the diversity of language, media and youtube

July 18th, 2010

Like nature, we are diverse

It was Noam Chomsky in the 60′s that developed a view that we (humanity) was programmed with a universal language DNA. But what if the very diversity of languages is the key to understanding human communications? This is a question asked by Christine Kenneally. Linguists Nicholas Evans and Stephen Levinson, who argue that languages do not share a common set of rules. And that, this extraordinary range of diversity is a defining feature of human communication.

There are no universal traits, only tendencies says Evans and Levinson. Kenneally writes,

Focusing on language diversity also highlights the tragedy of language extinction. In the old model, all languages are merely variations on the same underlying theme. In the new model, however, each of the worlds 7000 languages contains its own unique clues to some of the mysteries of human existence… in the diversity of the worlds languages we find facts about ancient human history, the path of languages through time, and deep knowledge of the planet.

And what does that mean, from a media and or culture perspective? Well – if we insist on creating a monoculture, don’t we destroy the thing that makes us what we are? Henry Jenkins writing in Joshua Green and Jean Burgess book YouTube makes the observation that, one of the reasons YouTube is so universally successful is that, “we” were ready for YouTube, a means by which we can return to our participatory roots, and, explore and express our unique diversity, which is also part of our identity, perhaps its no accident we live in an age defined by social story telling, culture making, and individual entrepreneurship?

Jane Jacobs argued in The Nature of Economies, that to accept the truth that human nature exists wholly in nature, is difficult for example for economists, industrialists, or politicians – they preferring to believe that human capability, our ability to reason and create things; culture, industry, complex government etc., in ways that the rest of the natural world cannot, seduces us to see ourselves as different to nature, falsely superior.

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