Language and Culture Documentation v.s. Cultural Digital Natives

I feel that in the language and culture documentation community that there is a tension between “documenting” and “globalizing”. In the sense that what we as digital natives and cultural technologists think is “living” is in part “documenting”.

Now, in some sense “Language Documentation” is an academic pursuit of its own right independent of linguistics if it has a plan and tries to capture elements of the expression of the culture and language as it is spoken or acted out. I think there is a bit of confusion in the literature as linguists move from linguistics to language development and community development. This is particularly evident with the use of video in language documentation. Granted, there is a great deal of variance in the use of video for language documentation. But add to the language documentation movement’s zeal, a dose of empowerment ideology and we come up with what seems like “let’s give everyone in the town/village a voice recorder and a video camera and tell them to document their language and culture how they want to”. So, I wonder is that really any different than what digital natives are doing in cultures where there is a high degree of digital penetration? Is this really language documentation or is this really evangelism of a global digital culture?

I think the following video points out how “language and culture documentation” is already occurring in cultures where there is a high degree of digital object penetration.

Where there is a high degree of digital object penetration the digital objects are bound to change the culture and the cultural diversity at a global scale… (If everyone in the world has an iPhone then… there is some commonalty in user experience and in connecting with that object.) So, in a sense the introduction of the digital element does change the culture; not that cultures have not been changed throughout history by inventions, but with inventions come attitudes and behavioral responses to those inventions.

So, give someone in a community a video camera and a YouTube account and you might get something like the following video. But that does not mean that it is language and culture documentation – or does it?

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