Technology: Helping take culture and heritage to the next generation
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'The need of the hour is for well-crafted digital and digital-cum-physical games that are built around Indic stories an...
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Technology: Helping take culture and heritage to the next generation

'The need of the hour is for well-crafted digital and digital-cum-physical games that are built around Indic stories an...
  • Today's parents are concerned about their children's disconnectedness from their culture and heritage.
  • However, technology is making it possible to bring stories related to our past and history to children in an engaging way.
  • Dr Rishi Mohan Bhatnagar, President at Aeris Communications writes about the potential that technology has to keep the next generation connected to our rich history.
There is widespread concern among Indian parents today about the risk that our children might lose their rootedness to our culture. With busy lifestyles, parents are finding it hard to devote the time to impart these cultural values themselves. This gap is often filled by audio-visual content on various electronic devices. Children can access global content on these devices; given their large budgets and extensive creative teams, it is inevitable that children will be drawn to games and videos from content studios in the West. This leads to a homogenization of cultural signals that children are receiving - they will be more aware of the food, culture, and norms of the West than of their own country.

Some children are lucky to have their grandparents living with them, and sharing with these kids the rich stories from our itihasas and puranas. But even with grandparents around, children might prefer the sleekly designed, action-packed games and video content on their tablets! Thus, there is a very real risk that our next generation will grow up without much awareness of our rich and ancient culture.

As a parent of young children, this is a very personal question for me. While technology could be blamed for some of these problems, I look at it differently. I believe technology can be the greatest tool to take our culture, tradition, and values to the next generation. Provided of course, that we use technology in bold and innovative ways. Here are some thoughts on how we can leverage tech to take Bharat’s treasures to our children:

Powerful audio-visual storytelling
India is full of great stories and storytellers. Our classical and folk music also have been vehicles to communicate stories from our itihasas and puranas. For urban children of the previous generations who did not have access to folk storytellers, the Amar Chitra Katha comics were an excellent gateway to the magical world of our gods and culture. What if we upgraded our comic books for tablet-based consumption? What if one could tap onto the page and listen to the sounds of the war from the Mahabharata? If we make digital comics that are really compelling, we can out-compete the alternate options out there.

VR-tours of Indian temples and monuments
India is a land of architectural marvels. Imagine if our children can put on a VR headset and go on a virtual tour through the Rajput palaces, or up to the icy slopes of Mount Kailash? The VR experience can include powerful storytelling that educates and excites the children, so that they will want to seek out these monuments by themselves. We can even incorporate games into the VR experience. When games like Temple Run are popular, these virtual reality games in real ancient temples can become even more attractive among our children.

Holograms of historical figures

What if we could bring home some of the figures of our history, in 3-D holographic form? Imagine a birthday party with holograms of little Krishna or Shivaji the great. The personalities from our past will leap out of the pages of our kids’ history books and into their drawing rooms. Will this not plant the desire in them to learn more about these legends?

Compelling digital (and physical) games
India has a $1.5B market for physical games and toys. Game creators are pushing the boundaries in creativity, and there are games these days that do not just engage children but also educate. But these learning-centric games typically focus on mathematics, general knowledge, and logic. I believe that for our children to be successful, it is equally important for them to have a grounding in Indian value systems. This is not a ‘nice to have’, but a ‘must have’. I have observed many successful people, and their rootedness gives them the strength and clarity to push toward success. The need of the hour is for well-crafted digital and digital-cum-physical games that are built around Indic stories and values. We should embrace tech and use it creatively to our advantage. That is the way forward.