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Living Cultural Storybases: Using Technology to Preserve Cultural Diversity

Nominated by Howard Rheingold

Paul Rankin's quest to use digital technologies for cultural preservation, literally from Timbuktu to the Himalayas, makes him of a kind of do-gooder Indiana Jones for the Web age. As Rankin describes his mission:

Indigenous peoples are 4 percent of the world’s population, but half of humanity’s cultures. Yet they are the poorest and most disenfranchised. One language dies every 10 days; within 50 years over half the world’s languages will be gone. Cultural diversity is disappearing much faster than plant or animal diversity. We face a cataclysmic loss of millennia of wisdom and knowledge whilst threatened by megacity monocultures, economies of scale, environmental destruction and greed. We all need their understanding of fragile environments, custodianship of biodiversity, sustainable models of cooperative living, alternative approaches to education, health and well being, skills, artistry and ancient wisdom.
Storytelling transmits the essence of any culture, encapsulating deeper beliefs, values and identity, inspiring ways of behaving and believing. ‘Living Cultural Storybases’ helps minority communities build evolving digital repositories in their own language of their cultural narratives and knowledge, i.e. ‘Storybases’.Ppilots in Peru and Mali prove that training young agents to record their elder’s stories, using novel appropriate technologies and the resulting community digital resource, empower the community, strengthen cultural identity, pride and social cohesion, reconnect the generations, include their urban Diaspora in an Internet dialogue and create new economic opportunities.

This piece is part of Worldchanging's Attention Philanthropy campaign. All week long, the Worldchanging Network will be delivering "attention grants" to worthy projects, individuals, resources and more. You can learn more about these gifts of notice and find other entries by clicking here.

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The link to Living Cultural Storybases doesn't work (it includes the worldchanging archive info). The actual link is

Posted by: pohanginapete on 9 Jul 09

Fixed! Thanks.

Posted by: Sarah on 9 Jul 09

I should have added my support for the project (not that I'm involved with it) — I like the respect it shows to the cultures by aiming to support and facilitate rather than "solve problems" or "impose solutions". The site's well worth a look.

Posted by: pohanginapete on 9 Jul 09

Thank you, Howard for donating this posting to World Changing! I've just returned to UK from a great, very intense and productive 'Living Cultural Storybases' retreat with the core team in Oregon.
The storybases architecture, platform and product roadmap is much clearer now. We can see a route to scalability and real cultural impact- communities evolving their own digital cultural resource, accessible to all members of a minority culture/language group :-)

Posted by: Paul Rankin on 17 Jul 09

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