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Whether Media Actually Leads To Homogenisation Process Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 3924 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Globalisation and media are closely inter-connected. The growth of globalisation has accelerated to a large extent with the growth and development of media technology especially in areas of TV, films, internet, videos, music, news etc. Media acts as an agent of globalisation in generating homogenisation by spreading cultural symbols, ideas and practices across socio cultural settings of the world. The impact of media is instant, it moves quicker than any material goods or people. It has a tremendous impact on both sustaining and weakening or eroding the fabric of social life. The more efficient the media is in communicating, the more effective it is in stabilising or destabilising existing social, political, religious etc scenario. Media actively constructs people’s identity across the dimensions of nations, race, class, gender, ethnicity etc in a number of ways, which often lead to homogenisation process. The media imposes their powerful images, sounds and advertisements on a vast range of peoples of the world who most often succumb to their messages which are mostly designed to increase the profits of capitalist firms. Globalisation involves expanding worldwide flows of material objects and symbols and the proliferation of organisations and institutions within global reach that structure those flows. The process of globalisation is also characterised by relationships that are mediated through symbols of values, preferences and tastes etc through the powerful impact of media. The impact of media globalisation is manifold: it can lead to hybridisation of cultures, assertion of cultural autonomy and identity, cultural conflict, localisation, creolisation and homogenisation. However in my paper the focus is mainly on the homogenising effect of media globalisation on the socio cultural settings of the world and the factors which facilitates the creation of this homogenisation.

Hannerz distinguishes between three dimensions of culture, which indicates that cultures are susceptible to global dynamics:

Ideas and modes of thoughts: The entire array of concepts, propositions, values and mental operations that people within some social unit carry together.

Forms of externalisation: The different ways in which ideas and modes of thought are made public and made accessible to the senses eg, forms of art, food habits etc.

Social distribution: The ways in which people`s ideas and modes of thoughts and external forms are spread over a population and its social relationships.

Thus, understanding structures of shared knowledge, values, beliefs, experience and meanings in all their complexities remain the core concern of cultural analysis. Media technology plays a major part in transmission of the second and third dimension of Hannerz definition of culture. According to Hannerz, media in particular are “machineries of meanings”: they enable communication without being in one other`s immediate presence. In contemporary complex cultures, people increasingly make use of the media to externalise and distribute their ideas and thoughts throughout the world. This is how cultures as a system of meanings, symbols and actions get expressed in different form and media plays a major role in their transmission across the rest of the globe. Therefore culture is also about “sharedness”. The concept of “de territorialisation” as also referred by Appadurai, explains the inter connectivity of cultures across nations. These cultures are in contact with media in one way or the other and constantly influence each other in terms of tastes, styles, value systems, ideas, meanings and practices.

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According to Ritzer, the theory of socialisation and social interaction teach that human transcend in their social group through a process of acquiring culture and other gestures from parents and other social group members and social facts that happen in the environment in which the person lives. Here the environment in which each individual lives also includes media mediation and translation of social reality and thus culture is transmitted and diffused across cultures through the workings of the media.

Media also play a major role in the continual re shaping of cultural identity. Benedict Anderson, points out that nation as “imagined communities” often started out as media audience. Media articulate the meanings and experiences associated with particular social identities in a globalised context and export them to different distant places. Arjun Appadurai makes clear that people around the world are increasingly living a “fictional lives” based on media narratives and imagery. People around the world can now connect with like- minded others which binds people together irrespective of language, home background and socio economic circumstances eg:- allegiance to Real Madrid or Manchester United as global football club. Internet connections enable fans scattered across the globe to remain in touch and meet up regularly. Popular culture leads to formation of distinctive organisational forms and practices which are hybrid in nature. They are neither local nor global but a distinctive hybrid culture of transnational where fan clubs of a particular sport like football, cricket etc or iconic figures like Michael Jackson come together and form a unique transnational group where hybrid names, emblems and material products emerge. This trend emerges with the formation of internet communities and networks. They allow intensive contact with other cultures without actual bodily or localized contact and have an impact on the minds and practices of the people. However the intensity of impact depends on the way in which information are processes and digested in the receiving cultures. New channels of intensified social connectivity are permitted by contemporary electronic media Eg:- social networking sites like facebook, orkut etc. Live global television covering a single event carried through the satellite news carriers covers varied and diverse locations and geographical areas. This brings together people across great distances and social relations become radically freed from local contexts, and spatial distances become less important, and a greater consciousness of a world outside the local context come into picture. It produces a sense of globalised reality eg:- the recent FIFA World 2010, Cricket World Cup 2011 etc. This live global television is experienced by large numbers of people worldwide and creates an extension of social connections across time and space. Increased oneness of the world is accelerated by such forces. There is international corporate ownership of media enterprises which ensures that there is an increasing consumption of material goods and sharing of cultural icons across large numbers of people. These processes construct a shared experience of time and a collective memory for different groups of people. Thus Mass culture is created which is a product of modern communications.

