An Exploration of Digital Technology for Cultural Preservation in Tonga
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Cultural heritage is the legacy of our ancestors, connects us with our ancestral roots and shapes the way we live today. A society's heritage serves an essential purpose for educating people about their own culture and aiding in understanding their traditional values. However, due to the pressures of globalisation, migration and technological advancement, Tonga's cultural heritage is threatened. These threats can potentially impede the transferring of societies' idiosyncratic identity to future generations and erode cultural life. As a result of external pressures, societies have started to use digital technologies to preserve their historical artefacts. In the case of Tonga, the infiltration of information and communications technology (ICT) devices means that local Tongans readily have the option to utilise ICT as an easily accessible method for preservation. However, whether this is occurring and how this is transpiring is something I explored. Considering the importance of safeguarding Tonga’s cultural roots, there is a lack of research that investigates the role of digital technologies in this process. As a result, this study seeks to undertake an exploration of digital technology for cultural preservation in Tonga. For the purpose of understanding the research topic, the following question was asked: “how is digital technology utilised in the process of preserving cultural heritage in Tonga?” Accordingly, the perspectives and experiences of Tongans residing in Tongatapu are considered in a case study methodology underpinned by interpretivism. Additionally, face-to-face sessions were undertaken with twelve participants in a formal and casual talanoa. Eight of the individuals who participated in the talanoa belong to one of the following five groups: Heritage support group, an advocacy group, government agent(s), royal heritage agent and a community-based interest group. These groups identified as either using ICT to preserve cultural heritage or were prominently engaged in protecting or practising cultural heritage. Also, a thematic analysis was employed to identify factors relative to the research context. From this analysis three findings were identified: Perceptions of cultural heritage and preservation, existing challenges that affect the preservation of cultural heritage in Tonga, and bottom-up initiatives for preservation. These key findings indicate that Tonga's cultural heritage is important and valued by its local citizens. However, there are current challenges that affect the preservation of Tonga’s cultural artefacts such as, a lack of support from leadership. Given these challenges, local Tongans are engaging in bottom-up initiatives as a means of preserving their cultural heritage.