A robot to defend cultural diversity
Photographic artist Jimmy Nelson unleashes The Preservation Robot at SXSW
An autonomous technology to reverse homogenization by distributing the richness of indigenous culture to the world
Austin, TX, March 12 2019 – The Preservation Robot was unveiled last Saturday evening at the House of Scandinavia at SXSW by photographic artist Jimmy Nelson . The Preservation Robot is the first autonomous technology ever created to address the homogenization of human culture, due to the ever-increasing spread of Western culture on the internet. The robot, which was activated live on stage at SXSW, continuously places a myriad of images of indigenous culture into the open spaces on the internet, to help make it more culturally diverse. The Preservation Robot uses technology – one of the very things that threatens cultural diversity – against itself to shine a light on indigenous culture. This is photographic artist Jimmy Nelson’s answer to homogenization.
Technology – and specifically the internet – is allowing Western culture to saturate the world. This is threatening our global cultural diversity.
Photographic artist Jimmy Nelson has spent the last 30 years traveling to the farthest corners of the world to visit and photograph some of the last indigenous cultures still alive. His work has subsequently been used to garner support and help restore a sense of pride around indigenous ways of life. Nelson believes that exposing the world to the richness and range of indigenous peoples is the way to safeguard not only their traditions and ways of life, but also to bolster one of humanity’s greatest values: cultural diversity.
Nelson has witnessed the sharp decline in cultural diversity in the last decades, and realized that he needed a far-reaching approach to tell people about this global issue. The Preservation Robot is his effort to reverse this decline.
“The decline of cultural diversity would perhaps seem a less urgent problem than some of our other global issues. However, the erosion of cultural identity throughout the planet and the loss of traditions and customs has far-reaching and profound effects on all of us. Indigenous culture is visually underrepresented – and often misrepresented. I’m taking a stand by launching The Preservation Robot. Using technology to invert homogenization.”
A team of creatives and technologists, including J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam’s Bas Korsten, the creative lead behind The Next Rembrandt, joined forces to come up with a technological solution to address the problem of homogenization, and to start a dialogue on cultural diversity. Bas Korsten joined Jimmy Nelson on stage at SXSW to present the robot to the audience and take questions.
“It's probably fair to state that Western culture has a stranglehold on the world. We, the people working in tech and advertising, are propagating that same culture. If not as the agents – then certainly as the enablers. This is why the idea of using technology – the very thing that threatens cultural diversity – against itself to promote cultural diversity is so compelling. This is the aim of The Preservation Robot. A robot to help humans preserve their cultural identity.”
The images that The Preservation Robot is distributing throughout the web are photos of some of the most glorious, yet threatened indigenous cultures across the world. For now this is Jimmy Nelson’s own work, but in the near future these will also be images made by other photographers, via the Jimmy Nelson Foundation, a group which finds, supports and enables new talent to photograph and document indigenous cultures from their own perspective.
To find out how The Preservation Robot works, watch this video:
More information on how The Preservation Robot works:
The Preservation Robot is an autonomous technology that continuously increases cultural diversity online in a bid to combat homogenization.
• Finding open spaces
The Preservation Robot autonomously creates free open spaces to upload pictures of indigenous culture. Open spaces on social networks like Reddit and Twitter. And free cloud platforms like IMGUR and TinyIMG.
• Creating accounts
The robot uses these accounts to upload images of indigenous cultures in all their glory.
• SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
The script that the robot executes is developed in collaboration with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts, which means that the uploaded photos will pop up more and more in online searches all over the world.
• Real-time progress
As soon as an upload is finished, it sends a ‘ping’ to The Preservation Robot website preservationrobot.com with information including the image URL, geo-location of the specific server the image was uploaded to and more. This information is used to update the globe with real-time progress of The Preservation Robot.
• Platform set for growth
The robot is developed as a platform that will improve itself in all its uploading, sharing and SEO capacities.
Dimensions of The Preservation Robot: height: 12” (30 cm), depth: 10.5” (27 cm), width: 10.5” (27 cm)
Download images here
Link to download images of some of the world's last indigenous cultures:
Download images here (examples of the images spread by The Preservation Robot)
Download images here (from the website)
Jimmy Nelson Bas Korsten
Download High Resolution images:
Download PDFDownload PDF
About Jimmy Nelson
Jimmy Nelson (UK, 1967) started working as a photographer in 1987. Having spent ten years at a Jesuit boarding school in the North of England, he set off on his own to traverse the length of Tibet on foot (1985). The journey lasted two years and upon his return his visual diary, featuring revealing images of a previously inaccessible Tibet, was published.
Soon after (1987) he was commissioned to cover a variety of culturally newsworthy themes for many of the world-leading publications ranging from the Russian involvement in Afghanistan and the ongoing strife between India and Pakistan in Kashmir to the beginning of the war in former Yugoslavia.
In early 1994 he and his Dutch ex-wife Ashkaine Hora Adema produced Literary Portraits of China. A coffee-table book about all indigenous cultures in China and their translated literature. From 1997 onwards, Jimmy undertook commercial advertising assignments for many of the world’s leading brands. Meanwhile, he spent his whole life accumulating images of indigenous cultures.
In 2010 he began his journey to create the artistic document that became Before They Pass Away, which was published in October 2013. Its success and the responses to it have enabled and encouraged Jimmy to continue this journey. In October 2018, Nelson published the first interactive book Homage to Humanity, for which he visited another unique 34 indigenous cultures around the globe. The book is accompanied by the 2019 Webby Award-winning mobile application that makes it possible to scan every image in the book and bring them to life with exclusive films, interviews and 360 ̊ film material. This allows people to see the making of the work and to understand the process behind it.
Today Jimmy is using an 8x10 analogue plate camera to bring the project to its next level. Jimmy strongly believes that if you change the way you look at people, the people you look at change. And if that change is powerful enough, it will gather momentum to affect the whole of humanity. A message that today he is promoting through talks at international conferences and museum exhibitions. With the proceedings of his art projects, the Jimmy Nelson Foundation was set up to take it a step further in supporting the communities on the ground.