Posted to the Ethnos Project by on March 6th, 2012

Nurturing the oral heritage of minority cultures in a digital world

The following text is from the Living Cultural Storybases website:


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.

This PDF presentation explains the LCS project in deeper perspective. 


Again, from the LCS website:

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.

The video below details LCS activities with Quechua Communities in Tambobamba, the Andes of Peru.

Talking Objects Project

The clip below presents a demonstration of a traditional Quechua scarf or chalina, woven in the Peruvian Andes which is tagged with a barcode that connects it to a website with a story by an old shepherd woman, the maker of the scarf, about her close encounter with a condor in 3 languages. This is the first prototype of the LCS Talking Object Project, done by the LCS Lab working closely with indigenous community of Ccatcca, Cusco Region, Peru.

Our recent innovation enables any traditional craftwork or cultural object to be digitally tagged with barcodes (e.g. QR barcode), which can be read by the camera in most new mobile phones, using a QR reader application to load a corresponding webpage into the phone. The destination webpage contains streamed audio, video or images containing a song, poem or a story about the object, explain its cultural significance or tell of its creators life. Moreover, the web page can contain email or telephone addresses to facilitate dialogue between producer and the viewer/purchaser. In this way, the tangible heritage is brought to life by linking it with intangible heritage represented through an associated multimedia, substantially increasing the value of the craftwork. There is a very wide potential for increasing the economic return to local and indigenous artisans from the sale of souvenirs or art objects, or for enabling insiders to connect in their own language around culturally significant artifacts.

Visit the LCS website

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