Globalisation vs. Tradition

The term ‘globalisation’ and the effects that follow its widespread path across local terrain can be interpreted in a variety of ways; both for the greater good of the world and expectations of the worst.

It’s meaning entails “an international community influenced by technological development… characterised by a worldwide increase in interdependence, interactivity, interconnectedness and the virtually instantaneous exchange of information” (O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, 458).

I myself adopt a rather dystopian view of such a movement due to the intrusive manner in which it impacts the value of traditional culture; seeping its way into the cornerstones which are keeping a unique and diverse world from homogenising into a sea of similarity. Take American food outlets such as McDonald’s and KFC – these chains are beginning to dominate communities outside of the United States; diminishing the availability of traditional cuisine and hence reducing the ‘authentic’ element of that local environment.

But why is this so? What contributes to the influence of such a force?

The answer in part, I think, is due to the media saturated environment that we find ourselves immersed in day in and day out. Media saturation can be distinguished by a loss of meaningful connection and communication, as well as the loss of cultural significance to traditional communities. The ability of global media to determine how widespread a cultural practice can become, also has the potential to demean the traditional value of that practice.

Let’s explore this concept further.

In some traditional Middle Eastern and Indian cultures, for a woman’s nose to be pierced has symbolic purpose as the left nostril represents her reproductive system, and hence is believed to ease the pain of childbirth. Nose rings in recent decades have been adopted by many other civilisations, commonly seen being worn by American hippies of the 1960s as well as gothic communities throughout the late 20th century. Similarly goes for other culturally significant practices such as the use of stretchers in the ear in some African tribes to indicate age and wisdom. Considered now to be a popular statement of individuality or simply fashion, cultural value is not always the intention.

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The media saturated nature of our global communication environment offers access to an overload of information. This has allowed widespread audiences to view numerous individuals in the limelight sporting little jewel-encrusted studs and silver loops in their noses, including pop icon Madonna, Sinead O’Connor, Miley Cyrus and Lenny Kravitz; shaping our perceptions of what is considered to be trendy.

So the issue of media saturation in global communication can potentially have a demeaning impact on aspects of tradition such as sentimental jewellery wear; widening the scope of the definition for its purpose. I do wonder however, if the ever-growing extent at which global media is communicating such ideas will ever overwhelm a culture so much as to completely eradicate or erase any element of traditional significance? I feel as though this is an extreme thought, but perhaps something to appreciate.


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