Kim H. Veltman
Media, Languages and the Integration of the Processes of Communication
Published in: Vielsprachigkeit. Transnationalität, Kulturwissenschaften, Research
Institute for Austrian and International Literature and Cultural Studies (INST), Trans.
Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften, 13 Nr., Juni 2002, pp. 1-10.
Modern science and new technologies such as the Internet are typically global. They
bring with them the need for global solutions and standards in a quest for interoperability.
By contrast, culture entails shared customs and expressions, which are typically local,
regional and national. Although its formulae can be translated into many languages,
science is most efficient if it functions in a single language. By contrast, culture is
essentially multilingual and loses in richness if these many languages and dialects are
reduced to one. Earlier versions of science may help us understand how we got there, but
they have no role in everyday practice, where only the latest version is relevant. Hence
science in this sense is non-cumulative. By contrast, in culture earlier versions play a
crucial role in everyday practice, and the latest version is useless if we do not have access
to historical context. Hence culture is essentially a cumulative process. English culture is
great partly because of Shakespeare and partly because of four centuries of commentaries
on Shakespeare. Modern science can pretend to be a-temporal. By contrast, culture, if it
becomes a-historical loses its meaning. If we impose the needs of science and technology
on culture, we are doomed to a McDonaldization of culture: cf. Barber (1995), Ritzer
(2000). A challenge lies in using the potentials of science and technology to meet the
needs of culture and not conversely.