Pedagogica – Identity theft


While many interculturalists are shivering about stereotypes and exorcising the ghost of essentialism, the threat is that the cultural discourse that we possess and which possesses us is less and less likely to be discovered and brought to trial. It is true that cultural discourse in individual and group identity has become more complex and contextual. But the fact that it is increasingly denied or ignored means that it can play the cat burglar on our high-rise sense of self and our professed uniqueness.

Identity theft and loss is not just a matter of credit cards and internet passwords, but a matter of our own agency and complicity in the disappearance of our cultural capital. We forfeit both the use of and the control over what we disclaim about ourselves. It is an inner and social version of the rampant denial of environmental change and degradation. We trash parts of ourselves and wonder why our lives are so cluttered.

In fact, this denial and abandonment of our cultural features is a cultural discourse in its own right, which means that we need to look to see what survival or success aims this denial serves to meet in the environments in which we find ourselves. What task does it accomplish and what fears does it assuage? What do we do, what do we construct, not just in our inner and shared discourse, but also in the things we make and do and how we program them?

Programs that are external to ourselves are becoming internalized and as artificial intelligence develops further, it is certain that our iDevices that we find harder and harder to detach ourselves from will get under our skin, literally. Whose implanted cultural discourse will then become our discourse? Whose algorithms will inform our decisions? What is their cultural bias, their ethical or moral stand and how will responsibility be assumed, apportioned or denied? We are already facing this dilemma in choices we make and it is destined to grow. This TED talk linked below casts light on the algorithm challenge directly and it holds some good examples focused on HR decision making in organizations. Should not the work of interculturalists be exploring, researching the cultural discourse of these artifacts, ever more invasive, for their implications?

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