Bamboo and Electricity, by Nina Damiecki

Laos has a mix of high and traditional technology. Laotian traditional technology includes baskets, bowls, fish traps, instruments, and toys all made of local bamboo. Although perhaps not considered advanced from a Western perspective, the traditional technology that is used by a significant portion of the population proves to be cleverly and intricately crafted as well as sophisticated. When viewing technology in Laos, a person must keep in mind how one’s view of technology is affected by culture. Westerners who are used to complex electronic technology are often blind to the ingenuity of the bamboo technology.

Economic globalism has impacted technology and Laotian culture in general. International entities such as China and Apple have introduced powerful high technological products – iPhones, trucks, buses, air conditioning, motor-cycles, computers, jet planes, malls filled with manufactured products, and power lines. A particularly profound image:  the juxtaposition of vivid green rice fields lined by brick and bamboo houses with that of a grey power plant that looked like massive metal silos. What specifically caught my eye were the Chinese characters 中国电 ( Middle Kingdom electric) that were painted in large font across the front. The complexity of high technology is overwhelming the Laotian culture.