Digital Technologies and Traditional Cultural Expressions: A Positive Look at a Difficult Relationship

31 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2009 Last revised: 5 Aug 2014

Date Written: October 12, 2009


Digital technologies have often been perceived as imperilling traditional cultural expressions (TCE). This angst has interlinked technical and socio-cultural dimensions. On the technical side, it is related to the affordances of digital media that allow, among other things, instantaneous access to information without real location constraints, data transport at the speed of light and effortless reproduction of the original without any loss of quality. In a socio-cultural context, digital technologies have been regarded as the epitome of globalisation forces - not only driving and deepening the process of globalisation itself but also spreading its effects. The present article examines the validity of these claims and sketches a number of ways in which digital technologies may act as benevolent factors. We illustrate in particular that some digital technologies can be instrumentalised to protect TCE forms, reflecting more appropriately the specificities of TCE as a complex process of creation of identity and culture. The article also seeks to reveal that digital technologies - and more specifically the Internet and the World Wide Web - have had a profound impact on the ways cultural content is created, disseminated, accessed and consumed. We argue that this environment may have generated various opportunities for better accommodating TCE, especially in their dynamic sense of human creativity.

Keywords: traditional cultural expressions, intellectual property, digital technologies

Suggested Citation

Burri, Mira, Digital Technologies and Traditional Cultural Expressions: A Positive Look at a Difficult Relationship (October 12, 2009). International Journal of Cultural Property, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 33-63, 2010, NCCR Trade Regulation Working Paper No. 2009/40, Available at SSRN:

Mira Burri (Contact Author)

University of Lucerne ( email )

Frohburgstrasse 3
PO Box 4466
Lucerne, 6002


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