Young Cubans and the new information and communication technologies

Will these supports substitute the traditional ones to the detriment of reading?

Foto: Jorge Luis Baños_IPS

Despite Cuba’s backwardness compared to other more developed countries, young people already cling to the use of the new information and communication technologies (ICT) in the midst of an evident decrease in the habit of reading and in favour of the audio visual.

Every day a numerous group of persons, fundamentally between 15 and 35 years of age, crowd plazas, boulevards and public spaces throughout the island to connect to the WiFi service which since 2015 is offered by ETECSA, the national communications company, in its efforts to expand the Internet to cell phones and other social use areas.

 

The fact is that where previously television, books and, to a lesser extent, the radio used to reign, now music and the audio visuals are preferred by younger people, and the means of access to them are the applications that the new technological advances have brought to those born in the so-called digital era.

 

Perhaps one of Cuba’s most interesting phenomena at present is the so-called “package” (a flash memory that contains audio-visual materials recorded from U.S. TV stations and that unofficially circulates in all the provinces).cel_MG_4939-copy

 

According to some of the few researches that have been carried out regarding this, young people are the most active consumers of this form of entertainment, which has reduced the assistance to public spaces that offer options with more conditions to socialise but that it seems do not totally meet the expectations of this age group, and neither does the deficient and many times not very attractive proposals on TV.

 

The decrease in the habit of reading is alarming in a nation that until a few years ago had one of the highest indices in this type of consumption. Thus writers’ and cultural promoters’ attempts in the provinces and the capital to make attractive books reach them through email, the Intranet and Internet.

 

In this sense the Claustrophobia project could be mentioned, which is led in Santiago de Cuba by Neskicet Domínguez Pérez and Yunier Riquenes for the promotion of reading in digital support among young people and adolescents.

 

According to Domínguez Pérez, “one has to continue insisting, the computerisation of society represents quality of life. Culture has to entail computerisation.”

 

ETECSA is also starting to make tests to develop an over-the-top supplier of services over Internet that makes it possible to deliver audio-visual products, a sort of national TV channel on the Worldwide Web.

 

One of the sectors most disappointed with this pre-eminence of the audio visual is that of writers, who have already held some debates about the possible disappearance of the printed book and its replacement with the so-called ebooks.

 

Writer Carlos L. Zamora is of the opinion that “profusion of increasingly lighter, shorter texts and where the significance of the characters is missing has made it very possible for these characteristics that suspiciously bring about a literature for tired readers, permanently in a hurry, incapable of digesting something more substantial.”

 

It also seems true, he adds, according to how our progress is going in the sense of computerisation that we Cuban writers will not be at the vanguard of these processes and I imagine that will also have consequences for national literature.

 

Zamora recalls that Internet has had illustrious detractors, among which he cites Umberto Eco, Juan Goytizolo and Jonathan Trazen, but in his opinion what is important is not the support but rather the quality of the product offered in this type of information.

 

The majority of the sociologists and psychologists who study the repercussions of these new technologies in the digital era are torn between its benefits and its dangers. The first include the fact that a computer provides advanced tools for study: encyclopaedias, books, applications, images, games that favour the cognitive capacity.

 

But they also warn about the “technophilia” or addiction to technology like for example the dependence on cell phones.

 

The use of the Internet generally prevents the search for information in books and the tendency to prepare academic works of the known “cut and paste.” In the case of adolescents the addiction frequently leads to a behaviour involving the failure to adapt and replaces personal relations with virtual relations to the detriment of socialisation among fellow human beings.

 

In any case, the advance in the world of ICT is inevitable. The most optimistic think that this revolution, only comparable to that of the Gutenberg era, will bring with it a democratisation of knowledge never seen before in human evolution.

 

In Cuba its inescapable presence is already being felt and young people’s approach to the new technologies will inevitably lead to the entry of this nation to a globalisation that seems unstoppable. The future will say if it is for good or for bad. (2016)

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