Respect and Digital Accessibility for Sacred Objects

This post is a reaction to a reading for Digital Media class and reflects the thoughts of the author only. The author read the articles assigned and chose the article that most closely featured pertinent issues for the author. However, the other articles are not discussed within this blog post.

When reading the article dealing with Māori religious artifacts and their digital representations*, I thought about the issues of accessibility to knowledge versus respect for the knowledge. The Internet naturally gravitates toward a view of life where everything is accessible to anyone at any time. If an object, theory, or other concept or construct is not yet emblazoned across the billboard of utopian transparency then it is somehow clique-ish, strange, or “other.”

The theoretical nature of graduate school holds the pre-requisite of needing proof of previous knowledge assumed by the gaining of a degree in order for entrance.  It is the experience of the author that most people would not automatically assume that “just anybody” could or would want to do this. Many people stop their formal education at Bachelors degrees is that is even available to them. Graduate school is open and available to those who choose to do the work necessary, make the sacrifices and pay the price for the added benefit. Whether that price is high depends upon the individual circumstances of the person in question. General requirements are open and should a person choose to apply, they receive consideration. Being accepted, learning, and matriculation/graduation are important for the individual and the people around them and their future capacities. Otherwise, why bother?

It is a similar parallel with objects of a sacred nature. Not everything receives respect outside of a cultural group. Digitization for preservation purposes is a good idea. While this viewpoint is contrary to the “All Access all the time” viewpoint espoused and preached by the ALA, not everything needs display against a digital billboard. There are some things that require respect and more than simple curiosity to understand.

Accessible control of digitized objects is a hot topic within the utopian viewpoint. Most people are only willing to pay a sum for access to whatever they want instead of intangible or character traits. This is the kind of respect required with sacred things. I am not against controlling access so long as there is accurate or positive explanation behind the lack of access. That is fair. Not everyone needs or even wants access to something until they think that it is something desirable only due to inaccessibility. That is not the point.

Positioning objects within a digital realm is about networking connections for the people who treat sacred things as sacred. Profaning sacred things or making it common or gross is heinous whether or not it gauges the people who protect those things as somehow less than their peers. Increased sensitivity is necessary in a culture otherwise calloused in its standards and behavior patterns. Tolerance is something that needs equal distribution to everyone, not simply to people who say that everything is a free for all without implications or responsibilities.

*Deirdre Brown, “Te Ahua Hiko: Digital Cultural Heritage and Indigenous Objects, People, and Environments,” 77-91.

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