Ethnicity has always been an appealing niche for foreign language newspapers and magazines to local cable television programs. Restaurants, churches and temples are all centers for exploring global cultures in the real world. Yet on the Internet, the most successful ethnically focused sites seem to be the online dating sites such as Shaadi.com, JDate and Corazones.com - as well as online communities targeting ethnicities for networking. The problem with this is that most of these sites are not inviting others outside a particular ethnicity to interact and learn about a culture. If online networks focused on getting together those of a particular ethnicity, we risk alienating each other as everyone only joins their own ethnic group online and doesn't venture beyond.
Countering this trend to a degree are sites that take a more global view of the world, targeted at those who consider themselves more than just citizens of a particular country. There are sites like Worldchanging and GlobalVoicesOnline that offer global news and a collaboration of voices from many countries. Other online news and video sites offer a more global view on world news and reporting such as Current.tv. Campaigns such as the One campaign or Product Red are also taking a global view for cause related marketing. Yet when it comes to sharing the best of global cultures in a way that is not cause related, there are surprisingly few ways people have found to do it online.
One site that I came upon recently which seems to have a different vision is Jaman - a social network and website where you can sign up to rent or purchase foreign films from around the world. Uniting the world through cinema has long been the charge of many independent film festivals and other such events, but online this mission has not really taken off. There are strong online communities that relate to film, such as Flixter - but none focus as uniquely on global cinema as Jaman. The site is still in beta, and the film collection relatively small ... but as more and more global cinema labels sign onto the service and see it as a profitable distribution channel, the collection is sure to grow. It's one of those sites that is helping to define a new global niche for sites that are focused on bringing the best of global cultures to everyone ... without the necessity for an underlying cause. After all, even the global citizen who wants to learn about or save the world need some old fashioned entertainment every once in a while.
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Screenshots of Jaman Service (click to enlarge):
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