There is a huge amount of debate on whether media leads to homogenisation process and thereby the subsequent creation of “Global culture” and whether there is such thing as global culture. Is the widening and deepening of international flows of culture through media in a single integrated market leading to the emergence of a global culture? The term “global cultural flow” according to Arjun Appadurai, is used to indicate the simultaneous fluid movement and changing meaning of ideas as well as their location and passage through specific historical, linguistic and political contexts. Global culture is used to denote the growing uniformity and homogenisation of the world`s cultures which serves as a magnet attracting people to particular ideas regarding economic opportunities and consumption.

Consumer culture:

Global culture is often held to be a media driven construct dependent upon the profit seeking production of mass mediated signs and symbols. The emergence of global culture is often taken as the direct outcome of the capitalist market institution restructuring to get desires, create needs and thereby open up a new arena for capital accumulation leading to commoditisation, commercialisation and consumerism made possible by media ads and communication industries in their drive to maximise profits. Global consumerism thrives on the promotion of brand names like rolex, addidas, reebok, coca cola, Mc Donalds etc based on what people would like rather than what they are and need. This consumer culture is filled with new community signs which form the popular culture allied to global media translated through the market. There is a growing similarity which transcends frontiers and similar trend of styles of dressing, consumption of sports, music preferences, eating habits etc has emerged. The term MC world has been coined to describe the standardisation of an American consumer culture, a combination of fast food, fast music and fast computers that bring people together through a common consumption of commodified cultural production.

According to Hermans and Kempen in their article “Moving Cultures”, referred to “Glocalisation” in economic usage where they introduced the term “micromarketing” i`e is the tailoring and advertisements of goods and services globally to increasingly local and diverse cultures. Thus, they talked about the creation of differentiated consumers and the emergence of consumer culture of the same global goods and services. They further problematises the relationship between the local and the global where cultures constantly interpenetrates with each other and become a part of the interconnectedness of the world system. Therefore the distinction between what it global and what is local becomes blurred and the presumed homogeneity of the local or internal and the distinctiveness of the global or external becomes problematic. Thus globalisation also involves the blurring of clear cut distinction between the local and global. What is local becomes global and what is global becomes local and sometimes they may become indistinguishable and homogenised. Media globalisation increasingly involved the creation and incorporation of locality. These processes is largely seen through the TV enterprise like CNN and MTV which seeks global markets and focussed on culturally diverse and differentiated groups.

Dominance of west:

Many have argued that global culture is more of western culture domination and enforcement of western culture on the rest of the world which is referred to as westernisation. The imposition of American culture in the form of TV, Videos, Pop music, Films and Ads on vulnerable communities unable to protect them from the sheer volume and intensity of exposition to media is widely under attacked. In recent years US has enjoyed a growing surplus for audio visual products (TV, Video, and Cinema) with the EU. Globally, the US accounts for about 75% of all TV programme exports. American Time Warner organisation claims to be the largest media company in the world.

