Context of Communication

MS7006 The International Context of Communication


In this contemporary world, with the development of economic globalization, it is unavoidable that the cultural communications between different national cultures. Culture is a very complicated word in today's world because of the consequences of globalization. In this global age, global culture is the result of the globalization, it is formed by different nations culture integrated, communication, and tends to be convergence. However, some scholars point out that the global culture is tending to be homogenization and integration (Featherstone,M., 1990). As we all known the America is the largest economy country, as well as their cultures. With the penetration of American culture, the cultural imperialism is appeared. Cultural imperialism has significant influence on global culture; it brings benefits to many nations, but still has some drawbacks. Therefore, there is a close relationship between global culture and cultural imperialism. Also there still have some scholars indicate that the global culture can be seen as the cultural heterogenization or hybridization. In this essay, firstly, it will discuss the global culture, the representation of global culture and how scholars define the global culture; then, it will identify the cultural imperialism and point out the phenomenon of cultural imperialism and how to penetrate the every corner of the world; thirdly, it will put forward the relationship between the global culture and cultural imperialism; cultural imperialism is one of the main part of the global culture, it has huge influence on the formation of global culture, although global culture make culture communications become closer and closer, it cannot ignore the local culture because cultural imperialism is easy to lead to the culture conflicts, therefore, it should protect the national culture because the cultural change is not about loss and destruction but about creativity and make national culture become more diversity, by this point, It will throughout McDonald's sample to illustrate it. At last, it will draw conclusions about the essay.

Cultural globalization and global culture

It is well-known that the whole world is becoming a smaller place due to the economic globalization. However, cultural globalization is one of the important aspects of globalization, therefore, it is necessary to simply demonstrate the globalization in order to better understanding the cultural globalization and global culture. Globalization is not a new phenomenon, it can be date back to 15th century since the invention of new lands in the Americas (Waters, M.,2001). After 500 years, with the global and cultural development, the whole world is becoming more and more close to each other. Globalization not only penetrates on the economic field, but also in ideology, culture, technology and political area, and changing the people's life. The 'global village' becomes the truth and reality, people living in a integrated and convergence planet. Therefore, it is undoubtedly that with the economic and political globalization development, cultural globalization is the certain result accompany with the process of globalization. The consequences of cultural globalization is integrated the different nations cultures and spread to all over the world, and then with the communication between different nations culture, the global culture is produced. As the Appadurai (1990) identifies five dimensions of global cultures flows which can be termed ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes, financescapes and ideoscapes. Firstly, the people constitute the shifting world like tourists, immigrants, workers, students. With the shifting of these people, they bring the different culture to different countries. Secondly, the technoscape, the expansion of technology, both informational and mechanical, are play the key role in the progress of global culture, different countries hold divergent technologies, there is a complex relationship between each country in money flows, skilled workers, it is important to communicate with different countries with their outstanding technology and their workers. Then, the financescapes, with the emerge of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, the disposition of global capital, currency market and national stock exchanges becomes more and more complicated and mystery. Moreover, the mediascapes and ideoscapes has related the images. Mediascapes refers to the spread and develop of media technologies produce and promote different information all over the world, like the television, newspaper, and film studios; all of these media communication spread are base on the people's image, their audiences, and their interests. The most important is the spread of information and cultures especially in television, film, music, and make the world of the news mixed and integrated. The audiences around the world experiences the different kind of information and knowledge, better communicate with cultures and promote the formation of global culture. Ideoscapes are also focus on images, but these images are different from the media image, it much more prefer to the political ideology like the democracy, rights, freedom, welfare, responsibility, discipline, and equality. Overall, those five elements are the key factors in the progress of global culture, but the fundamental to this explain is the communications technology. Then media expansions play the dominant role in global culture. Global culture is the new mode of culture system through different countries cultures conflict, run in and integrated. Nevertheless, there is a raised argument about the global culture, different scholars hold divergent opinions, someone scholars think the global culture is a form of cultural homogenization, or it can be seen as cultural imperialism or Americanization (Hopper, P.,2007), others hold the view that the global culture is a kind of culture heterogenization or culture hybridization. Before investigate this debate, It should understanding what is cultural imperialism and why scholars think the global culture can be seen as cultural homogenization. After analyzing the cultural imperialism, it will discuss the relationship between the global culture and cultural imperialism, and then talk about how to look at the cultural change and global culture.

