It’s an interesting prompt this, if NASA were to send out a spaceship containing the best of modern culture, what would they take?
Literature for a start, for all intents and purposes (after all, ‘literature’, much like ‘culture’ is subjective) I’m using the guidelines for what I consider literature, which is a novel which deals with a larger theme or recounts a historical event. As well as the classics, such as Shakespeare and many of the other Reniassance works, (which I would send to show the ‘positive’ facets of humanity, our ability to create) I would send novels which dealt with the issues such as racism, war, genocide, the Holocaust etc. Hopefully to try and prevent them from falling into the same shameful habits that we as humans fell into. (Despite the title, I probably wouldn’t send up much Vonnegut. I’d send stuff up like ‘Catch-22’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, Adventures of Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn’ etc.)
Same with film, TV and music. I’d be sure to send them films which essentially document our history as a race in an attempt to prevent them from making the same hideous mistakes that we as a species have made. I would even send up some of our finest satirical works, as they hold up a mirror to our society, especially our worst and most reactionary features.
I would also ensure that records of our greatest scientific achievements are sent up there along with our finest works of art. As an antithesis to the above if you like, demonstrating the good we have done. The advancements we have made as a species, the way in which we have improved the lives of many.
The picture of the modern world I want to send to the aliens is one which allows them to see the best of our culture whilst simultaneously trying to prevent them slipping into the worst of our habits. After all, those who do not remember the past, are doomed to repeat it, and I wouldn’t want the target aliens to repeat the very worst acts of human history.