During the last decade there is a struggle for the formation of a new Information order from the Third World countries with a determination not to remain passive recipient to the west active centre. Countries like France, Italy, China, Canada, North Korea etc has imposed a check on US media imports for different reasons. Hence questions are being raised regarding prior consent for Transborder home reception, the production of communication technology on definition of privacy and also attempt to develop their own regional media. Fears of US media domination lead to Mc Bride Report 1980, which lead UNESCO to call for a restructuring of global media along more egalitarian lines. The WTO and International Tele communications Satellite Organisation (INTELSAT) are among the prestigious international bodies that have attempted to establish guidelines for the regulation of global cultural flow.

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However for some writers’ globalization is not “westernization”. According to them, outwardly analysis may appeared that the world is oriented towards westernisation rather than globalisation especially when one could see the popularity of the western music, movies, and “McDonalds” etc where more and more countries are seen playing the top chart of the pop list of USA and Hollywood movies and US-made television serials (like Friends and the Simpsons) are becoming widespread processes of cultural transmission. However, a closer examination indicates that the impact of the flow of these cultural goods have different meanings in different societal and cultural contexts with uneven impact on classes and age groups. Some of the products are consumed without any modification; others are modified and indigenized to suit the local contexts. Nevertheless, westernisation can be seen as a part of Globalisation.

Media Imperialism:

There is a construction of media order through the entrepreneurial devices of a comparatively small number of global players eg Time Warner, Sony, Rupert Murdoch News Corporation and Walt Disney Company. News globalisation was dominated by press wire services in the 19th century, however in the 1970`s and 1980`s electronic media globalisation increased. Aggressive media companies like Rupert Murdoch`s News Corporation yielded a massive conglomerates of other global media industries. Cable News Network (CNN) has struggled to become a 24 hour news provider, watched religiously by global business and political elites of the world. The result was an undeniable increase in the degree to which people`s everyday lives are experienced through the media. Several large media companies like Viacom, Disney, Time Warner etc over the last decade have evolved from being a local industry to large global conglomerates based on new forms of vertical and horizontal integration. These media conglomeration was made possible by media deregulation in major western economies. These conglomerates not only have access to enormous quantities of investment capital but also the ability to minimise financial risks by managing their media products across different world markets in their areas of influence. For instance, News Corporation began as a print enterprise in Australia, spread into TV in UK in the 1970`s. This is now targeting the huge Chinese and Indian markets with its Star TV system which currently broadcasts in over 20 Asian languages.

There is a popular concern about the growing concentration of ownership of global media production and transmission in the hands of a small number of corporations. For example, the past two decades have experience a huge expansion of the pop music industry, MTV has now become 24 hour music channels in America, Europe and Asia. But 70% of all pop music is produced and distributed by a handful of multinational corporations that integrate production, transmission and promotion ensuring that certain iconic faces like Madonna, Michael Jackson etc are everywhere, on TV, video, films, CD`s, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, radio and even designed on T shirts and many other things. The flow of information was dominated by multinational entities based in the most powerful nation’s leading to what is known as medial imperialism.

Global and the local:

The widespread claim of homogenisation of world cultures; the global as pro active and the local as reactive to global culture have been found to be unlikely by many scholars. They have argued that the local do not remain a passive recipient of global cultures transmitted to them through the media but the local have its own way of interpreting global influences according to its relativity. One such defender of this view is Robertson, who maintained that diffusion and transfer of ideas and values across socio cultural formations adapt to a particular local culture, which he termed as Glocalization. He talked about ambivalence and ambiguity of human culture in globalised world. Globalisation itself has no meaning unless it is connected in the context of the “local”. For him, globalisation is able to link locales together both materially and ideationally. Hence the local and global are inter connected and influence each other simultaneously and the media acts as an agent in increasing this process of glocalization and globalisation. This results in not only homogenisation but also hybridisation of cultures as the global gets localised according to the suitability and necessity of that particular contexts. To quote Robertson, An ‘international’ TV enterprise like CNN produces and reproduces a particular pattern of relations between localities, a pattern which depends on a kind of recipe of locality”. He further illustrates how certain religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism etc involved a long process of Glocalization after its dissemination throughout the globe. Following form this and relating it to the present context of information technologically advanced world, we see that religions are being widely promoted through the media. Religious channels are available 24/7 on TV, internet etc. These channels reach out to different regions of the world and are either absorbed and assimilated into the existing settings and become glocalised or they are rejected completely as a threat to their existing values and beliefs system. From here we can induce how the media play an important role in localising the global.