Cultural imperialism

The term 'cultural imperialism' does not have a long period of history, this term was appeared in 1960s and raises the concentration at least the 1970s. Also the 'cultural imperialism' is a very complex word because the separate two words themselves are extremely complicated. As the Tomlinson (1991) identify the 'cultural imperialism' which is 'The use of political and economic power to exalt and spread the values and habits of a foreign culture at the expense of a native cultures' This definition is prefer to indicate the essence of cultural imperialism which is the promote different kind of values and habits of a country, in this process, the political and economic power just act as the instruments to help better proceeding the cultural imperialism process ( White(2001) also described same term as cultural imperialism like 'media imperialism', 'ideological imperialism', 'cultural dependency and comination', 'economic imperialism', both of these term can be act as the same meaning with 'cultural imperialism' because they both have close relationship. As we all known the United States is the biggest economy power country in today's world. Also the Tunstall (1977) indicate the theory of cultural imperialism as follows:

'The cultural imperialism thesis claims that authentic, traditional and local culture in many parts of the world is being battered out of existence by the indiscriminate dumping of large quantities of slick commercial and media products, mainly from the United States'

Therefore, when people talk about the cultural imperialism, it usually discuss the United States. Cultural imperialism is often described as the cultural domination, Tomlinson(1991) through four different ways to talk about the cultural imperialism. Firstly, cultural imperialism as 'media imperialism', and Ogan (1988) saw 'media imperialism often described as a process whereby United States and Western Europe produce most of the media products, make the first profits from domestic sales, and then market the products in Third World countries at costs considerably lower then those the countries would have to bear to produce similar products at home'. Due to the process of globalization, the communications technologies grow rapidly. United States as the largest country in the world, the advanced media technologies and the appear of the transnational corporations like the Federal Communications Commission, Magazine Publishers Association, their radio networks, advertising agencies (Lull,J.,2000), both of these organizations produce their own countries culture values to spread all over the world especially the developing countries, thus the popularity of street dance, American music as the consequences of the culture spread and domination. The target of United States cultural imperialism is young people because these groups of people are easy to perceive the American consumerism and individualism. Secondly, the cultural imperialism as a discourse of nationality, from the Tunstall's definition of cultural imperialism theory, United State export their 'local culture' to all over the world, U.S. spread their nation culture values to every corner of the world and penetrate their cultural personalities to people. Therefore, it can be analyzing cultural imperialism through the nationality aspects. Thirdly, cultural imperialism as the critique of global capitalism, this way of speaking is about the neo-Marxists, as the Tomlinson's definition, the imperialism is prefer the economic rather than the political. Also the whole world is a complicated economic-political system of global capitalism. Cultural imperialism can be seen as the cultural dominance all over the world, and due to the globalization, it is necessary to think carefully the global capitalism when talk about the cultural imperialism. Lastly, cultural imperialism as the critique of modernity, when thinking about the cultural imperialism it cannot think about the cultures individually, but need to think on the world itself. And ''modernity' refers to the main cultural aspects of global development. Cultural imperialism as the critique of modernity contain the analysis of the determinant factors about the global culture. Overall, from the Tomlinson's four ways of thinking the cultural imperialism, it is better understanding the meaning of this term.

After discussing the cultural imperialism according to the U.S. example and the former discuss about the global culture, it has general idea about these two terms. There is a raised concern about the relationship between these two terms, some scholars hold the opinion that the consequences of global culture is the cultural imperialism or cultural homogenization (Hopper,P.,2007), Americanization, however, others think the world is the combination of multicultural society and then constitute the colorful world, different cultures communications and interactive between each country, it is a kind of cultural heterogenization and cultural creativity ( Because of the global culture, culture change is not about loss or destruction, but about the creativity. On the one hand, the United States cultural imperialism make their countries own culture spread all over the world, in some degrees threat the local foreign countries culture; on the other hand, the American culture like McDonald culture and their sales mode also help local culture become more and more colorful and give the hint for foreign country. In the next part, I will simply explain the relationship between global culture and cultural imperialism and then discuss the cultural hybridization and heterogenization in today's world according to the classic example of McDonald culture.

