The Impact Of The Internet On Global Cultural Forms

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What is the impact of the Internet on Global Cultural Forms?

The word globalization is deeply introduced in our daily life. We are so used to hear it that we don’t even realize that in the most of the dictionaries or encyclopaedias, the word “globalization” is absent, even in those dictionaries in which new expressions such as “hardware” or “software” have been added. This happens because the use of this word is more recent that the other cases, it became popular in the ‘90s, but not even at the beginning of that decade, but when it was more advanced.

However, few people realize it. Everybody knows what globalization means and that is enough. It is not important that we do not know the specific and rigorous definition of the word because all of us understand its meaning, which is easily deductible.

Certainly, globalization and its derivations (globalize, globalizing, globalized) come from “global”, a word that does figures in the dictionary and whose meaning is “taken as a group”. Global, is derived from “globe”, referring to the Earth, in the sense that covers it all.

Therefore, globalization is a generalization, an intent to make a world that is not fractioned, but generalized, in which the majority of the things are equal or signify the same thing, in Brazil as in China, in the Arabian Emirates like in Japan, in the United States as in Burkina Faso, in Botswana as in Australia, in Germany as in Vietnam, etc. A world, definitely, without socio-cultural, economic and political borders.

Since those are the three most important aspects of globalization, it is a lot more than a simple generalization, or what the majority of people believe that it is. Globalization is something a lot more complex that it seems at first.

So, we can say that globalization has economical and political objectives and origins, it is nourished by the Mass Media, and its influence is on the economic, political, and socio-cultural aspects of the people involved (the entire world, in other words).

The basis of this process is clearly technological and has been increasing in the last thirty years through an unprecedented revolution in the world communications, accelerating the exchange of information among the towns of different latitude.

We live in an era of ever-increasing global interconnectedness of people, places, capital, goods and services. Although globalization is a multifaceted process manifesting itself in such forms as global tourism and the global reach of nuclear, environmental, and health risks, it has arguably been the emergence of a global economy and a global information system that has been of particular importance for the creation of a global world. (Roland Axtmann, 1997)

The Mass Media are the keystone of the globalization. Without them, it would not be possible, in great part because they permit the diffusion of ideas to hundreds or thousands of millions of people as by the nature of those ideas: the Mass Media convince us of all the “advantages” of the globalization, and they show us that “lacks” of disadvantages (or that these are minimums), and for this reason, this is the best that could have happened in our lives.

The sense of all this is the following: the Mass Media transmit information (carefully selected), ideas (more carefully selected), etc, to millions of people, located in hundreds of different countries, simultaneously, and generally in “real time”, which means, for example, in the instant when a news occurs. Frederic Jameson (1998) says: I believe that globalization is a communicational concept, which, alternately masks and transmits cultural or economical meanings.

It is clear that this surpasses the possibilities of the mass media used in “old” times: they had possibility to reach less people, in less places, rarely in simultaneous form and, even more rarely, in “real time”; the message is more or less the same, however what has changed is the way to transmit it.

The Mass Media are a way to transmit, ideas, publicity and propaganda to millions of people, simultaneously and preferably lively, they generally are only transmitters and not receivers (Internet is the exception), they arrive to the public continuously and, besides, the receivers of their messages can be either in a luxurious apartment of Manhattan or in the desert of Atacama, in the top of Mount Everest, or in the middle of the jungle of Borneo, and also, as a general rule, the message needs a technical backup to be transmitted and/or received.

INTERNET: born originally as a military project to communicate the computers of the American universities, it has become, nevertheless, the Mass Media that is the closest to the perfection, (if this exists), the Mass Media of the future, which has the potential and big possibilities of replacing the other Media.

It is normal to say that Internet is something “virtual”, intangible, that itself is neither palpable nor seen, and that is why it is difficult to define; however, we can say that Internet is an enormous “virtual” space in which a large quantity of “real” things can be done: Obtaining information, providing it, speaking with other people, buying products, receiving publicity, sending letters, participating in surveys and discussion boards and hundreds of activities that, though they are not used yet (for example, voting), we will use them in the future.

