The activities of the European Union aimed at the Protection of Cultural Identity and Heritage in Information Society

AUTHOR
Roma Gorzelanczyk

ABSTRACT

The aim of the paper is to present the most important activities of the European Union in the scope of the protection of cultural identity and heritage in the light of such phenomena as ITC revolution, globalization or the development of Information Society. Cultural exclusion, including language exclusion, poses a challenge to the governments of the member states and institutions of the united Europe. The paper aims at presenting the extent and ways in which the European Union deals with this problem.

Modern telecommunication technologies significantly influence the issues connected with the shaping of cultural identity. An acceleration and facilitation of contacts, in a wide scale, emphasized the importance of cultural differences. In such cases, the occurrence of new technologies abounds in twofold consequences. Positive ones: making the popularization of an increasing access to cultural goods possible. An additional positive consequence is the possibility of protection and preservation of the products of culture, with the use of latest technological achievements. There are also negative results of the creation of a “global society” – traditional societies and their cultural identity are threatened with an unprecedented interference from other cultures and with their possible marginalization. One of the elements of this process, which I would like to point your attention to, is the significance of the language. The possible language exclusion is meant here, connected with the dominance of English in new media and the consequences this fact may have on the re-production of cultural bonds.

Doubtlessly, one of the tools of spreading and maintaining the dominance of English is the Internet. We are dealing here with a technology which is rapidly entering all the spheres of human life, starting from education, to learning, work and entertainment. Therefore, computer literacy is becoming increasingly important and, consequently, so is the knowledge of English. Obviously, more and more software and websites exist in national languages; however, scholarly publications and specialist or international websites are developed mainly in English. Additionally, the Internet develops in the direction which breaks away with its traditional perception of a “huge encyclopedia” or a “collection of information on each subject” and steers in the direction of an increasing commitment of users in its creation. The Web 2.0 is a perfect example of this tendency. The Internet, which ensures the possibility of communication with almost everyone, “needed” a platform on which these processes may take place. One may state that it “forced” determining (adopting) one language which would enable (or significantly facilitate or optimize) communication. English has become such a language. Therefore, a question arises whether its dominance in such a powerful medium as the Internet poses a threat for national cultures, and if so, what are the ways of preventing this threat?

The exclusion from the access to the sources of information, caused by the lack of language skills, may, in consequence, lead to disturbances in the process of constructing identity, including cultural identity. Such problems as cultural identity and heritage are connected with the concept of language competence or a linguistic view of the world. Therefore, the access to information in national languages is becoming so significant.

In the context of transferring a growing number of all human activities to the Internet and the above-mentioned dominance of English content result in very concrete consequences. Starting from those most obvious problems with communication on the basic level, to those connected with the problem of the access to cultural goods, including scientific achievements. Political documents, especially those related to the creation of Information Society within the activities of the European Union, assume the protection of cultural identity, popularization of culture and fostering scientific development.

In addition, in global Information Society, such issues as digital copyright management, digitalization of cultural goods, media convergence or the ability to use them acquire a new dimension. All these issues are a challenge both for cultural institutions as well as for the European Union.

The paper aims at presenting the main aspects connected with the significance of cultural identity in the light of phenomena related to the ITC revolution and the development of a global information society. The backdrop for the presentation of this phenomenon is constituted by concrete actions of the institutions of the EU. This should result in acquiring a picture of real consequences of the processes taking place, both stemming from new opportunities and possibilities and new threats.

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