Dorji Wangchuk will visit the United Nations University Institute in Macau to give a talk on the influence of Buddhism in the communication culture in Bhutan and the search for the middle path in the age of social media.
Why do the traditional Bhutanese avoid expressing extreme views – or clear positions, at times? Why do they prefer silence over speech, indirectness over directness and harmony over confrontation when addressing another person? Are these traits derived from Buddhism – the predominant religion of Bhutan? These are some of the questions that this paper seeks to answer. As momentous changes sweep this small kingdom, the country faces both opportunities and challenges in the era of the pervasive social media. Until 1999, Bhutan had neither broadcast television nor Internet. Since then, this small nation, located high in the Himalayas between India and China and for centuries confined in a self-imposed isolation, has practically “leapfrogged” directly into the digital world. In recent decades, mobile phone use has increased dramatically -reaching more than 90 percent of all households. Social media platforms such as Facebook, WeChat, and Twitter are popular where people share images and voice messages and thus extend the traditional oral forms of communication via digital means. Drawing from extensive interactions and in-depth interviews with reputed Bhutanese Buddhist scholars and with communication practitioners; and from the author’s field experiences of working as a broadcaster, filmmaker, columnist and as the Palace spokesperson, this essay explores to understand the influence of Buddhism on communication in the Bhutanese society.
Dorji Wangchuk graduated in electronics engineering from the University of Bologna (Italy) in 1995. He worked as the chief engineer with the Bhutan Broadcasting Service leading the team that brought both the FM radio services and television to Bhutan between 1997 and 1999. Subsequently, he made a career shift and moved to documentary filmmaking, where he won three major international awards and several nominations. His best-known works are School Among Glaciers and Rocking the Himalayan Kingdom. From 2009 to 2013 he served as the Director and Spokesperson for His Majesty the King and the Royal Family of Bhutan. He has also written books chapters and articles in international publications and journals and has penned numerous op-eds in Bhutanese newspapers. He is the founder-advisor to Centennial Radio in Bhutan, a visiting professor at the Royal University of Bhutan. He is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Macau with the research focus on the influence of social media in news and storytelling traditions in Bhutan.