Radio program "The Digital Age and the Aura of Words" is from the cycle of author programmes "Grads of the Arctic" by Leontiy Taragupta, the researcher of the Khanty language. He warns that global processes of erasure of national characteristics of a person and his significance will lead to the loss of diversity of worldview in the public mind.
Text of the radio show
(musical theme of the program)
ZAVALNY: I am Sergey Zavalny and welcome to the radio show “Grads of the Arctic.” Today’s topic is the challenges of transmitting the heritage knowledge of ancient northern ethnic groups in the era of digital information. Our guest is a leading journalist Margarita Lyang who is the Chair of Russian journalist committee on ethnic topic broadcasting. My first question: how do digital technologies that captured the media too can contribute to the knowledge exchange and help us understand the uniqueness of an ethnic community, its culture and language?
LIANG. The new generation is used to new ways of communication and media consumption. It is only natural: the generations come and go. New generations design new forms of information exchange. These forms include non-traditional media too. ZAVALNY: Do not you see any risks or dangers of the disappearance of live communication? Soon people will not be able to communicate in person and build meaningful relations.
LIANG. It is already happening, especially in the big cities! I see a lack of communication skills in young employees. I have noticed that for younger hires it is difficult to speak and communicate, for them it is easier to text, it is difficult to communicate with sounds or to raise a hand. I could not understand the problem for a long time. First, I thought that they were disorganized or something like that, but then I realized that that they are really afraid of verbal communication: they do not know how to talk. And I tell them: "Ohh, I see your problem. I will sit next to you, I’ll listen to how you are talking, I'll help you learn how to talk."
Their skill of communication via the keyboard is also a very important skill. It is easier for them to text or send a message than to ask a direct question. Their communication via keyboards is a different way. There are, of course, moments when they post online, but they interact mostly with their gadgets, not person to person. In most cases there is a person and a camera, then such a post is created for the purpose of likes or reposts, but the people remain alone in their bubble. There is no real communication.
I think it is a problem. We cannot blame the young generation, we should blame us as we are older. As parents, we are wiser, but we have missed this situation. We let it happened. Now we are trying to catch up. We failed our children, we did not show them the right way, we lost them in the woods so to speak, and now we are looking for them.
ZAVALNY: Do you think it is easy to manipulate in the current situation?
LIANGE. The Internet opens a massive opportunity for manipulation as it creates a reality that is not there. Virtual reality becomes more overwhelming and exciting than everyday lives. It is challenging to navigate reality and make an informed decision when virtual reality distorts the real picture.
ZAVALNY: It reminds me of the Arctic situation of sensory deprivation or “brain freeze.” People who come to the Arctic for the first time have difficulties with orientation: where the ground is, where people are. Do you understand the risks when a new generation enters the Arctic? And we are going to the Arctic. LIANGE. Well, I think it's not right to write anybody off. We all can give something. Perhaps some of us are not good with technology, but we have our experience, traditions, and history. It has value. What is the value of traditional culture? Ethnic cultures have amassed huge expertise because they represent the success of life. The Nenets and the Khanty ethnic cultures are examples of the most successful stories of survival in the Arctic zone. (a musical theme)
ZAVALNY: I invit Leontiy Taragupta to join our discussion about this issue that becomes more vivid in out days. He is a researcher of the Khanty language and culture. Hello, Leontiy Antonovich!
ZAVALNY: Let’s discuss the situation when the younger generation is more comfortable with the virtual reality and the Internet. It seems like it is difficult for them to communicate in the real world with the help of words that can have impact…
TARAGUPTA. Well, of course, the situation is not bright! Everyday conversations will considerably change. There will be changes in the sense of national identity, spirit, logic and culture. It will blur distinct national characteristics.
ZAVALNY: That's what I'm talking about! The language inevitably loses something: it cannot survive the competition with some kind of essence of a language that exists in the Internet space.
TARAGUPTA. Yes, the old system of images disappears. It is not just about words or languages. Firstly, there were images, then symbols, words, gestures and texts. Without this system of communication nothing happens. If the system of signification is destroyed, it destroys the humanity.
ZAVALNY: Does it mean that cultural heritage, whether there are Khanty, Nenets, Russian and others, is in danger of disappearance?
TARAGUPTA. What do we do in our current programs? We study the language of ancient communication and ancient times. Now their oral folklore heritage will be treated differently. It will be deemed insignificant. No one can understand it, so it seems very poor. The national heritage preserves aura, personal emotions, value system, and experiences. They are preserved in words as intangible qualities without specific characteristics or signs. Not everybody can understand it. Call them as you like.
More and more people will be ignorant of their spiritual development. We will lose people to ignorance and indifference. Therefore, I do not celebrate the Internet and technology even though the technology is super active and the communication speed is instantaneous. On the other hand such a leap is convenient, people communicate more and faster. But it will be communication with signs.
When languages developed, the system of communication included hieroglyphics, inscriptions, drawings, petroglyphs… It seems like the situation is similar, but the result depends on us. It always depends on us. Those who are professional and how know their job can help. Who knows, but the most important thing now is to preserve honor, decency, and consciousness. Honesty is golden. Honesty and clear consciousness. I do not talk about formality.
Honesty is equal to the truth for the Khanty indigenous people. It is not emotional quality. It is more than morality. Honesty means truth. It is interpreted as the quality of knowledge. It is an accurate reflection of reality. It involves efforts to understand everything. The natural is transmitted in the form of a feeling.
Now there is a new form of communication, a new language is developed. Technology created a new language, new style, new manner where content gets lost. The meaning disappears like steam.
ZAVALNY: Yes, there is more about appearance and show off.
TARAGUPTA. Flickering images is hard. There are more and more people interested only in the instant moment. They focus on it, but when it passes, there is no energy left in it. I predict that the conflicts will arise out of nowhere. There will be no one to blame for the disputes. No one is to blame, but there are conflicts. Like any living organism humanity was set to survive, it happened long time ago, may be millions years ago. Such defensive reaction will probably change psychology. Virtual reality offers an escape for disabled people with poor hearing, poorly sight, with serious diseases, with limited movement.
They will all go to the virtual Internet space. Moreover, if they want, they will even dominate it. It will distort social choices. What choices? Personal choices. After all, it is important that the society develops, so leaders are essential, but leaders will fail. There will be lots of conflicts. People with a soul will waste their time. After all, before acting, leaders will need to warm up …
ZAVALNY: …involve …
TARAGUPTA. … convince those people! But such people are too hard to convince. I know it very well. For example, I work with a group of people with poor hearing. They are very rigid. They lack sympathy. They cannot be swayed. They do not have empathy.
ZAVALNY: Insensitive and cold?
TARAGUPTA. They do not understand the importance of being flexible. Empathy means flexibility and intelligence. It takes time to fix any error, but they demand immediate solutions. For them, the world is deaf. It is like letting the genie out of the bottle. Insensitivity is a dangerous trait. It is more dangerous than criminal or hooligans. With open heart they will plunge into the virtual world, some will hit themselves, some will drown. In a virtual situation, many people will disappear and suffer. We should be awake, we cannot wait and watch.
ZAVALNY: Thank you, Leontiy Antonovich, for clarifications. It is a meaningful conversation. We need to make a important choice. It is a personal choice between a moment and eternity. Poet Osip Mandelstam wrote about it at the beginning of the XX century. It is relevant now as well. Who are we on the planet Earth? A researcher of the Khanty language Leontiy Taragupta was with us today. I, Sergei Zavalny, say goodbye to our listeners. Listen to the Grads of the Arctic again, good bye!