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Nurturing the oral heritage of minority cultures in a digital world

The following text is from the Living Cultural Storybases website: http://storybases.org/

Misson

LCS seeks to nurture the oral heritage of minority cultures by developing respectful methodologies accompanied by appropriate technological solutions.

We aim to enable indigenous communities to share and celebrate their traditional stories, poems or songs with community members dispersed across great distances. We thus promote a revitalization of their values and identity, helping communities to build capacity around their cultural capital, reconnect the generations and strengthen their proud voices in the global society.

Solutions

LCS helps minority communities build living, evolving digital repositories in their own language of their cultural narratives and knowledge, i.e. ‘Storybases’.

Both the process of building the Storybases and the resulting community resource empower the community, strengthen cultural identity, pride and social cohesion, reconnect the generations and their urban Diaspora, and create new cultural and economic opportunities.

Respectful Methodology

LCS has used the same participatory methodology in two different countries with widely differing cultures, geographic, religious and political contexts, validating our mission and proving our methods. We engage local team members, who have trusted access to the community. Next we empower young people in digital technologies to preserve their own cultural heritage. The youth are keen to collect and annotate stories or history recounted by their community’s elders, learning respectful interviewing, professional recording, editing and real media skills with digital tools that will help them in the future. The elders are keen as they feel their voices are heard again.

A foundation for us is that free and full prior, informed consent is always obtained and traceable. This implies not only respecting story copyrights, but also e.g. recording the origin and context of the story and the audience with whom their narrative is, or is not, intended to be shared by the storyteller. This becomes essential when we in a later phase close the loop, returning comments or counter stories from the remote audience to the storytellers to stimulate a dialogue. Multimedia exhibitions celebrating local storytelling craft are highly motivating events and occasions for a more general celebration across the generations of cultural heritage.

It is a delicate balance, bridging the gap between grass roots and high-tech. The co-design of more sophisticated and powerful digital tools can only proceed at the pace by which truly informed decisions between the many digital choices can be made by the community, after experiencing prototypes. Although details of the LCS approach are adapted at different locations to account for cultural differences, gender relationships, financial situations, political and historic legacies and the overall realities found on the ground, our common methodology gives us hope of fast replication in the face of the cultural extinction rate.