July 19, 2008

Culture and Globalization

author_janis By Janis Prince Inniss 

When people talk about globalization, they’re often referring to the reality that we live in an interdependent world in which shifts in one part of the world are felt in another because of globally-driven economic factors. Often discussions of globalization focus on the economy and other big picture issues. Have you given any thought to how globalization impacts your life in a personal way? As the following examples illustrate, globalization has very real J0236527impacts on individual, everyday experiences. 

  I never saw a television until I was ten! It’s not that I wasn’t allowed to watch television until I was ten years old, but that I never even knew what that magic box looked like until that age! This is because until age 13, I lived in Guyana where there was no TV. No one I knew had a TV and given that the country had no TV stations (this was before the days of satellite TV) I don’t know what they would watch if anyone had one anyway. I saw my first television when I left the country for a summer vacation.

Fast forward to Guyana twenty years later…. I went back to Guyana on a visit and everyone seemed to have a TV! And they all seemed to have them on all the time, and loudly. (I don’t know that TV viewing in Guyana is any more popular there than it is in the U.S., but apparently the number of per capita TV sets is far fewer than it is in the U.S. I imagine that economic factors are greatly related to this difference.)clip_image003

In Guyana, windows tend to remain open so sounds escape readily making the television sounds obvious to me even as I walked past homes. This was more than a mere observation; it greatly impacted my visit. I found this change vexing because the noise of the televisions got in the way of conversation as I tried to cover years of distance in a few days. On many visits with friends and family, I found their attention divided between me and their televisions. And I was poor competition for the box, as it seemed to win most of the time! (Not kind to my ego.) And mostly they watched U.S. channels (with CNN the hands-down winner), not programs that covered the local stories and issues I might not have minded learning about on my vacation. The American shows on those TVs in Guyana are another example of globalization.

Recently, I drove across a northern border to Canada. Starving after my trip, I was looking forward to some new and different cuisine. But all I saw were American restaurants around me. For a moment, I had no sense that I was in a foreign country with the same stores and restaurants all around. As I sat down for my first meal on Canadian soil, I realized that the TV was on…CNN! More U.S. news! I’m not anti-news (well, I don’t really care for television news but that’s another story) but American news is certainly not what I expected the minute I set food across the border.

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The CNN domination is also evident when I telephone family and friends around the world. I continue to be amazed by how much the U.S. presidential race dominates conversations with people regardless of which country they live in. People I talk with in Europe and Canada are very tuned into CNN and so are very familiar with the twists and turns taking place with the elections. They are as conversant on any election issue as anyone I know in the U.S. 

Why do you think CNN is watched around the world? There are several reasons. I think one is the dominance of the American market and of American culture. For many non-Americans, CNN symbolizes the U.S. American restaurants and politics are also popular around the world because they are part of this dominant American culture and marketplace. 

Some might argue that these are examples of the Americanization of other countries, and that this is an effect of globalization. What do you think? How do you feel about this aspect of globalization? Will a global culture—and given America’s size and might this will be a mainly American culture—replace local cultures? My comments about seeing American restaurants and CNN upon arriving in Canada do not negate the fact that the country has its own thriving culture. Nor does the popularity of CNN in the homes I visited in Guyana indicate that Guyanese culture is dead, but there’s no denying the influence of American culture on these other countries. 

The presence of TV did change the way I experienced conversations in Guyana, but maybe such experiences lead people to want to hold on even more tightly to their culture. If so, in a roundabout fashion, globalization may strengthen rather than replace local culture. Or maybe different cultures can and do peacefully exist next to each other. Based on your experiences, which seems most likely?

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Comments

On the CNN reference, I think everyone watches CNN because it doesn't just connect Americans, but everyone. Of course, this connection might be lost because not everyone watches CNN. Maybe only people over the age of 35 watch it, because anyone younger cannot be bothered. Some people may have a T.V. but never watch it, while that is all others do.

I believe referring to the cnn issue that every watches cnn because it is a global connection on new and events around the world. It also connects other countries to our culture and way of living, where some people and cultures do not so much watch tv because of the lack of globalization and interdependence of other countries.

T.V. will not be the down fall of local cultures, nor will CNN. CNN does not always focus on America. One reason America is on CNN so much is because we are constantly doing something. Bombing this country, Obama doing this, Hilary say that. Its not something easy to escape. I believe that local cultures will hold onto their traditions tight now that globalization has become more prominant.

Globalization has not only become common in the world, but has also become an immense issue. It has impacted areas of the world, both developed and developing countries, in significant ways. Some can be positive, such as technology that allows people all over the world to communicate, but many can be seen as negative. These influences, like the spread of cheap fast food chains, can be a threat to preserving local cultures.
I believe that American news networks being viewed by people internationally is a good thing because it allows the international community to learn about the issues that are occurring in a country that has a lot of involvement with the rest of the world. On the other hand, televisions, especially the way that Innes noticed their influence in Guyana, can impact communication and interaction within a society. I believe that things like this can damage a local culture.
With Innes’ observation of American restaurants and stores in Canada, that is also a part of globalization that I believe can be a negative. When I have traveled to other parts of the world, I have always clearly noticed the amount of American industries and companies that exist in these other countries. As a person that goes to these places to experience these completely different cultures, I think that these results of globalization take away the uniqueness of the local culture and what it represents. There could be cultures and societies that see globalization as a reason to preserve their own culture, but I believe that for the most part, it has a way of easily changing local cultures and possibly creating a global culture in the future.
The questions come down to: What other things will eventually contribute to globalization? In what ways, or even extremes, will they affect the strong customs and traditions that many local cultures have that illustrate their ways of life? And how will the world look if it were to become a completely global culture?

I actually agree that TV has an major part in globalization, at least when referring to the whole cultural aspect. I'm originally from Brazil and my experiences resemble yours, things have changed...

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