Cultural Archetypes rule us all.

Zombies invade Cannes this year courtesy of MediaCom’s partnership with AMC.  The session as Cannes opens reveals what the cultural conditions were that allowed The Walking Dead to become such a worldwide hit, and how in fact different nations would respond to a real life Zombie attack.

How much has the world wide web changed everything?  Over a decade ago Bill Gates said “the internet is becoming the town square of the global village of tomorrow”.  Back then the dominant language of that town square was English.  Not any longer.  English’s dominance as the language of the metaphorical town square has shrunk since the 1990s (from 80% to 30%).  And it will continue surely to change even more.  Today however the diversity of internet languages does not nearly reflect spoken reality.  Of 6000 languages current worldwide only 130 are operational on Google.

The language you speak makes a difference to how you’re heard in that town square currently and it looks, according to a report from Oxford Internet Institute, as if it makes a considerable difference.  One of the authors Mark Graham says that the current language inequality apparent online (for instance the dominant language on Wikipedia in Africa is English followed by French) may “reinforce colonial era patterns of information production and representation”.   So much for increased global diversity and equality then.  Graham comments: ”Rich countries get to define themselves, poor countries get defined by others.”

Whilst we can expect the number of languages online to grow few consider that most languages will feature.  Academic Andras Kornai believes only 5% will survive digitally.  Global use of the web will accelerate the disappearance of some of the other 5000 plus tongues and therefore reduce cultural diversity.  Is there a role for a global brand which celebrates diverse culture to take a role here?

Overall will the internet shape culture and erode differences or will eventually, inevitably, cultural differences shape the internet at an increasingly fast pace as mobile internet reaches parts of the world that pc internet never did penetrate?

You can already see how culture affects how people operate online.  For a start 140 characters in Chinese is much richer than the equivalent in English.  It is not as concise a constraint.  So is Twitter as I know it Twitter in Chinese?  Facebook users are more likely to post about themselves, Renren users (the Chinese equivalent) share posts that benefit the wider group.  This speaks volumes about archetypes reflecting cultural differences in individualism.

There is a digital language divide that is as ancient as the Tower of Babel.  Sir Martin Sorrell has pointed to a trend to global and local emphasis from clients (with less focus on regional), certainly in organisational terms.  This surely makes sense as global brand strategies need cultural traction in each market.  A forensic grasp on the detail of digital language divide, its evolution and the exchange of cultural archetypes is now essential for any multi-market plan.


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