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Powerful Essays
Cultural Diversity or Global Monoculture The Impacts of the Information Age
Kenneth Keniston
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Paper Prepared for Conference on "The Global Village" Bangalore, Karnataka, India
November 2, 1998

The coming of the "Information Age" is the topic of thousands of books, articles, and conferences, including this one. Predictions range from outrageous optimism to dire pessimism; we have analyses from a Marxist, a neo-liberal, an anthropological, and many other perspectives; we have advocates and critics; we have more words on the subject than any human being could possibly absorb.

But what we do not have, at least not in sufficient quantity or depth, are analyses of the cultural implications of the new information technologies. By "cultural implications" I mean their relationship to the basic presuppositions, fundamental myths, unstated assumptions, linguistic taken-for-granteds, historic grounds and creation myths that unite a society: all of those

conceptual, linguistic, imaginative, literary, musical, artistic, and intellectual threads that bind people together to make them feel "of one kind." "Culture" in this anthropological sense, then, is a core part of our identities as human beings, connected to our mother tongues, to our families as children, to our root assumptions about life and the world, to our links to our ancestors, and to the fundamental texts, written or unwritten, of our social world. It is the glue that binds us together with those whom we recognize as being "people like us." It is what makes a set of individuals a people and not simply a gathering of strangers. In centuries ahead, when the history of these early years of the Information Age is written, I believe that its relation to culture will be among the features most discussed.

Yet if we search through books, conference proceedings, and meetings about the Information
Age, we find precious little on the subject. The

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