Masthead CMC Magazine / February 1, 1996
 The Electronic Colonization of the Pacific, by Spennemann, Birckhead, Green, and Atkinson

Where Do We Go from Here?

So where does it all lead to? Given the anarchic conditions on the Web and the "free for all" attitude which disenfranchises the economically weak and marginalizes non-male, non-English speaking people, is there a future for communities which espouse or embrace the traditional concepts and controls of ownership of knowledge and the communal rather than individualistic approach to knowledge acquisition and transition? Or will these communities be under pressure to conform to the new 'standards'? And while these communities debate the issue, will the void be irreplaceably filled by commercial providers, thus marginalizing the creators and originators of the traditional knowledge even more?

There is a real danger that the appropriation of cultural property will now lead to an economic exploitation. The current developments on the Web are set to divorce the indigenous cultures from control over much of their own cultural material--and this impact may well be permanent.

In the realm of the international law, there is the laudable UNESCO Convention on Cultural Self Determination of Indigenous Peoples. This includes the right of indigenous people to determine their own political fate, the appearance, maintenance and transmission of their cultural concepts on their terms. The standards that apply should be those of the people concerned, and not those of the western technocrats, commercial interests and researchers. Yet, the unregulated development of the Web has led to a new wave of cultural imperialism, an intellectual goldrush, so to speak, with all the hulla-balloo and machismo behavior associated with that anarchic frontier mentality.

For developing countries, the challenge is to face up to the issues posed by the growing need to provide information via the Internet, especially the question of developing a low-cost model for user access. It is here that international organizations such as UNESCO, the Asian Development Bank or the European Union should provide technical and financial assistance to empower the communities to project authoritative information as they deem appropriate. --

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