Digital Media, University Didactics and Cultural Cannibalism: Reflections of an exiled Latin professor

January 2013

“If you don’t know the answer, argue the question” (Clifford Geertz)

In anthropological language the “native” is a local being, the one who belongs to the land and is the first inhabitant of a place, whereas an “immigrant” is a stranger or foreigner who comes from the outside to take the place of the native or to occupy his territory. It’s like a Hollywood cowboys and indians movie, in which the indian is played by Elvis Presley and his indigenous mother by a latin as Dolores de los Rios!

It is interesting to note that the language of the cyberculture or the cyberspace employs, thus, the reificated concepts by occidental culture about colonialism and imperialism: in this new cybercontext, the “native” is that who was born inside a digital order and therefore reasons according to that logic, whilst the “immigrant” is being displaced from the bookish medieval-renaissance culture to the cyberculture still keeping one foot here and another there.

How this culture stays on cyberspace if we think about the large number of grammar and digital illiterate people of Latin America? Néstor García Canclini, in books such as Diferentes, Desiguais e Desconectados, Editora UFRJ, 2005, explores the contradictions of South American indigenous populations using the internet without at least being taught to read and write! As an anthropologist and educator, this seems a relevant question to be discussed: how to enter in the digital era, of global or international character, without losing regional references of Brazilian culture, inspiring me here on the stance of “cultural cannibalism” of Oswald Andrade?
As a way to stimulate my students to develop a critical sense -the goal of every college education- I’ve been developing a product of visual creation in Art-Education, in which I deal with the importance of devouring the cyberculture in a critical way and return it re-changed, according to a local “native” language. It seems to me that this remarkable question is never emphasized when it comes to speak about cyberculture: could it be possible that all the cultural statutes represented there, apparently in a democratic way obtain the same socioeconomic preponderance when swallowed?
Then, how to introduce a context of “critical cannibalism” along with the students? That is, how to awaken on them an aesthetic sense (in a platonic way) of concepts? How to make them separate the wheat from the chaff amidst the digital media crowded chaos, which is inevitably surpassed by the capitalist, imperialist and colonialist logic of the European and North American first world?
Philosophical and humanisitic questions of first order, partners: would it be possible that what a typical “digital native” thinks is relevant, pertinent, politically and ethically correct and can make the world change for best? Or, still more important, which is the real didactic contribution that the teacher’s erudite knowledge can make in relation to the majority of the sub -information transmitted by the digital media in today world?
Dinah Papi Guimaraens – PhD in Architecture and Urbanism by Universidade Federal Fluminense and Director and Associate Founder of Museu de Arte e Origens, NYC (PhD by Post graduate program in Social Anthropology -Museu Nacional- UFRJ and New York University – Museum Studies Program /Fullbright Scholar; PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, USA)
Translated by Araceli Galán

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