization processes, marked especially by the market expansion, new and more dynamic ways of people and goods mobility as well as technological innovations, introduced new possibilities for the inclusion of individuals, institutions, communities, and socio-economic regions in intercultural and international communication. Globalization processes did not diminish the divides between the developed and the underdeveloped, but in these processes the question of cultural diversity and intercultural communication has been brought to the necessary attention of the world community. Intercultural communication is marked by ICTs which stimulate the creation of new forms of culture, such as digital culture. The outset of the hypothesis is: cultural diversity, intercultural communication and the rapid development of digital culture are resources leading towards knowledge societies. It is to be proven scientifically by researching the different characteristics of their interconnection/interrelation. Monitoring and defining the development and the use and impact of digital culture in the context of cultural diversity and intercultural communication, will provide new insight into their interdependence.
The importance of intercultural dialogue and communication is also reflected in the fact that the European Commission is considering to declare the year 2008 as the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. The process of the European integration faces these new challenges, mostly in achieving "unity in (cultural) diversity". This is becoming one of the key European agendas. Managing cultural diversity poses itself before the EU as an imperative and this is only feasible through flexible and tolerant intercultural communication at all socio-economic and cultural levels, amongst which the approach of cultural tourism, open networks for cultural cooperation and the creation of virtual communities are particularly favourable. Digital culture can enhance cultural integration processes. In order to enable this kind of approach, it is necessary to examine the role of public policies, with a special consideration of existing cultural policies, and relate them to the analytical research of cultural practices. It is imperative to assess the appropriateness of the cultural policies and the long term effects they produce in the register of promoting and enabling diversity and intercultural communication.
For all of the above reasons, this research is to be conducted by the Culturelink Network – a world-wide network that has an over 15-year-long track record in the promotion of intercultural dialogue and communication. Hence, the international scope of the project will involve member institutions from all continents reflecting different respective contexts and contemporary approaches to cultural diversity.
Research Procedures and Plan
The general approach to the research will be defined by interpretative sociological paradigms with an emphasis on recombining disciplinary fields of social sciences (e.g., cultural and media studies, sociology, information sciences) and humanistic sciences (e.g., philosophy, art history, ethnology). Different research methodologies will be applied, including interpretative, transversal, theoretical and evaluation analyses. The comparative method will be used for investigating case studies in the cultural diversity register (with special attention to the international flow of cultural goods and services) and intercultural communication (participation in different cultural spaces), as well as the identification of new models of cooperation in the network environment. In addition to a content analysis, a value analysis will be undertaken, which is gaining an increasingly important position in communication research. Several documents and research reports by the UN (UNESCO), WTO, WIPO and the EU will be used. Empirical research for case studies will be conducted through the Culturelink Network, which will also establish new research cooperation and links in a common virtual environment.
Based on existing data on the inequitable balance of international exchange, the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions seeks to proclaim intercultural dialogue and communication that will protect and promote cultural diversity. For the European Union cultural diversity and intercultural communication is becoming a question of utmost importance, as Article 151 of the Amsterdam Treaty demands "respect and promotion of cultural diversity".
Accordingly, the first phase of this research (2006-2007) will concentrate on cultural diversity reflecting on the UNESCO Convention and with special attention paid to the international exchange and flow of cultural goods and services. Basic elements of the interconnection of cultural diversity, intercultural communication and digital culture on the global and the European level will be identified, as well as the ways in which these elements are and could be realised in various aspects (cultural networks, cultural tourism, and emerging trends of youth culture). The research will especially examine possible shifts in the integration of new technologies and digital culture in the processes of affirming cultural diversity and intercultural communication. The analysis will encompass a new conceptual framework of cultural diversity, including transcultural diversity as an expression of transnational mobility and new configuration of the international cultural space.
In the second phase (2008), the contribution and influence that digital culture has on new ways of communication and the affirmation of cultural diversity in Croatia will be closely examined. Special attention will be given to the development of networking in Croatia, SEE and the Mediterranean region.
Research findings and results will be analyzed and conclusion and recommendations proposed. The results will be evaluated and disseminated through the publication of scientific studies, articles and books containing research results, and through the organization of international conferences at which they will be presented and critically discussed.
Purpose and Aims
The main purpose of the research is the investigation of the interconnection/interrelation of cultural diversity, intercultural communication and digital culture as basic developmental resources leading towards knowledge societies. The aim is to emphasise:
- cultural diversity as a developing resource which is considered not only on the national level, but in its transnational/transcultural perspective;
- intercultural communication through the exchange and flow of cultural goods and services;
- digital culture in the creation of new cultural forms.
These will be researched in the perspective of their interconnection. It is also the aim of this research to critically examine the congruence of cultural policies with newly emerged changes, especially where ICT and the Internet open new communication channels, promote distinctive forms of creativity and enable proclaimed accessibility and democracy in the distribution of new knowledge. Consequently, one of the aims is to analyse the (post)subcultural trends that characterize youth culture in the context of defining personal and collective identity. Subsequent to issues of articulating youth identities through respective subcultural practices, questions regarding the identification of intergenerational differences will also be dealt with.
In the national and the regional context, the aim is also to push the issue of cultural diversity, intercultural communication and digital culture onto the priority lists of cultural and science policies in Croatia, SEE and the Mediterranean, and to offer strategic guidelines for cultural development in Croatia and the countries of the region based on their interrelationship.
The applications of this research are manifold. Communication is the issue of paramount importance in the 21st century. The research will analyze the implementation process of UNESCO's Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, particularly in the part addressing the sovereign right of states to determine and develop public/cultural policies and accompanying measures which they may consider appropriate for the protection and promotion of cultural diversity. This will give international cultural cooperation a new significance. These research results will be of a great benefit to the conceptualization and drafting of cultural and science policies, including strategies for the particular sectors. They will also be of use to other research projects dealing with social changes, particularly with fields of politics and economy.
Expected results include the systematisation and presentation of knowledge on new approaches to cultural diversity, intercultural communication and the role of digital culture, as well as the identification of basic elements of their interaction and ways in which they are realized in different aspects. The research should also result in new knowledge on the dynamics of changes in respective national cultures as well as on the impact of digital culture on changes in present cultural sectors and on international cultural cooperation. It will try to answer the question whether digital culture offers a new perspective of cultural development in both developed and underdeveloped social entities, and how much the interdependence of cultural diversity, intercultural communication and digital culture contributes to the new concepts of progressive cultural policies and strategies.
The research results and outcomes will be published and disseminated through the Culturelink Network.