Since Internet combines the advantages of all the Mass Media (television, radio, press, magazines, etc) and, at less in appearance, annuls or diminishes its disadvantages; the stimuli that we receive from Internet are visual (in movement and static) and auditory, and also, experiences with olfactory and tactile stimuli are being carried out; all the Mass Media previously mentioned can be “borne” by Internet, that at the same time does not require an specific backup to function: it can do it in many and various ways.

In fact, it is erroneous to think that it is possible to connect to Internet only by a computer; although currently this is the most spread method, it is not for sure that it will be like this in the future; people can go through the web by a computer, yes, but also by a television set, a mobile phone and even a microwave…

Another advantage of Internet, at least in appearance, is its “interactiveness”: we become receivers, certainly, but also transmitters: not only because we can speak with other people with total liberty through the network, but also because, with not a big knowledge of programming and a more or less accessible quantity of money, we can publish our own page, on the theme that more interest us, something certainly, very difficult to do with the other media, because the necessary money in those cases is a lot, and is not accessible for everyone.

This facility of exchange has begun to erase the boundaries, permitting the fast and indiscriminate diffusion of cultural characteristics from the dominant countries towards the rest of the world and inserting alien values to the private realities.

In the aspect of the culture, globalization means, on one hand, the universalization of certain principles and values that govern the social and individual life, like democracy and human rights. But, on the other hand, is also the generalization to world scale of the capitalist model. Living in an economically global world implies that each time more quantity of people, seduced by the same publicities, dress the same clothes, eat the same food, drink the same beverages, see the same movies, listen to the same music and be informed of what happens in each country and in the world by the same television channels.

The process has derived in the last years in the homogenization of the local cultures, with the consequent loss of the differences and particularities that make unique an specific region; accompanied by the break of the common-union of the social groups, communion at the same time generated from the slow construction of a system of values that organizes them and identifies them.

It seems that, if this process carries on advancing, the peculiar characteristics of the different cultures would be lost, in function of a homogeneity that would include the entire planet. Therefore, many groups, in different parts of the world react violently against what perceive as the loss of their identity. Though it is a matter of movements that try to be defended of the cultural standardization, in many cases, they turn closed and hostile to any contribution that can come from another place; these groups carry extremely, nationalist ideas and contribute to the emergency of the racism and the xenophobia, that conclude in very violent conflicts.

The reclaiming of the local is often focused in the field of culture – music, song, dance, drama, artefacts and folk culture. This suggests an attempt to quarantine it from the effects of economic integration; a kind of cordon sanitaire set up around a dwindling culture. Some people believe it is possible to get the best of both worlds – they accept the economic advantages of globalization and seek to maintain something of great value, language, tradition and custom. This is the relatively benign response. The other has become only too familiar: the violent reaction, the hatred of both economic and cultural globalization which many not merely perceive, but feel in the very core of their being, as an inseparable violation of identity. (Korea Herald, 2004)

We understand for identity the resultant one of a complex and dynamic process of interactions between the man and the group of circumstances in which is immersed, as well as the geographical situation, climate, ethnic group, customs, language, beliefs etc., that are the variables that operate on the ways of behaviour and of expression of people, conferring them a private character to their personality.

This idea of identity is contained in the concept of region in its anthropological meaning and we can use it to articulate that deep relation between people and their environment, that in the case of the regional thing defines a particular form in their ways to act, the one that is deep-rooted in their traditions and in the historic processes in which they participate.

This relation, that constitutes a system, a unit, is fragmented, is dispersed when alien cultural elements, that is to say, not built by the own community, manage to superimpose and generally to replace the own values of that group, installing a series of images that remit to idea of progress, welfare, prestige, etc., that are reflected so much in the transformation of the physical setting as in the modification of the guidelines of behaviour, that are no longer specific of that community, but they assure the belonging to the “global village”.

Globalization: Advantages and disadvantages.

To analyze the advantages and the disadvantages of globalization it is necessary to distinguish among the diverse forms that this adopts. Some forms can conduct to positive results and some other to negative results. The phenomenon of globalization includes the free international trade, short-term capital movement, direct foreign investment, migratory phenomena, and the development of the communication technologies and its cultural effect.

