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From fragmented localities to communicative communities

Cartoon published in CANTA, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

One reason why we fail to learn is that we only talk to those who agree with us. The hawks talk only to hawks; the doves, only to doves; the radicals, only to radicals; the conservatives, only to conservatives; and so on. There may be good reasons for this, for it is certainly easier and often more pleasant to talk to those who agree with us than to those who do not.

(Kenneth Boulding, 1985, Human Betterment, Sage publication, p. 213).

There is much talk about diversity and of the need to appreciate and celebrate it, but as Boulding says, in practice most people prefer to talk with people who look and think like themselves.

As digital media becomes more accessible, many groups are coming together to communicate amongst their own communities and networks around their own identities.

In New Zealand, non-mainstream groupings such as Maori, Chinese, Indian, Samoan and Tongan communities have their own print media, and Maori and Chinese also have their own television channels. Accessible digital media enables many groups not catered to by mainstream media to create their own narratives among themselves about themselves and their relationships with the rest of society and the world.

It is important for groups to have their own voice. However, if there is then a lack of communication between groups, learning about our selves and our world is impeded by limited understanding and misunderstandings and social divisions can grow. This is all the more so at a time of growing economic and resource scarcity.

There is a need for opportunities for communication and connection building, or bridging between diverse groups and the wider society. There is much to be gained by all concerned when this is done effectively. We all lose when communication between groups breaks down.

In a “smart village” that knows how to make something of the new communications environment, diverse people will be able to engage with one another, and as a result they will be able to conceive of and collaborate around many innovative projects – social, inter-cultural, economic, ecological, technological, local, national and cosmopolitan.

How about in your local village?

It’s not easy connecting with diverse groups – refer to  creating interpretative communities by sharing horizons for more discussion. Your comments very welcome.

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