Glocalization and cultural heterogenization

As the globalization grows in importance in our social life and economic activities, there is an issue raised the people's concern. As the consequences of globalization, global culture become the crucial part in our daily life, also cultural imperialism is one of the part in processing of the global culture. Cultural imperialism have influence the formation of the global culture. As I discussed before, United States as the one of the earliest country to penetrate their culture, the most well known example is the spread of the McDonald fast food restaurant. Robertson (1995) indicate the issue that the relationship between the cultural homogenizing and heterogenizing in this global age. Due to the Americanization spread all over the world, this issue has aroused scholars' concentration. Although the people are influenced by American culture, it does not mean they will neglect their national culture (Robertson,R.,1995). McDonald's have profound impact on the America in twentieth-century. It has influence a wide range of restaurants, and the way of people's life, also the influential rate is growing (Ritzer,G.,1996). The McDonald's culture can be called as 'McDonaldization', as Ritzer (1996) define it:

'The process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as of the rest of the world.'

As the definition said, the McDonald's not only influence the world restaurant businesses, but also the lifestyle, working style, and other aspects of life. But why McDonald's success is so amazing ? Ritzer(1995) identify four aspects of success of McDonald world. First, McDonald's offers high efficiency working style, they guarantee the consumers getting from hungry to full within the minimum time; then, McDonald's provide calculability, they emphasis on the quantitative aspect of product sales. Third, the predictability, they guarantee their products and services are keep the same in every corner of the world, and last is their ecological imperative. They provide customers fast speed of eating in McDonald's. Those four factors are both making McDonald's become the leading fast food restaurant in the twentieth-century. They implement the successful marketing strategy which is 'glocalization', according to The Oxford Dictionary of New Words (1991:34) the term 'glocalization' are formed by global and local overlapped (Robertson, R.,1995). McDonald's setting their business strategy base on the national foreign countries culture. One of the successful sample is the McDonald's in Israel. McDonald's opened first branch in Israel in 1993, and the sales are growing at accelerate rate (Ram, U.,2004). McDonald's brings many benefits to Israel, their national people accept the American culture. In some degree, their own eating habit which their falafel food is threaten by McDonald's culture, however, the Israel people combine the McDonald's culture and their own eating habit, make their falafel sales increase, and revive their national eating culture. As we can seen from this sample, the spread of the McDonald's success business model make most of foreign country study their American business culture and make their own restaurant and culture more completed. It can be said that the global culture does not eliminate the national culture, even help national culture revived. Thus, the result of the global culture is not the cultural homogenizing, but the culture creativity or cultural heterogenizing. People are perceived the different cultures when they communicating the divergent countries people, and in some way improve and perfect their own culture, and finally constitute the multicultural world which mixed different kind of culture. Although cultural imperialism in some degree threats the national culture, it still cannot against the mainstream of culture trends which is convergence.


From I discussed above, cultural globalization is the consequence of globalization, people perceive different kind of foreign culture because of the developing communication technology like the appear of the television, film and many transnational media organizations. Then the global culture is formed, the communication become more and more closer, in the process of global culture, the America's culture penetration is especially influence the whole world, and often the 'cultural imperialism' can be described for United States. American culture penetrate to every corner of the world, like their dance culture, music, film. Their McDonald's culture is worth to discuss it because McDonald's is one of the most popular fast food restaurants in the world; it not only spread their business model, but the American culture, lifestyle and working style. The successful of McDonald's brings many business hints to foreign country, the Israel's falafel survival is a best sample to illustrate this. It also indicate that the whole world is becoming more and more close to each other, and cultural convergence though it have risks to threats the local culture, the mainstream will not change, culture change not about loss and destruction ,but about the creativity, cultural heterogenizing is the popular trends in today's world.

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