Ethnic identity is often reinforced through the use of media. In the seemingly pre-historic days before the Internet, ethnic media consisted mostly of newspapers which arrived weeks later. Now, diasporic communities worldwide can access newspapers, chat groups, music sites and the like over the Internet--for free! For example, if I want to know what the reaction to the events of Sept. 11 are in my homeland of Canada from a Canadian perspective, I have only to link to the CBC website, or the Globe and Mail, or any number of online news sources. That was unfathomable even 6 years ago when I first lived abroad in Korea. A good web site for ethnic media is New California Media There are hundreds of ethnic media resources listed. Often, these news sources provide a unique perspective.
How can cultures use the Internet to maintain and promote their way of life? It's possible that the Internet promotes self-determination (Gmelch and Daniels, 2001). Cultural diversity is also said to be promoted through the Internet in ways never before envisioned. Once again, the issues of control and access come to the fore. Detractors may argue that cultural diversity could be promoted, if people could actually access the Internet. Cultures will benefit from the Internet, but it will require more time.
Culture is far more resilient than often believed. That is not to say special considerations need not be taken to preserve culture, but rather that cultures are strong enough to adopt the Internet to further their own causes. Internet communicataion in a global society need not be homogenizing. Quite the contrary, the Internet just may promote diversity and allow for shared knowledge at a level unlike we have ever seen on this little blue planet. It is an exciting time to be a global citizen if it means sharing with each other what makes us great as humans and communicators.
Bridget McGrath November 2001