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Intercultural Dialogue and Digital Culture

Palace Hotel, Zagreb, Croatia, 20-21 November 2008

Background

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. Globalization processes, marked especially by the market expansion, new and more dynamic ways of mobility of people and goods, as well as ICT innovations, introduced new possibilities for the inclusion of individuals, institutions, communities and regions in intercultural and international communication. The new possibilities opened up by ICT global connectivity and the rise of networks - challenge our traditional ways of understanding culture extending it to digital culture as well. 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 and dialogue.

Different existing definitions of the term intercultural dialogue indicate the complexity of this concept. Experts contributing to Unesco's World Report on Cultural Diversity (in the chapter Understanding Cultural Diversity, 2008, Draft) interpret this term as 'recognition, celebration and acceptance of differences of opinion, viewpoints and values within each indivitual culture but also between diferent cultures lie at the heart of cultural diversity. Hence the importance of intercultural dialogue, which seeks to approach these multiple viewpoints, understand them and learn from them.'

In the White paper on Intercultural Dialogue of the Councli of Europe (CoE, 2008: 17) 'intercultural dialogue is understood as a process that comprises an open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups with different ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds and heritage, on the basis of mutual understanding and respect. ... Intercultural dialogue contributes to political, social, cultural and economic integration and the cohesion of culturally diverse societies. ... It aims to develop a deeper understanding of diverse world views and practices, to increase co-operation and participation (or the freedom to make choices), to allow personal growth and transformation, and to promote tolerance and respect for the other.' The first definition puts emphasis on values, the second one on tradition, both of which form basic elements of intercultural dialogue.

Today such densely interconnected society, marked by globalisation processes and widely available communication systems such as the Internet, have created situations where space and time have been compressed, where so many sources of information and services have become instantly available (here and now). People can get in contact not only with people in their immediate communities, but throughout the globe. They are becoming more aware of existing differences, thus putting into focus questions of pluralism and tolerance as a shared concern on an international level.

Intercultural dialogue happens in shared spaces physical, situational and communicational. We need opportunities to engage in dialogue. We need spaces that expose us to new understanding about 'us' and 'others'. Cultural activities can play a key role in transforming a territory into a shared public space. The media, and new media in particular, play a major role in the development of our vision of the world. The way different cultural backgrounds may be presented and explained in the media environment greatly influences individual representations, thus either confirming or deconstructing stereotypes. Cultural and heritage sectors should make use of the opportunities digital culture is presenting them with to engage in dialogue with users and ensure that they are creating this shared space for intercultural dialogue. They should make every effort to present multiple views of cultural phenomena they are creating/preserving/researching/communicating and to engage people in participatory dialogue and make sure that various views are represented to create a balanced perspective. Is this happening at the present?

The round table entitled Intercultural Dialogue and Digital Culture aims to discuss and share knowledge about the possibilities that digital culture provides for intercultural dialogue and to identify examples of existing good practices that allow for participation of users in virtual cultural projects, thus enabling democratic participation of citizens in the building of virtual/digital culture. Today, the main focus of Internet users is on the communication and participation possibilities that the Internet creates. Web 2.0 or participatory Internet forms a prominent part of Internet-based communication. Content created by users and the communicational potential of the Internet open possibilities for (inter)cultural communication and active participation of citizens, but it also changes the role of cultural institutions, which are no longer in a position of exclusive control over their virtual resources.

Today the virtual sphere also reflects the cultural development tendencies of different communities/societies, as it is a place/space in which we can foster projects that promote cultural democracy, diversity and intercultural communication. But it is evident that the development in this direction requires the support of cultural policies and that digital culture strategies are an important element that promotes the development in this direction.

The discussions at this round table will aim to answer the question whether digital culture offers a new perspective of cultural development and how much the interdependence of cultural diversity, intercultural communication and digital culture contributes to the new concepts of progressive cultural policies and strategies.

Representatives from cultural networks from the EU, the Mediterranean and South East Europe will exchange their experiences in promoting intercultural dialogue in the virtual sphere and their views on areas and methods of intercultural dialogue. Some good practices of virtual projects in promoting participatory digital cultural content will be presented.

Focus:

  • Intercultural dialogue concept and its realisation (clarifying issues)
  • Digital culture - how it relates to intercultural dialogue
  • Digital culture participatory practices - building shared spaces?
  • Digital culture new trends portals, blogs, participatory internet: does the cultural sector recognize the current trends as a tool for enabling intercultural dialogue?
 


 
 

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