Thus, the relation between the local and the global remain complex and negotiable terrain. Basically the politics of the glocal refers to “globalisation from below” which means that the impact of the global to a certain extent is in the hands of the local. This is because the local is not just a passive recipient of whatever globalisation through media brings at their doorstep influencing their lifestyles, ideas, values etc but the local is something active which constantly accommodates, assimilate and transforms different cultures that are brought to them, interpreting them according to its convenience and adaptability.

Another reaction of the local to the global is the rejectionist attitude. There are many local movements who vehemently attempts to reject or resist the globalisation process and the impact of media consumerist culture claiming to protect their cultural identity or the purity of their culture. Some remain hostile to globalisation impact due to its ability to erode the traditional value system and the adverse affect on their socio cultural moral system. Contemporary indigenous movements are becoming increasingly global Eg:- Native people`s Movement increasingly use the media to defend or promote their rejection of globalisation process. In a globalised world, people constantly used the media to mobilise people as a local assertions against globalisation influence. In the present context, promotion of locality through the media has become a common trend. There is an attempt to globally organise the rights and identities of natives or indigenous people`s movement. The emergence of popular culture and the growing “commodification” of the consumer`s experience popularised and sensationalised by media is seen by many as posing a threat to the richness and diversity of cultural practices, resulting in the description of mass consumerism as a monolithic force with one dimensional causal effects on the traditional cultures. There are certain closed group which remain suspicious about the impact of media globalisation and attempts to curb and regulate the free expression of media itself. Such kind of group would be countries like China, Japan, Muslim fundamentalist etc however in the context of contemporary advancement of media technology it becomes difficult to remain intact by the homogenising influence of media. Nevertheless, the idea of “uniformity of culture” should not undermine the pervasive impact of counter currents that emerges from the local reception of the global.

Wilkinson (1995) has developed the thesis that today,


However claims of Global culture and its impact on cultures without uninterrupted reception by age, class, gender and geography etc is naive. Thus a deeper probing of the complex relationship between the global and local is necessary because human beings are not without rational analysis or do not have any personal choice but they are thinking individuals with a mind of their own capable of deciding what is best for themselves and hence they do not succumb to the global consumer culture unmindfully but translates the impact of media according to their own reality. Tomlinson made a distinction between “culture as lived experience” and “culture as represented in media”. He had argued that the realities in people’s lives are much more powerful than mere representation in global televisions and people do not get manipulated easily by the reception of media. He furthers argues that the cultural critics have overlooked the capacity of the audience to negotiate the possible contradictions in the reception of media. To him the power of the media should not be exaggerated by looking at media as mediating cultural experience rather than the determining force. Ang also refers to “interpersonal drama” to mean that media products are interpreted differently in different cultural contexts. Avijit Pathak is another who also talks about the “politics of culture” where cultures constantly negotiate in its interaction and influences. For him, even though there is a dominant global culture emanating, the process of reception becomes contextualised and gain a hermeneutic form, this he calls the art of resistance.

For Wilkinson only one global civilisation exists which is a direct descendent of 1500 BC civilisation in the near East when Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisation collided and fused. This entity spread all over the globe and engulf all others previously independent civilisation like Chinese, Japanese and western into one global civilisation. His idea was of “connectedness” of the world into one system rather than “uniformity”. People who interact with each other continuously belong to the same civilisation even if their cultures might be very dissimilar and hostile to each other. Expansion of media communication increases connectivity of cultures, thus a chain of cultural networks are created no matter however they are connected either hostile or differently but they are still interacting with each other and hence influences each other in one way or the other and results in the emergence of certain similar trends. Therefore, what is undeniable is that media globalisation in one form or the other has an impact on the lives and consciousness of almost every one cutting across transnational borders, cultures, ethnicity, gender, class, age etc. Thus, global media is rendering almost everyone with something of a cosmopolitan culture. What was once local has become global and the line between the division of “global” and “local’ is thinning and becoming blurred day by day.


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