Sunday, February 9, 2014

Digital Preservation and Cultural Memory

CUSHMAN, ELLEN, and SHREELINA GHOSH. "The Mediation Of Cultural Memory: Digital Preservation In The Cases Of Classical Indian Dance And The Cherokee Stomp Dance." Journal Of Popular Culture 45.2 (2012): 264-283. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 9 Feb. 2014.

The additional resource I would like to write about for this week is one that I found completely by chance, but I think it adds a unique alternative perspective to consider when thinking about digital preservation. I began by searching the keywords "digital preservation" and "culture" because I was interested in learning more about how non-material artifacts were preserved. The article that immediately caught my attention when the results came up was The Mediation of Cultural Memory: Digital Preservation in the Cases of Classical Indian Dance and The Cherokee Stomp Dance by Ellen Cushman and Shreelina Ghosh. 

The article, published in the Journal of Popular Culture, discusses some of the problems that arise when trying to preserve cultural rituals, especially when an emphasis is placed on bodily experience within the rituals. The authors focus on the Classical Indian Dance and the Cherokee Stomp Dance as case studies of how sensitive and issue preserving cultural artifacts and rituals can be. In their opening, Cushman and Ghosh explain "We find that these examples mark the places where digital preservation disembodies cultural memorial to the point that they no longer enact the spiritual and social relationships central to these dances"(265). Digital preservation creates mediation between the viewer and the performers, which in turn creates a disconnect with the culture memory they are trying to preserve. Another point of interest is that different problems arise in trying to preserve the Indian dance versus the Stomp dance; for the former it is a matter of finding the correct medium and for the latter the culture revolts does not want any form of digital preservation.

I thought this article was valuable because it turned the focus towards some of the social problems that arise with preservation, which complimented the legal and technical issues discussed in the readings for class. There was continuity from last week's in class discussion regarding the ethics of the internet: just because you have the capability to make available a cultural ceremony online for millions of viewers, does it mean you should? The article adds another layer of complexity to the already rich discussion of digital preservation formats and content. 

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