Digital Divide or New Global Communication Order – Digital Dialogue of Civilizations Needed

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Berlin, 27 April 2017: Digitalisation experts from China, Finland, India, Russia, Germany, and South Africa met at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute discuss the possibility of global digital exchange and its challenges. The goal is to set up a research-based digitalisation project to exchange results and ideas within different universities worldwide. “The project of Digital Dialogue of Civilizations should – in my opinion – examine how to employ new digital means in existing organisations in order to promote dialogue between representatives of different civilisations – especially between those in the so-called West and those in the Global South,” said Kaarle Nordenstreng, Professor Emeritus, University of Tampere, Finland.  

Another important point is the role of media in a digitalised world. “There is a realisation that media has a global reach and global audiences, so responsibilities and reflections on impact should also be considered in global terms, and need common ethics in the field,” explained Hermann Wassermann, University of Cape Town.  Elena Vartanova, Lomonossov University Moscow, underlined as well that, “Everybody can be active using digital media, confounding traditional understandings of media, and everyone can contribute to the news flow in a journalistic or non-journalistic way.”

One of these challenges is facing China in respect to its One Belt One Road initiative, and the role of media in connecting different media systems affiliated to One Belt and One Road countries: state-owned media in post-Soviet countries, and liberal and free media in Western countries. In addition to this, dealing with individually driven social media is also a challenge.  According to Associate Professor Ji Deqiang from The National Centre for Communication Innovation Studies at the Communication University of China, a well developed communication approach is also needed: “Digital media are key for information dissemination and relationship building for the Belt and Road initiative. A good virtual relationship enables and facilitates collaboration in the real world.  But the digital storytelling of the initiative should be first based on country-specific studies of respective economic, political, cultural, and religious characteristics.“

Daya Thussu, of the India Media Center at the University of Westminster, London, understands that European countries fear  current global political developments in regards to populism, in addition to the rapid development of China and India, but, “The current era is not the end of globalisation, but a new shaping of globalisation with a strong Asian contribution.”  But it is not only communication on a global level that has changed, but also corporate communication, e.g., in working environments, as Wolfgang Mühl-Benninghaus from Humboldt University, Berlin, explained: “Modular or virtual organisation structures, networks and cooperation nexuses, as well as long-distance cooperation, take their place. Electronic markets become increasingly important.“

The experts agreed on the need for a beginning in working together and exchanging ideas on how global digital communication and work environments can be analysed and shaped within a digital dialogue of civilisations.