The international trade is positive for the economic progress of almost everybody and for the social objectives of elimination of the poverty and the social marginalization. Nevertheless, the commercial liberalization, even if it is beneficial for the assembly of the affected country, causes crisis in some sectors that requires the intervention of the state. If we wanted that the advances of globalization be real improvements, that is to say, without diminishing the welfare of anybody, it is necessary the intervention of the governments and the international agencies redistributing the benefits and compensating to the damaged.

One of the positive social effects of the globalization is for example the effect that is having the cultural globalization, the tourism and the migratory movements on the role of the woman and the rights of the children in the most traditional societies.

Globalization and culture: Advantages and disadvantages

The complex phenomenon that we call globalization has repercussions in multitude of fields, but perhaps in the cultural one the effects are more evident short-term and the appraisal on them is more dissimilar. In fact, in principle it seems positive that everywhere in the planet we can have access to the cultural phenomena that are produced in any geographical zone: we can attend the same stage shows in New York, in London or in Tokyo.

At the same time we can know of all the different music of the world as well as the different thoughts that are being produced in the global village, therefore, it is about a situation in the history of the Humanity that enables an exchange between the human beings and the different cultures. In this sense the physical presence of the bearers of other cultures in our societies is contributing to a doubtless enrichment of our own societies through the race-mixing, for example.

But in spite of possibilities of cultural enrichment, the reality shows us that, although in a marginal way, race-mixing is present in our societies, each time our cities seem more similar to others, our guidelines of leisure are also equal, our alimentary habits and our form of dressing continue the same guideline, with an alarming preponderance of the way of American life that threatens with becoming the only way of life in all the planet.

On the other hand, the presence of the immigrants in the most advanced societies presents problems with a difficult solution: not only from the point of view of its socioeconomic situation but also from the point of view of the connivance and its limits when we speak about the consecrated fundamental values in our constitutions. To be precise, to which point the respect to the cultural identities must finish if they collide with our basic values, the human rights, as happens, for example, with the position that some of these cultures give to the woman, to the religious obedience or to the role of the individual in the family.

Hence, the availability of information today is practically unlimited in any point of the planet thanks to the omnipresent presence of the new technologies and fundamentally of Internet, what undoubtedly has a positive effect for the circulation of the ideas, but also we must realize that the mass media reflect the same contents everywhere, with the consequent reduction of the pluralism and consequently a manipulation of the public opinion: we receive the information that the large groups of communication want that we receive, with all the ideological content that they consider convenient for their interests.

Finally, I would like to conclude with a personal experience. I am from a country that is not exactly a dominant potency, but the opposite. In a country like Mexico, where we have the influence of the United States, closer than any other country in the world due to the geographic proximity, it is sad to see that each day the cultural identity and traditions are being lost, Now, it is normal that the most of the children in the Mexican schools, know more about Mickey Mouse or Halloween day that what they know about our costumes, that, from my point of view, are incredibly rich. As a famous Mexican writer said: We start to lose our identity before we can find it.

What I think as a possible alternative, is finding a balance between the good and the bad points of globalization and the role that internet plays on it, and teach the new generations both sides of the coin. They can have access to the information produced in the “global village” but each nation should fight (if they care) for transmitting the ideas and the traditions of their specific countries.

I think pluralism and differences between cultures is what makes this world interesting, and it would be really sad if in the future, nobody remembers anything about their culture and live in a completely uniform world, with no differences in the way of thinking, of dressing, of eating and of seeing the world, on the other hand, we can enrich our culture by knowing and preserving all the things that make us special.


Axtmann, Roland. Collective Identity and the democratic Nation-State in the Age of Globalization. In “Articulating the global and the Local”. Westview Press, 1997

Jameson, Frederick. The Cultures of Globalization. Duke University Press. Durham and London, 1998.

Korea Herald, 2004.


Additional Readings:

Cowen, Tyler. Creative Destruction. Princeton University Press, 2002.

King, Anthony. Culture, Globalization and the World-System. Macmillan, 1991.

Lee, Nick et. Al. The Consumption of Mass. Blackwell Publishers, 2001

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