The growth of global media has had an unprecedented impact on the world and it is impossible to tell just how far this impact can go. Almost every sphere of the society has undergone a dramatic change, and today many things are no longer as they used to be. All this is attributed to the concept of globalisation which has been as a result of global media. Today, people all over the world are able to interact and communicate without having to move an inch. This has led to an increased interaction between different types of people all over the world, who have different cultures thus leading to the aspect of cultural interaction. This interaction has led to intermarriages, hence sharing of cultures. Similarly, other people have also abandoned their cultures in order to follow more ‘modern’ cultures. This continued interaction means that many cultures have died and many more are under threat of being completely wiped out as the world adopts a uniform code of conduct. This is the direct threat that global media has on cultural diversity.
The concept of globalisation has become increasingly difficult to pin a specific definition to due to its ever changing character (Lencher 2009). However, this difficulty has not deterred authors and other academic writers from attempting to define globalisation. It has been therefore defined as a process which allows the flow of information, objects and individuals in different multiple directions across the planet as well as the structures they encounter and such structures can be either barriers or catalysts to this process (Ritzer). This definition then tries to captures the ability of information, objects and people to move across the globe with sufficient ease, allowing for interaction of such objects, information and people through the processes that facilitate this movement. Globalisation is therefore omnipresent in nature and has resulted in many social relationships and social structures. It is a trans-planetary process of high liquidity allowing for increased movement and interaction of individuals across the globe. In many cases, people confuse the concept of globalisation with that of transnationalism. These two are very distinct in terms of their scope, as transnationalism refers to the process through which individuals are able to interlink and interconnect across given geopolitical borders, while globalisation is not limited to geopolitical borders but extends far and beyond such interactions.
In order to properly construe the concept of globalisation, it is critical to define the role of mass media. Mass media has long been the tool through which information is relayed to people in a given locality. It has been a crucial tool of social interaction and societal growth due to its ability to reach many people in a given time. This informational flow has allowed the growth and development of societies and the media along with it. There is no doubt that indeed mass media played a critical role in almost every change that has occurred in the society. Be it political revolutions, religious movements, elimination of bad practice such as slavery, fight for independence and fight for equality, the media has been right there at the heart of all of them. It is no wonder then, that it is today the very tool with which a global village is becoming more and more real with each new dawn. Globalisation is not an abstract occurrence that has taken place on its own. It has been facilitated by a number of tools which made it possible for its continued influence over the world activities. For instance, the advancement in technology is one of those tools critical for the emergence of globalisation. Technology has been the heartbeat of the mass media, allowing for the production of advanced machines capable of handling worldwide transmissions across a planetary scale like never seen before (Anthony 2009).
Global media that exists in today’s society has profound capabilities to reach every corner of the world. The globalisation of the media has been translated to mean the globalisation of culture, which means the existence of a global village with one common culture and identity. This is where the argument of cultural diversity comes in and it is an argument that has caused many debates in the academic spheres.
Cultural Diversity and Identity
The underpinning aspect of a person is his or her identity. This goes beyond an individual’s name and place of origin, sex and career path that the individual has chosen. Identity is a combination of this and more, a combination of the name, sex, origin, career and affiliations of that individual. An analysis of the origin of an individual relates to culture of that individual. This culture is specific to that person and people who come from where he or she comes from. It is a critical point of identifying someone and allows that person to stand out from the crowd due to his or her unique culture. Cultural identity therefore goes to the very essence of having a culture and when this is compromised, the identity is lost. There can, consequently be no cultural diversity without specific cultural identities. The importance of cultural identities is that it is the sole criterion upon which different cultures are distinguished allowing for the recognition of diversity. The difference between cultures that exist all over the world is the unique features that have set countries apart, allowing for a specific country to be identified for its unique range of features not seen anywhere else in the world. This diversity has allowed for the growth of nations and promotion of specific ideologies that conform to these cultures. The range of cultures has added colour to the world and it is the very essence why the world has been the way it is. However all this is bound to change with the concept of globalisation and things will not be the same again; for example, when a rainbow losses its range of colours and retains only one colour, it will be no longer known as such.
Global Media and Cultural Diversity
The relationship between global media and cultural diversity is one that is at the heart of this examination. The determination as to whether global media threatens cultural diversity depends on a careful analysis of the interaction between culture and the media. While arguments persist that cultural diversity is not a victim of global media but rather its product, a careful analysis of the interaction process between the media and the existing cultures reveals that indeed cultural diversity is a victim of the globalised level of communication processes. There is no way that cultural diversity can be a product of global media, simply by virtue of the fact that cultural diversity is a factual existence of different cultures in different parts of the world. It is the interaction between people who have different cultures, and which facilitated globalised media technology, that threatens this diversity. This is because this interaction involves the traverse of cultural diversity through the media processes of production and circulation, construction and representation, as well as reception and use. This then means that culture, as it is, is reproduced and distributed through the media, which deconstructs and represents it in a different form which is received by the audience around the globe. Cultural diversity then exists originally in a form unique to different people of the world; the media then comes in to re-appropriate it, dislodge it from its original contexts and transform it. This process involves the attachment of new meanings and importance to the diversity of culture hence becoming accepted worldwide. In this way then, the biggest threat against cultural diversity is the loss of meaning and significance and the attachment of one universal meaning to the given culture.
