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A robot to defend cultural diversity – launched at SXSW

 The Preservation Robot was unveiled last Saturday evening at the House of Scandinavia at SXSW by photographic artist Jimmy Nelson . The Preservation Robot is the first autonomous technology ever created to address the homogenization of human culture, due to the ever-increasing spread of Western culture on the internet.

A robot to defend cultural diversity - launched at SXSW
A robot to defend cultural diversity – launched at SXSW

The robot, which was activated live on stage at SXSW, continuously places a myriad of images of indigenous culture into the open spaces on the internet, to help make it more culturally diverse. The Preservation Robot uses technology – one of the very things that threatens cultural diversity – against itself to shine a light on indigenous culture. This is photographic artist Jimmy Nelson’s answer to homogenization.

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Technology – and specifically the internet – is allowing Western culture to saturate the world. This is threatening our global cultural diversity. 

Photographic artist Jimmy Nelson has spent the last 30 years traveling to the farthest corners of the world to visit and photograph some of the last indigenous cultures still alive. His work has subsequently been used to garner support and help restore a sense of pride around indigenous ways of life. Nelson believes that exposing the world to the richness and range of indigenous peoples is the way to safeguard not only their traditions and ways of life, but also to bolster one of humanity’s greatest values: cultural diversity. 

Nelson has witnessed the sharp decline in cultural diversity in the last decades, and realized that he needed a far-reaching approach to tell people about this global issue. The Preservation Robot is his effort to reverse this decline. 

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“The decline of cultural diversity would perhaps seem a less urgent problem than some of our other global issues. However, the erosion of cultural identity throughout the planet and the loss of traditions and customs has far-reaching and profound effects on all of us. Indigenous culture is visually underrepresented – and often misrepresented. I’m taking a stand by launching The Preservation Robot. Using technology to invert homogenization.”Jimmy Nelson, Photographic Artist

A team of creatives and technologists, including J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam’s Bas Korsten, the creative lead behind The Next Rembrandt, joined forces to come up with a technological solution to address the problem of homogenization, and to start a dialogue on cultural diversity. Bas Korsten joined Jimmy Nelson on stage at SXSW to present the robot to the audience and take questions.

“It’s probably fair to state that Western culture has a stranglehold on the world. We, the people working in tech and advertising, are propagating that same culture. If not as the agents – then certainly as the enablers. This is why the idea of using technology – the very thing that threatens cultural diversity – against itself to promote cultural diversity is so compelling. This is the aim of The Preservation Robot. A robot to help humans preserve their cultural identity.”  Bas Korsten, Creative Partner, J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam

The images that The Preservation Robot is distributing throughout the web are photos of some of the most glorious, yet threatened indigenous cultures across the world. For now this is Jimmy Nelson’s own work, but in the near future these will also be images made by other photographers, via the Jimmy Nelson Foundation, a group which finds, supports and enables new talent to photograph and document indigenous cultures from their own perspective. 

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To find out how The Preservation Robot works, watch this video:

Visit the website here

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About the author


Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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