Discussion of the impact of digitizing traditional works of music

An interesting, well researched and still up-to-date article from Dean Bartholomew, first published in 2000 and available on the website of the NGO “Cultural Survival”, shows the possible negative effects caused by digitization for minority heritage. These however can be solved by the buildup of professionally developed digital libraries:

Digitizing Indigenous Sounds: Cultural activists & local music

“Consumerism, the ineluctable allure of the foreign, and mass telecommunications have made the ostensibly traditional cultural products of indigenous peoples available to a much wider global audience. Paradoxically, this affords indigenous peoples (and ethnic minorities) with both opportunities and great risks. New technologies like the Internet and the digitization of information provide indigenous peoples and those living at the margins of nation-states with an opportunity to advance public acknowledgement of alternative cultural practices and distinctive worldviews. This can legitimize indigenous peoples’ struggles for cultural autonomy by providing the subaltern with a forum for the mobilization of public support. However, increased global access to the cultural products of indigenous peoples also carries great risks for the continued cultural survival of local systems of knowledge, including what is often described as “traditional” or “local” music.”

“The digital revolution has added to the dangers of cultural appropriation as local, collectively held knowledge now has the potential to be electronically recorded, decontextualized, marketed or accessed in ways that undermine the creative integrity or cultural dignity of the producers.”

“Invariably, access to digital information transforms customary systems of knowledge, and intergenerational systems of authority and power. How then can indigenous peoples respond to those forms of cultural appropriation that seriously compromise their capacity to determine their own futures. How should digital information be curated? And how do we develop culturally appropriate mechanisms for equitable sharing of local systems of knowledge in ways that ensure intergenerational, cultural continuity?”


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