The threat to cultural diversity posed by the media then comes through the attachment of a single identity to different cultures of the world and thereby eroding the meanings of the original cultures. Creation of a single identity around the world is the principal threat to the diversity that exists between different people of the world. The globalisation of culture is when the world shares the same habits, similar eating patterns, and similar ways of living and similar beliefs. In short, it is cultural pluralism (Lechner & Boli 2004)
There are different theories that show levels of cultural interaction that has been facilitated by globalisation. These theories adopt different views of cultural interaction occurring at different levels of the integration process. The three main theories are: cultural differentialism, cultural hybridisation and cultural convergence. All of these concepts try to show the cultural difference between the cultures of the world despite the existence of global media, building upon the given theoretical concepts. Explaining cultural difference, it is premised on the principle that today the world has adopted a horizontal view of difference whereby cultural differences are perceived in terms of nationality, ethnicity, culture, gender, age, and not vertical differences where differences are perceived in terms of power, influence, privilege and wealth of individuals.
The theory of differentialism is constructed around the perspective of a clash of civilisations. This is built on the primary conception that there is an increasing likelihood of a clash of civilisations across the world as many states emerge. This is largely between the major powers of the world such as the westerners clashing against the emerging civilisations such as Islamic and Asian civilisations. The emergence of new civilisations has led to the growth and development of a common identity, facilitated by the existence of global media, as every individual associated with these civilisations is able to identify with them. This is a new level of cultural identification, where a culture belongs to a given block of the international community around the globe. One of the effects of globalisation is that it has been able to enable easier movements of goods and people around the world seeking for better opportunities. The clash of civilisations is able to select people who belong to these countries and isolate them for purposes of developing a strong cultural identity. Cultural identities have then become the greatest marks of lines of civilisational identities. This has had an impact on shaping patterns of cohesion, disintegration and conflict. It follows, therefore, that a clash of civilisations is largely enabled by global media; it is the media that has the capability of spreading different civilisations across the globe and hence building new cultures depending on the blocks of civilisations that individuals identify with. While one may argue that such an outcome enhances cultural diversity, such an argument fails to recognise that the existing cultures have already been destroyed thus a clash of civilisations only creates a new level of identity (Douglas & Pierce 2007).
The second theory, cultural convergence, is grounded on the perspective of McDonaldisation, which essentially refers to the spread of American or western cultures all over the world. This theory asserts that westernisation has served to destroy cultural diversity through the promotion of products and services from the companies located in the west. The major tool of westernisation has been the mass media, on which American companies have relied to promote their products through consumer capitalism. The promotion of these products and services has been through an increased advertising through global media thus seriously undermining local products existing in these countries. Countries that have been chosen for Westernisation have been the third world countries, which do not have superior products than those of the western powers. The impact this has on culture is that it undermines the cultural diversity of those countries leading to people discarding their local products for those advertised through the media. The impact has gone beyond product consumption as people have adopted western lifestyle, for example, dress code, eating habits and many other ways of living as depicted by global media. This is the principle threat to cultural diversity, as countries continue to adapt to the wave of globalisation, things continue to become similar everywhere you go (George 2010). Soon, there will be no difference, with people sharing a single language and a single popular culture as depicted by global media.
The third and final theory, cultural hybridisation, adopts a historical analysis of the cultural diversity that has existed in the world. The threat to cultural diversity is viewed through the increased mixing of cultures across the world. Under this theory, culture is defined as a representation of the collective ideas and tools shared by the entire human race. They are different patterns of thinking and patterns of human behaviour which are not similar in different groups. Cultural hybridisation then refers to the mixing of different cultures across the world, where human beings share these different patterns of behaviour and assimilate to them hence becoming similar. The concept of hybridisation has been further facilitated by the emergence of technology which has allowed for faster rates of cultural mixing hence posing a serious threat to cultural diversity. With this increased growth of the mass media and the increased level of accessibility, it is almost impossible to prevent the extinction of many cultures across the world. The development of transportation system means that people are able to travel easily from one country to another hence interacting with different cultures and consequently picking up different cultural behaviours as they move along. The interaction of cultures is then a clear threat to cultural diversity (Steger 2009).
In conclusion, globalisation is a process that made it possible for the world to make a lot of strides in important sectors. It is a concept that has changed and continues to change the world as our forefathers knew it. It is impossible to predict its end, or even its cause, however, its effects are there for all to see. The growth of global media means that people are able to easily learn about new things existing millions of miles far away. Global media has encouraged cultural exchange between different parts of the world, and this directly threatens cultural diversity. The beauty of the world, as we know it, is founded on the diversity of its people; this diversity is their cultures.