The digitisation, and sometimes unauthorised dissemination of cultural knowledge through the Internet challenges intellectual property rights. However, open access to knowledge is seen as a legitimate need of the global community and has become a prominent theme in recent debates within international science and cultural organisations. These pressing issues and controversial views had been discussed for the Russian and the circumpolar North at a conference at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in
Two possible solutions were put forward and have been partly realised since then; first, to provide local communities by means of the Internet easier access to scientific outcome, which are based on their particular cultural heritage; second, to set up the collected data in a digitised way that is in a form on of CD or DVD, so that it can be used effectively by local communities, for example in their educational programmes. So it can contribute to maintaining endangered local knowledge and to stimulate its enhancement. Through this parallel approach new information technologies are not viewed only as disseminating information at low costs, but also as efficient tools inlearning and increasing cognitive capacities (cf. Kasten 2004b).
Sharing scientific results with indigenous communities through the Internet
The website http://www.siberian-studies.org is dedicated to the presentation and dissemination of case studies about
By providing electronic access to digitised publications on
The electronic versions of books and essays cover a great variety of themes, which are seen as relevant in the current academic debate and which are felt as pressing by local people themselves. One of the main issues is post-Soviet socio-economic transformations and risks of jeopardising cultural diversity. Particular attention is given to the preservation of endangered cultural knowledge and to native languages and to the enhancement of art and craft traditions. Indigenous knowledge in sustainable nature use is another important theme, and how that knowledge could be best transmitted from the elders to the youth by specific educational programmes and learning tools.
Situated in the Russian Far East, Kamchatka peninsula is touched by the
With these contents, this site offers a broad perspective on scientific, practically oriented and artistic works for this region. Differing viewpoints from a variety of backgrounds should help to stimulate fuller and more productive discussion and understanding among scholars, local and native experts and other practitioners of culture in the Russian North. Making such information more widely accessible even in remote communities of the region can best facilitate this.
Beyond providing indigenous communities more possibilities to participate in the debate on current issues that immediately affect their livelihoods, this site gives local scholars access to historical sources that provide complementary ethnographic information from the 18th to the early 20th century. These sources have usually been available so far only in distant libraries, in many cases as far as Moscow or St. Petersburg. Therefore, first electronic versions of historical sources on Kamchatka were produced in 1996 (Steller 1996), and the present website includes links to other institutions, which had become involved in similar activities since then.
For the realisation of the website, in-depth consultations with the individual authors and publishers had to be held to obtain the required permissions. Needless to say, that most authors have welcomed such a possibility for an even wider dissemination of their works. However, some of them have been concerned about unauthorised changes of the electronic editions of their texts, that is others might copy and paste fragments of their works for composing new texts of their own, without acknowledging the rights of the original authors. Although certain security options can be chosen for PDF files, there is no guarantee that these cannot be cracked. On the other hand, anyone who might intend could scan the printed copy and produce one's own electronic version with OCR anyway.
More complicated have been negotiations with some of the publishers. But eventually all of them agreed as they could anticipate that it would be only to their advantage, if additional attention could be directed to these books by showing them